Pizza restaurant employee taking relivery rder over the telephone. Concept: Tips to keep your restaurant or bar in business during a health crisis
Betsy Wise
By: betsy_wise
Read in 13 minutes

How to Keep your Restaurant or Bar In Business Without Foot Traffic

Finally, an article that provides practical tips on how to keep your restaurant or bar alive and well in the middle of downturns, recessions, or even a pandemic. How are you going to keep your establishment in business when people don’t want to venture to dine out? Or even worst: what can you do when restaurants are ordered to shut down or limit their services?

When foot traffic ceases and sales take a downward hit, your main concern is to keep your business afloat and maintain a healthy level of cash flow.

We’ve put together this helpful list of ideas and easy tips you can implement at your earliest convenience to increase revenue even through a crisis.

10 Ideas to Keep Your Restaurant or Bar in Business Without Foot Traffic

1. Learn to love To-Goes

Epidemics have a way of ruining the dining experience. People start keeping their distance from others and find ways to eat that don’t involve dining in at sit-down restaurants.

But think of this: people still have to eat, even amidst the worst crisis! In fact, people turn to food delivery services more than ever.

So, to offset lower foot traffic, set up food delivery services to include pickups and curb-side deliveries to homes and businesses. Ask people to sign up for a subscription delivery service for their favorite foods. It’s imperative that you have a vehicle to make deliveries. A scooter, motorcycle, or even a bike are possible solutions if your delivery area is limited.

Likewise in addition to phone orders, restaurant owners who integrate on-demand food delivery apps into their ordering system give their customers a fast and convenient way to buy food while they’re at home. They also help you gain visibility among potential customers who don’t know your business yet.

Popular apps like GrubHub and Uber Eats incorporate easy-to-use technology, marketing assistance, and clientele expansion to streamline the customer ordering experience. Keep in mind that third-party apps charge fees.

Technology is key when your customers can’t stay in your establishment and your best ally in times of crisis. However, you may need some extra funds to invest in the best technology resources. Now may be the best time to apply for a business loan: the funds from a loan will help you acquire and have in place as soon as possible the systems you need. Don’t let your loyal customers order delivery in another restaurant just because they can’t count on yours!

Also, to reduce your costs and have some extra cash available, you can implement these tips to adjust your prices during a crisis.

2. Use your social media more than ever

If your bar or restaurant doesn’t have yet a solid digital presence in social media, now is the time to implement it.

The benefits are countless: social media are free, they allow you to build a relationship with your existing customers and to attract new ones, users can leave their reviews, and the list goes on. In addition, think that in the event that a mandatory quarantine is ordered, people will use their social media from home more than ever. Don’t miss this unique opportunity!

Once you have your account on your favorite social media platform, you can do the following:

  • Share content about the sanitary standards of your restaurant or bar (you can show photos portraying your kitchen and facilities properly disinfected and your staff duly covered)
  • Share stories that encourage your customers to support your business. Remind them that it’s only them who make it possible for your bar or restaurant to stay afloat.
  • Use social media to share your promotions and, in general, to creatively advertise your business.

3. Cook what already sells for take-outs and deliveries

A pandemic is not the time to experiment and develop new foods to increase sales. Sell to customers what they’ve already tried and liked. More than likely, you can make these foods and drinks that you know well very quickly, so they’re ready to go out the door in minutes (don’t forget the plastic ware and napkins!).

Create a specialty menu combining your best-selling main dishes and sides in a format that makes them easy to pack and carry out. As an example, a Mexican restaurant could offer a variety of burritos and tortas with the ingredients they normally use.

4. Be visible 

Since 1917, Girl Scouts have sold cookies annually. They built up a following of customers by advertising a superior product that people want and don’t mind paying for. Make a hand-held banner that states your restaurant sells take-out orders and hire someone to stand in front of your restaurant and wave it as cars pass.

Have in mind that this initiative will only be possible is there are not mobility restrictions in your area and a stay-in-home order is not in course. In any case, check with your local government officials to see if you need a permit. 

5. Sell packaged meals to other establishments

No matter the reason for decreased foot traffic, a restaurant owner must get creative overnight. Contact your local supermarket managers to work out an arrangement to sell pre-made meals. Prepare your best-selling items and make sure your existing clientele know where to purchase them. Advertise on your website and through your social media accounts.

You can also make posters to display in supermarket windows and send email and smartphone notifications to your existing customers.

Another alternative is to sell ready-to-cook kits that allow buyers to prepare healthy food at home easily. You can sell them online or through a home delivery service. If people have to stay home, they will enjoy cooking and learning new things! You can sell sushi kits with everything diners need, from fresh fish to utensils to make the perfect roll. If this idea is too exotic for you, why not try a kit to make fajitas? Pack each ingredient separately, include the seasonings, and be sure to add clear cooking instructions. Package everything in an attractive way and promote it. You could see a dramatic increase in your sales, without even making use of your kitchen!
Bars can also use this idea. What about a kit to prepare the perfect martini or libation of your choice, including chic glasses?

6. Partner with other restaurant owners

A pizza restaurant can partner with vegan, Greek, and other cuisines so each restaurant reaches more customers along with their existing clientele. With each order, a restaurant partner can include discount coupons customers can use at partnership restaurants. While you promote each other’s restaurant, you’ll also expand customers’ food palettes!

7. Market your skills 

If people aren’t dining in, then reach them by offering cooking and bartender classes. Give them a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making delectable food and bar drinks. Use online platforms like Udemy, Skillshare, and others to set up online courses where each student pays a subscription fee.

Moreover, create an E-book that includes your top restaurant recipes and best-selling cocktails from your bar. Sell the book directly to students and customers and make it available for sale on Amazon.

8. Advertise your business

Get through money crunches by decreasing expenses. But don’t stop advertising your restaurant or bar! During a crisis, it’s key to keep attracting customers any possible way you can think of. In this article, there are 30 ideas listed on how to advertise your business for free. Use every method you can to let your customers know you’re in business and offering alternative services.

9. Offer gift cards

Invite return and new customers to give gift cards for your restaurant to family and friends or use them to make future purchases. Gift cards provide an income stream and a way for customers to help a restaurant keep its doors open during a recession.

If you have a bar, now it’s the time to offer lifetime memberships: your clients or their friends will be able to enjoy discounts at events, concerts, tastings or more.

10. Promote future specials

If you have a projected date when your dining area will open or reopen, make sure your customers have the information. Offer promotions to stimulate interest and enthusiasm. They are sure to tell others so when the day arrives you’ll likely be swamped with happy diners.

An extra tip: Now it’s the time to engage with your community

Giving back to others always pays off handsomely. When you have a food surplus on hand, donate the goods to soup kitchens. Then, include pictures on social media about this outreach and other ways you give back to your community.

For example, you could also use this time when your business has less activity to visit local farms. If your business is a bar, you can do the same visiting local distilleries or even vineyards. Share your experience on your social media. It can be a win-win situation: you’ll be helping the local economy and at the same time you can resource new suppliers that may offer you better prices and more attractive products for your customers.

Camino Financial: Providing Financial Solutions When You Need It Most

At times, your business may need financing to overcome a crisis. Keep in mind, a restaurant/bar owner should have enough cash in the bank to support at least 6 months of operations with minimal revenue. If that’s not true for you, consider taking out a business loan if you don’t have a sufficient cash cushion.

Just so you know, traditional banks aren’t usually the best choice to obtain financing during times of crisis. Alternatively, consider applying for a small business loan from Camino Financial. We offer faster funding, extended terms, and fewer requirements as compared to a traditional bank. For those reasons, Camino Financial is a wise choice to get the funds you need right when you need them and lessen the impact of a crisis.

We encourage you to use our business loan calculator to determine what loan amount is comfortable for your business and apply for a small business loan today. Consider Camino Financial as your financial partner and a member of your support team when you encounter financial difficulties.


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