6 Positive (& Permanent) Changes to Emerge From the COVID-19 Pandemic

6 Positive (& Permanent) Changes to Emerge From the COVID-19 Pandemic
Dallas Henderson

6 Positive (& Permanent) Changes to Emerge From the COVID-19 Pandemicby Dallas Henderson, Account Manager at RizePoint

Our world – and our industry – have changed dramatically because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before March 2020, masking was something our kids did at Halloween. We worked side-by-side without keeping a 6’ distance. Our dining rooms were packed to capacity and there was often a crowd waiting at the bar.

Many of the changes we’ve experienced have been difficult. It’s now hard (and expensive) to get the products we need. We’ve implemented a whole new set of COVID protocols. We’re still facing staffing shortages and intense competition for talent. But some of the changes to emerge from the pandemic are positive – and will likely be permanent.

Let’s celebrate these six positive, permanent changes:

  1. The way we operate. We will likely never go back to exclusively dine-in options, so it’s wise to “diversify” your offerings to maximize sales and profits. Many operators now offer outside dining, takeout, delivery, curbside pick-up, and/or drive thru options in addition to dine-in. As the demand for takeout and delivery rose, some operators transitioned to ghost kitchens, focusing on take-out and delivery offerings rather than onsite dining. Some savvy operators launched (or expanded) online stores, selling branded merchandise, like shirts, hats, beer, sauces, and other products, to increase their revenue streams. While a rising number of consumers are returning to dine at restaurants, others are still avoiding in-person experiences due to COVID concerns. It’s smart to expand your offerings to meet consumers’ changing needs and maximize revenue.
  1. The way we evaluate. Before COVID, restaurants had third-party auditors come onsite and inspect their facilities once or twice a year. As it turns out, this was not an ideal solution. Traditional audits only provided a point-in-time snapshot, where it was impossible to determine if issues were resolved promptly or properly post-inspection. Auditors only pointed out problems but didn’t work with brands to resolve the issues or educate employees about how to prevent the risks. Employees often dreaded the audits, worried they’d be punished for any problems uncovered. When pandemic restrictions halted in-person inspections, restaurants pivoted to virtual audits, where inspectors worked collaboratively with employees to inspect the facilities. Employees were encouraged to ask questions, learn more about the process, and feel empowered to remediate any issues. Brands also adopted more frequent self-inspections to continuously monitor quality. This combination approach – onsite, virtual, and self-audits – provides the best of all worlds, with continuous monitoring, greater oversight, increased employee engagement, and faster resolution of issues.
  1. The tools we use. Thankfully, restaurant technology is now affordable and accessible for businesses of all sizes. Operators are using integrated digital tools to optimize all facets of their businesses and make more informed decisions. These tools allow brands to elevate safety and quality management, manage (or cut) costs, and improve line checks, inspections, inventory, scheduling, and ordering. Critical tasks are much faster, easier, and more accurate for employees vs. antiquated manual processes or disjointed tech stacks. Using technology to access and analyze data is a wonderful way to boost transparency and other key metrics.
  1. Data transparency. Getting a handle on data is more important than ever before, as operators work to remediate risks, staff smarter, reduce costs, and boost efficiency. As supplies remain expensive – and difficult to acquire – leaders need to plan better to avoid food waste. Operators must also staff smarter, so they’re not over or under-staffed for any given shift, and so they don’t overutilize employees to the point of burnout. In the past, many operators relied on gut instinct to run their business, but as prices rise, margins shrink, and employees are stretched thin, that’s no longer a realistic approach. Using data to run your restaurant – and make critical decisions – is a much smarter way to go.
  1. Our safety protocols. Before the pandemic, restaurants focused on food safety “behind the scenes” and guests didn’t think much about the protocols being followed. The pandemic changed that, with consumers becoming hyper-aware of whether restaurant employees are sanitizing high touch areas regularly, washing their hands, socially distancing, and not working when ill. While food safety practices – like avoiding cross-contamination and cooking foods to proper temps – remain essential, there’s a high demand for new COVID-era protocols, as well. Be up-front about how you prioritize safety, communicating your commitment through onsite signage, content on your website, and social media posts. Recognize that customers and employees want constant reassurance that restaurants are doing everything possible to keep them safe in our new normal – a trend that will likely continue for the long-term.
  1. Our culture. The food industry’s culture is evolving to be more collaborative, which is a positive development. Restaurant brands are wisely investing in corporate quality, helping their teams succeed by conducting more frequent and collaborative audits, identifying (and fixing) risks, and elevating safety and quality protocols. New safety models rely on employee participation, making teams feel more invested in – and responsible for – these efforts. Employees feel engaged and empowered when they’re given responsibility for their restaurants’ successes rather than being blamed for its mistakes. Building a collaborative, supportive, respectful culture helps boost safety, while also increasing employee satisfaction, loyalty, and retention.

Many of the COVID-related changes were difficult, like quarantines, disrupted supply chains, inflation, and staffing shortages. But these six positive changes offer some much-needed reassurance about the future. We’ve had to adapt out of necessity – transitioning our business models and auditing processes, for example – but these changes will serve us well moving forward. Becoming more collaborative, embracing tech solutions, creating new revenue streams, utilizing data, and prioritizing safety protocols will improve the health and safety of our businesses, employees, and guests.

Dallas Henderson, a 25-year veteran of the service industry, is an Account Manager at RizePoint. RizePoint is disrupting traditional market software with their innovative, new product platform Ignite™ Supplier Certification Management, which helps small to medium sized businesses simplify the supplier certification and maintenance process. To discuss RizePoint’s solutions, please contact Dallas at dallas.henderson@rizepoint.com.