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Five ways restaurants can adapt to survive the post-lockdown uncertainty 

It’s boom or bust time for restaurants. Even as lockdown starts to lift, there will be a core audience of avid restaurant goers who are either too nervous to eat out, or advised not to. And, with social distancing measures set to remain in place for an unknown period, it may not even be financially viable for some restaurants to reopen at all, due to the number of coverts they’ll be able to serve to meet the restrictions, so it’s imperative that they adapt to survive, and quickly. 

At Northern Bloc, we work with a huge range of foodservice customers from theatres and farm shops to national restaurant chains and tourist attractions and through each of these channels we’re seeing some innovative approaches to the current climate as well as finding ways to adapt in our own business too. Here’s our tips to restaurant owners…

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Maximise existing home delivery services

Northern Bloc is now available for delivery through some of our independent restaurant partners. We’re working with a number of small restaurants who are not only delivering their new, reduced menus, but increasing their customer’s basket spend by offering Northern Bloc vegan ice cream and a drink as well to create a full package. If a restaurant is already offering home delivery, either independently or through a third party like Uber Eats, it’s imperative to maximise this to its full potential in terms of revenue and also the customer experience. Offering the full package encourages this ‘eat out at home’ experience to become a regular occasion.    

Occasion comes first 

Consumer behaviour is changing rapidly and it’s time to put them at the heart of every change we make. We’re seeing neighbours who were merely acquaintances pre-lockdown, hosting socially distant cocktail hours, dance parties and even weddings together to maintain an active social life and mark special occasions that would otherwise simply have been cancelled. It’s truly heart-warming to see and there’s absolutely a place for local restaurants to sit at the heart of those occasions. Could restaurants offer a street food alternative to its usual menu, taking their restaurant directly to these parties? Or an occasional, mass delivery service that the whole street chips in on? If restaurateurs look around and find out what’s going on in their local community, they’ll find an opportunity for sure.

Quality over everything

A huge trend that we’re seeing in retail at the moment is that shoppers are willing to pay more to treat themselves to speciality food and drink at home, because they aren’t able to go out as they normally would. Restaurateurs shouldn’t be shy in offering the best quality at a price that reflects it, because there is a large portion of society whose incomes haven’t been affected by Coronavirus and those people still have a disposable income to spend. 

Think big – wholesalers and suppliers can help

Wholesalers have the infrastructure in place to offer home delivery services and some have already adapted. Yorkshire-based DeliFresh is making over 3,000 home deliveries per day in place of its usual trade customer base. They’ve got the vehicles, they’ve got the storage facilities, they’ve got the staff and skills. How can restaurants work with their usual wholesalers to adapt to the new normal? 

It will mean working with suppliers to make fundamental changes too. Northern Bloc for example is now sending single serve tubs to wholesalers instead of the usual five litre consignments as they’ll be sent onwards to individuals rather than consumed on site, but small, nimble businesses like ours can adapt quickly, just tell us what you need! 

Learn from the experts

Finally, there are food businesses who have been delivering direct to consumers for years who we can learn from. Gusto and Hello Fresh have successfully adapted to a subscription model which guarantees a monthly revenue stream once a customer has signed up. Could restaurants provide weekly meal kits? Or offer something else which adds value to new and regular customers on a regular basis? Think outside the box – nothing is off the table in these testing times. 


 

By Dirk Mischendahl, director and co-founder of Northern Bloc, an independent, all natural ice cream brand which supplies retail and food service.  

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