The world changed in unimaginable ways in a few weeks this past March as
the novel coronavirus began sweeping through the U.S. Just one small example: I attended the New York International Restaurant Show at the Jacob Javits convention center on March 10; two weeks later it was being turned into a 1,000-bed field hospital for COVID-19 patients.
By mid-March, restaurant guest traffic was dwindling as consumers began to social distance. Then mandatory closings for on-premise operators, except for takeout and delivery, in many markets led to massive furloughs and layoffs. Cities virtually shut down to try to stem the tide of the disease.
At press time it was unclear how long the extreme measures would have to go on. So what can you do right now?
If you’re a beverage professional, you might take advantage of online training or industry certifications. Brush up on latest social media tactics. Perfect your drink photography.
Develop new recipes, work with different spirits and modifiers, devise some fresh, creative garnishes. Create video tutorials for making cocktails or sharing bartending best practices.
If you’re a restaurant owner, start rethinking your space to accommodate fewer guests. Until there’s a vaccine for COVID-19, some form of social distancing will have to continue for the foreseeable future, so be prepared. Have a plan for new sanitation procedures.
If you offer delivery and takeout, how can you improve the process or experience? Some cities have relaxed rules to allow restaurants and bars to sell their alcoholic products to patrons who order takeout during the shutdown period; should you curate a special cocktail to-go menu or offer cocktail kits?
If you have an email list (and if you don’t, start building one now), keep in touch with your customers with updates, special offers, drink and food recipes. Post content to your social media accounts.
Above all, try to stay positive in these uncertain and scary times. While the on- premise industry will not return to normal any time soon, and we’ll constantly be adjusting to a new “normal,” we will get through this.
Consumers that have had to stay inside their homes day and night for the past few months will likely come away with new appreciation for going out to socialize over a drink or meal. And you’ll be there to deliver on that experience.