Making Your Restaurant Essential to Your Guests

The topic of essential businesses has become prominent with the COVID-19 outbreak. Having been in the restaurant industry my entire life, I was pleased to see the industry get its due credit by being counted among the essentials. However, I must admit, not every restaurant that came to mind felt “essential” to me and my family in our new quarantine life. I want every restaurant to stay open and solvent during this tough time, but that’s driven more so by my desire to see the employees making money as much as it’s driven by the community’s needs to have restaurants open.

So I started thinking, what is it that makes your restaurant essential to your guests and the community?

Be unique.

Now you’ve got to go beyond recipes. Every restaurant can claim to use recipes unique to them. The uniqueness must extend to your menu selection and wine offerings. Do you offer something that can only be found at your restaurant? Do you have a bottle of wine no one else has? If your guests are craving something, and they can’t find it anywhere else, is it on your menu?

Offer value.

Charge what you need to charge, just make sure guests are getting what they pay for. Offering value shows them you’re on their side and not capitalizing on these new circumstances.

Connect with the community.

Nothing will make your establishment seem more essential than a personal connection between you, your staff, and your regular guests. Being a trained chef, I’m comfortable cooking myself a steak. But ordering one from a restaurant up the street has become essential because I want to see my favorite hostess and bartender, even if it’s just for a second to pick up a take-out order.

Offer an escape.

Create an experience where your guests can leave the stress of our “new normal” behind for a while. While you’re certainly doing everything you can to minimize risk, dining-out comes with a level of uncertainty during the pandemic. Find a way to make guests forget about that and all other stresses once they’re in your service.

Make it convenient.

Everything is just so darn hard these days. Make supporting your restaurant, in ANY capacity, as easy as possible. Simple instructions for curbside pick-up, delivery, a text outlining what to expect before every reservation—you name it! With everything your guests are dealing with regularly, your restaurant is not worth the extra effort. Trust me.