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Cash flow

10 ways restaurants can maintain cash flow while dining rooms are closed

Thousands of bars and restaurants across the world have closed their doors in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Those with food delivery services, drive-thrus, and takeout options are mitigating the loss in revenue that comes with closing down dining areas. Meanwhile, restaurants that don’t normally offer these services are scrambling to catch up.

In the USA, the coronavirus could cost the restaurant industry over $225 billion in sales over the next three months, according to the National Restaurant Association. Follow these 10 tips to keep the cash flow floodgates open while your dining room is closed.

1. Sign up with a food delivery service

Several food delivery service apps are doing their part to ease the financial burden on restaurant owners.

  • GrubHub, which also owns Seamless, is temporarily suspending commission payments from affected independent restaurants, providing immediate cash flow relief.
  • DoorDash, which also owns Caviar, is offering 30 days of zero commission fees for independent restaurants that join through the end of April. For restaurants already using these services, the company is waiving commission fees on all pickup orders and reducing fees for delivery.
  • Uber Eats is waiving delivery fees for customers ordering from independent restaurants. It’s also giving restaurants the option to receive daily payments rather than pay on the typical weekly billing cycle.

Beyond those, there are also services like Menulog, Deliveroo, and Postmates to choose from. It’s a good idea to make your food available on multiple delivery service platforms. You want your customers to find you on their food delivery app of choice.

However, keep in mind that all of these services come with fees—if not right away.

2. Avoid the fees to make to-go meals work for your team

You may want to avoid the delivery and service fees most food delivery apps charge. Convert your workers to delivery drivers, or start delivering food yourself. If delivery isn’t an option, curbside pickup is a great way to keep food moving out the door and cash coming in.

3. Adjust your menu to offer takeout-friendly food

If you have food that can’t easily be delivered or transported in a to-go box, consider adjusting your menu to offer takeout-friendly options. Avoid over-complicating your online menu with too many dish customizations. Keep it simple. The fewer steps from food selection to checkout, the better for your customer experience.

4. Offer no-contact delivery

During a no-contact delivery, the driver places the food on the recipient’s porch or in another agreed-upon spot. No-contact delivery protects your delivery drivers from interacting with customers who might be sick or carrying the coronavirus. Your customers want to know you’re doing what it takes to keep your employees and your customers safe.

5. Promote gift card purchases

Make sure you’re giving your customers the ability to buy gift cards online. Mail physical gift cards directly to buyers, offer virtual gift cards, or deliver the cards along with their food.

Feel-good stories of good samaritans purchasing gift cards to feed families in need or donating gift cards to health care workers have hit news headlines. Make sure your restaurant is an option for these do-gooders.

6. Reduce your pricing to keep cash flow coming in

Money may be tight, but slightly reducing your menu prices could make your restaurant more appealing for curbside pickup and delivery customers. If it keeps the cash flow coming in, it might be worth the dip in revenue.

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7. Donate excess food for a tax write-off

At the end of the day, most bars and restaurants likely aren’t going through their food supplies as quickly as they used to. If you have excess food, don’t let it go to waste. Donate it to a local shelter and record it as a tax write-off. It will pay off later.

8. Communicate with your customers

Make sure your customers know you’re open for business and how they can order. As you adjust menus and services, you might not have had time to update your website or social pages. If customers don’t know you’re open, they won’t place an order. Keep your customers in the loop. Let them know how you plan to get them their food and how they can support your business.

9. Sell your merch

Don’t forget, food isn’t your only option. Many bars and restaurants offer branded merchandise as well. Encourage your customers to support you through hard times with a branded sweatshirt or pint glass. Take a look around your restaurant: What else could you auction off to keep money flowing in?

10. Seek support from your community

Turn to your loyal customers for support. Your customers are your first line of defense against financial hardship. Let them know that you’ll do whatever it takes to keep your doors (metaphorically) open and continue serving them in any way you can—but that you need their help. People have already shown a great willingness to help others during these uncertain times.

Keep it clean

Above all, the purpose of these mandated shutdowns is to enforce social distancing and prevent the spread of the virus. When offering delivery service or curbside pickup, maintain a 6-foot radius between customers. Avoid physical contact, and ask your workers to wear gloves when transferring food. For pickup orders, ask customers to wait in their vehicles. For walk-up restaurants, avoid grouping customers together in a line.

If you or someone on your staff becomes sick or thinks they may have been exposed to the coronavirus, send them home right away. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and your customers will appreciate your caution.

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