As restaurants and other businesses struggle through difficult times during the pandemic, an emphasis on digital growth and online hospitality can help them survive — and even profit.
Cali BBQ owner/operator Shawn Walchef and Sydney Lynn from Restaurant Solutions, Inc. were guests on ABC News10 in San Diego to talk about the state of restaurants and how small businesses can adapt to the moment in order to survive in a digital future.
They shared the struggles many restaurant owners have experienced in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The most important thing is making people feel welcome,” Shawn Walchef said in regard to the hospitality business. “The Coronavirus is literally the antithesis of that.”
Strategies To Help Restaurants Profit During the Pandemic:
1. Find your breakeven point. Learn how much money you can expect per customer.
2. Analyze your budget and find ways to cut. That could mean layoffs.
3. Change your menu to see if you need to raise prices or remove items to streamline the kitchen operations.
4. Evolve your brand into the online space, emphasizing the customer experience on your website, app, and social media. Use digital marketing and digital media to your advantage.
Pivot and Adjust Your Plans
In order to make smart money choices, it’s important to know the financial data from your business so you can turn your actions into profit. Restaurant industry margins are notoriously slim. During a pandemic like in 2020, they can be non-existent. That is if you don’t have a proper strategy in place to pivot and adjust.
Restaurants must focus on guests digital experience now more than ever, so they can be profitable during and after the coronavirus pandemic.
“What we’ve been doing is really focusing on doing break-even analysis with our clients,” said Sydney Lynn, Director of Planning Advisory Services with Restaurant Solutions. “Restaurant entrepreneurs and owners are the most creative and innovative folks you’ll know. So if anyone can pivot, it will be them.”
Restaurant Solutions Inc (RSI) is an accounting management and operations service for restaurants. It is supported by industry experts as a way to ensure more profits and the power to #FocusOnFoodNotFinances. Cali BBQ is a longtime client of Restaurant Solutions.
Digital Hospitality Can Help
While the local ABC news segment in San Diego profiles the struggles that Cali BBQ and other businesses in the restaurant industry are experiencing during these uncertain times, it also highlights the solutions.
For Shawn and company, that means going digital and offering Cali BBQ in to-go and delivery fashion.
“As restaurant owners, we can’t discriminate how people eat our barbecue,” Shawn Walchef states. “If they want to order barbecue delivered to their office or if they want to get it ordered to the Little League field, then they should be able to get that.
“They shouldn’t have to come and wait in line for an hour on a busy Sunday to come and get barbecue.”
Thanks to Shawn’s strong application of Digital Hospitality on the Cali BBQ social channels and website, customers are able to order their famous favorites online while also experiencing the same warmth they’d receive at the sports bar.
“Whether it’s through their website, their email, Facebook, Instagram, direct message, those are all customers,” says Shawn on digital patrons. “We need to treat them the same way as if they walked into our restaurant.”
Shawn and Cali BBQ’s use of Digital Hospitality and easy online ordering has made the COVID-19 pandemic the stage for a shift and also growth. Because transitioning to a digital restaurant has been so successful, Cali BBQ began plans to expand with a second kitchen in San Diego’s Barrio Logan neighborhood. And more growth is on the horizon.
While he hopes to open the doors for indoor dining once everything is absolutely safe, Cali BBQ will continue to serve their customers with Digital Hospitality and evolve his business online with the same warmth he and his staff have always provided.
ABC 10News Article: “San Diego restaurants go digital to profit during the pandemic”
Even though the tables and chairs are empty, the pit-masters at Cali Comfort BBQ are keeping busy.
The kitchen and bar are filling takeout and delivery orders, thanks to increased online and phone sales.
“As restaurant owners, we can’t discriminate how people eat our barbecue,” says owner Shawn Walchef. “If they want to order barbecue delivered to their office or the little league field, then they should be able to get that. They shouldn’t have to come and wait in line.”
It’s a new strategy Walchef is using during the pandemic, thanks to his partnership with Restaurant Solutions, a consulting firm that helps small restaurants analyze their financial prospects.
Walchef says that means treating every customer online with the same hospitality you would if they came into the restaurant.
“It can’t be a transaction. It has to be something where there’s a heart,” he says. “If there’s nobody there, and your digital experience is just a fake facade, (a customer) might order a burger one time from a virtual restaurant. But if you don’t know that there’s an actual owner, that there are actual people there making this food, it’s going to be very unlikely that you order from them again.”
Sydney Lynn says it’s a challenge, but restaurant owners have faced other challenges in the past.
“If they go back and remember how they were able to make it through that first year of opening, they’re going to be able to make it through this as well.”