By Ed Doyle, President, RealFood Hospitality Strategy and Design
Moving in a straight-forward direction makes intuitive sense to most of us. If we are asked to turn suddenly, the automatic response might be to freeze. Making changes requires flexibility and takes practice. What’s most difficult about a pivot, whether it’s in golf or in our lives? It comes down to shifting in direction… or perspective.
The pivot applies equally to rebuilding our restaurants and catering operations in the COVID-19 landscape. The entire notion of “normal” has been upended. Force-fitting the old model onto this new world order will not get us moving forward in a productive way. We need to take the time to envision where we want to be, not just in the next few months, but in the long term. Rather than focusing on adapting to the “new normal,” let’s look at our industry with a fresh set of eyes. What if we flip the script and reimagine the pivot as an opportunity to recast our industry?
Pause, To Get Unstuck.
Rethinking our businesses does not necessarily mean reinvention. At the same time, question the reflexive response of “we’ve always done it this way.” Following the same routines through muscle memory permits us control and comfort. Prior to COVID-19, chefs at premium dining establishments excelled at developing menus to be experienced only at their restaurant with a highly sequenced choreography and order. Simultaneously, ghost kitchens and delivery platforms were taking root and growing rapidly. Fine dining and takeout traveled in separate lanes. In the current environment, takeout has become intertwined with nearly every foodservice establishment. Instead of resisting this merge with takeout and the myriad of adjustments that come along with it, what if we loosen our grip... a little bit or maybe even a lot? It could liberate us from the ruts that we were unknowingly stuck in.
Amplify Your Foodservice DNA
You can shift lanes and still maintain who you are and what you do well. Identify which elements are integral parts of your foodservice DNA. Reflect on what attracts diners and members to your establishment. These answers will reveal what is core to your brand identity and makes your foodservice stand out from the rest. The goal is to reshape your business into the best version of itself. Flexibility and openness to change could bring to light your competitive advantage.
Meet Your Customers Where They Are
When you extend your reach beyond the four walls of your restaurant, you will likely discover possibilities that lead to lasting and beneficial outcomes. One of the primary functions of the club is the social aspect. Think beyond COVID-19 to uncover pathways for your members to connect with the club when they travel or spend time with their families and friends at home. You can enrich and make an imprint on these experiences by offering virtual food and wine tastings, group cooking classes or creative social get-togethers.
Ask More “What If” Questions
To get started on this path to discovery of “what could be,” ask more “what if” questions. Investigate preconceived notions with questions that lead to deeper inquiries. You might ask yourself: do dine-in and take-out menus need to be the same? While we are at it, do we need to deliver an entrée as fully put together? What if we provided a QR code with a chef demonstrating how to put the finishing touches on the dish just before bringing it to the table?
Dig Into Disruption
Ever think of putting dinner and a nice bottle of wine (to be enjoyed later) on the breakfast menu? Chocolate cake boxed and ready to go sounds equally enticing! To your guests’ delight, disrupt and defy the convention of daypart divisions. Who says breakfast, lunch, and dinner can’t comingle? Add to the menu, items for purchase for a one-stop shopping experience including ready-to-serve meals to bring home for the family dinner. Specialty pantry items go a long way with stocked items such as artisanal tea, honey, and cookie gift sets for those impulse buys. Everyone benefits from these thoughtfully convenient “extras,” and check averages also get a bountiful boost.
Celebrate the Pivot
With increased flexibility to stretch notions of what’s possible, you come out stronger by maximizing the pivot’s hidden potential. Embrace the pivot as more than a challenge but also an opportunity to recast, rebuild, and redefine the future of hospitality.
Ed is the president and original founder of RealFood, a premier hospitality strategy and design firm meeting the foodservice design, development and strategic advisory objectives of the hotel, club, institutional and restaurant segments of the global hospitality industry. RealFood is a division of Troon, the world’s largest golf management company providing services at more than 465 locations around the globe.