Owning a restaurant has never been easy, but the challenges these days are particularly formidable.

Let’s face it: These pandemic years have been tough on us all. Few industries, though, have felt the impact more deeply than hospitality. Now, however, as lockdowns lift and the threat of COVID-19 seems to be waning, restaurateurs are looking to make up for lost time.

Unfortunately, recovery in the post-pandemic era may be even more difficult than expected. That’s because restaurant owners are not just tasked with recouping lost revenues, but they’re also confronting new and often unexpected obstacles, from supply chain issues to funding challenges to the reticence of a dining public that is just beginning to learn to live again after quarantines.

The Supply Chain Crisis

For the first time since COVID struck, it’s the supply chain and not lockdowns that may well pose the greatest threat to your restaurant operations. Indeed, the evidence shows that the ongoing supply chain crisis is having a profoundly detrimental impact across all domains of restaurant operations.

Owners, for example, are finding that they’re short on essential supplies, including both foodstuffs and materials such as cutlery and cups, significantly hindering their ability to serve guests at capacity without taking drastic measures, such as reducing operating hours or restricting the menu.

Additionally, restaurant owners and operators also report that they’re unable to access the tools they need to maintain and repair their equipment. Without the ability to keep the kitchen running, the entire operation is in danger of shutting down.

The good news, however, is that there are steps restaurateurs can take to mitigate the harms of the supply chain crisis.

One of the most important of these is to recruit a supply chain leadership specialist. No matter whether you’re running a small-scale, single-site restaurant or a large chain, a supply chain expert can help your restaurant optimize operations not only through crisis periods such as these but always.

An effective supply chain leader, for instance, will have the specialized training needed to combine human resources with technology to facilitate supply chain planning, management, risk mitigation, and crisis resolution.

However, if you’re not ready to make the leap and onboard a supply chain expert, you can also turn to technology to optimize your internal supply chain operations. For example, e-commerce is proving invaluable in making supply chain ordering more efficient.

Finding Funding

There’s no question that years of lockdowns, reduced operations, and a dining public forced to retreat to their homes have sapped the savings of even the most successful restaurants. That means that you could find yourself trying to secure funding for your business in a highly competitive and potentially cash-poor environment.

Despite the challenges of finding the financial support your restaurant needs to survive and thrive through this recovery period, though, that doesn’t mean you’re without options. The key is to understand how to pitch to investors in this new, post-pandemic normal. 

Odds are that the strategies you once used to persuade backers may not be sufficient today, especially if you are planning to launch a new venture. So it’s essential that you understand who your audience of potential investors is and to tailor your presentation to their needs, values, and expectations.

Whether you’re launching a new restaurant or seeking to revive an established one, for instance, investors are probably going to want to know specifics about how you plan to lure a potentially reluctant clientele back to indoor dining, what measures you will take to keep employees and guests healthy, and what strategies you will put in place to maintain revenues and workflow should a crisis like COVID occur again.

In other words, your potential investors will need to know exactly how you plan to protect their money and transform that investment into profits.

Attracting Reluctant Customers

To be sure, there’s a lot of pent-up demand in the hospitality industry. After nearly three years in lockdown, guests are eager to get out and have fun in the world again. That doesn’t mean, though, that they’re not going to have several health and safety concerns, especially regarding indoor dining. This will likely be of particular concern to certain client populations, such as seniors or those with pre-existing health conditions.

Thus, one of the most important things you can do to attract guests back to your restaurant is to be highly transparent about the health and sanitization protocols in place at your restaurant.

Technology can be especially beneficial in this regard. For instance, instituting contactless payment, online ordering, and even curbside pickup and third-party delivery can be a wonderful way to reassure anxious diners and to capture the patronage of those who may not yet be ready or able to return to in-house dining.

The Takeaway

Owning a restaurant has never been easy, but the challenges are particularly formidable today. From supply chain crises to lack of funding to the reticence of clientele to return to indoor dining, restaurateurs face a lot of obstacles. There is hope, however. With a bit of strategy and a lot of commitment, these problems can be mitigated or resolved, opening the door to a brighter tomorrow for owners, operators, staff, and guests.

Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer from the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics and, because she spent over six years in the restaurant business before writing full-time, takes a particular interest in covering topics related to the food and beverage industry. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter.

Expert Takes, Feature