In addition, he believes cities should allow more outdoor seating to offset the lower in-restaurant capacity.
“Somebody has got to emerge in the next few weeks and months as owning the premise of clean and safe,” Taffer says.
While Taffer believes brands must spend more money on creating an image of cleanliness, it doesn’t mean restaurants should shift focus from their food product.
At Taffer’s Tavern, all the kitchen equipment is built into the wall. The brand’s robotic kitchen includes only a couple of workers and doesn’t use raw product. The company utilizes sous vide cooking, a method in which food is vacuum sealed and then cooked over a long period at a low temperature. The cooking method, along with the equipment layout, results in cleaner kitchens, Taffer says.
“The sous vide Taffer’s Tavern concept we put together—we have 72-hour ribs that are the best you’ve ever tasted,” Taffer says. “Our burgers are to freakin’ die for. There is no quality loss when we use great cooking techniques like sous vide and other ways to maintain quality that are inherently clean. Sous vide is a powerful answer to some of these issues.”
Regarding the response from the federal government, Taffer says the CARES Act—which includes $349 billion in forgivable loans for small businesses—was a solid first step because it helps restaurants pay employees, rent, and utilities for eight weeks.
But like other independent operators, Taffer says restaurant owners need more to help restart their business. He would like to see funds to help restaurants replenish their inventory.
“That’s critical to farmers. That’s critical to food manufacturers. That’s critical to food distributors,” Taffer says. “So this is really important. It isn’t just about the restaurant industry. These are the kinds of things the [National Restaurant Association] and other teams are working on—and I’m working on it very aggressively also—is to make sure when restaurants open, they get an inventory and opening credit to cover the stocking and the refrigerators, maybe a few days of training to get us going.”
“… We also need to realize that restaurants might not be packed overnight,” Taffer continues. “There needs to be some bridging as restaurants start slowly to build and get back to a normal operating scenario. I think if we start with 40 percent less seats, I think in a month or two, we add a table. In another month or two, we add another table. I think we eventually move out of this once we have a vaccine and get it under control, but I don’t see that happening very very quickly, so we have to step up.”
Taffer says this is an opportunity for marketers to correct and reposition their brands. Companies that realign their operations and enhance safety protocols will exit the pandemic in great shape, but Taffer says those that refuse to adapt won’t survive.
Companies should start working on rearranging their business model now, Taffer says, and analyze how that affects their budget.
Nothing good will come to those who wait, the industry veteran insists.
“You don’t want to think about that the day this ends,” Taffer says. “You want to hit the ground running the day this ends. Everyone in this business should not be paralyzed by this right now. They shouldn’t be staring at the news all day. They should be working on their business models.”