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The Ethical Opportunities For Bars & Restaurants Amid Pandemic Fears & A Likely Recession

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Coronavirus bars and restaurants

While bars and restaurants are generally considered ‘recession-proof’, they’re certainly not ‘pandemic-proof’

If you check out the stock market, the emotion you’ll find driving most behaviour in the world is this:

EXTREME FEAR. And this is generally reflected in all markets.

But for those of you who aren’t clouded by ‘extreme fear’, you know that there are great solutions, opportunities, and possibilities in all situations.

That’s what the ideas in this blog post are about.

And if this all turns out to be an over-reaction, it’s never a bad idea to fortify.

So far, it’s statistically unlikely that you, personally, will be seriously affected by Coronavirus, but if you look at the strain on Italy’s heath-care system, you’ll know that we need to take action. Many of the following ideas are in service of this:

And if you’re tired of hearing that you need to turn your establishment into a delivery service to survive, here are a few other thoughts and ideas to take action on:

Show and tell the sanitary measures you’re taking

The truth is that most bars and restaurants are cleaner than most people’s home kitchens because a health inspector checks on them regularly.

That said, showing the measures you’re taking will reassure guests that they’re entering a safe dining environment.

Danny Meyer of Union Square Hospitality Group put out a great video for both his team and the public:

DHM COVID-19 Update from Union Square Hospitality Group on Vimeo.

Consider trimming offerings

In the service of creating a more controlled environment, you could consider trimming opening hours, menu items, etc.

Increase visibility on social media

While we’re all in this together, we’re also in a competitive space. Many folks will be reducing their social activity and this is the perfect time to increase yours.

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Remember when Mad Men’s Don Draper said that advertising exists to tell people that everything’s going to be okay? Well, now seems like an appropriate time to lean into that.

At the same time, be sure to support your local industry, so long as you’re being cautious and safe.

Move tourist-targeted advertising to local

Since travel and tourism are heavily curbed at the moment, it makes sense to pull any advertising that’s targeting tourists and instead increase visibility in your local area. I would think this is especially the case for hotels. Why not offer locals special rates and services? The perfect ‘staycation’, for example.

Look closely at overhead

Not to be ruthless, but what’s most important is that your business survives so that anyone who gets laid off will have a place to come back to when this blows over. If your business doesn’t survive, nobody wins.

And where can technology step in? Are you spending a fortune on someone handling reservation calls when that could easily be automated? What other processes are an unnecessary burden on the business?

Go Virtual

Whenever possible, have meetings online. When you come out the other side, you’ll be more, dare I say, Nimble. My favourite benefits of online meetings are that your team saves time, meeting efficiency improves, and if someone can’t make the allotted time, you can record the meeting for them to watch later.

My favourite tool for online meetings is Zoom.

Rebalance and repurpose your team

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax. “

Abraham Lincoln

Now is the time to sharpen the axe. What skills could your team use to propel the business through? Here are some examples of rebalancing and repurposing:

  • Spending a fortune on photography? Help an interested team member learn the skill so they can do it for you
  • There’s a niggling project that’s needed to be done for ages, inventory process improvement / automation, for example — now’s the time to get it done.
  • Looking to increase visibility on social media? See if someone’s willing to champion video content
  • Put together a small team to create an ultimate piece of content that could serve your business for years to come. A cookbook? A drink book? A guide?
  • And if you’re open fewer hours, let’s say you DO add a delivery service, a host could become a delivery driver
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Skill Share and Creative Live are a couple of great online resources for skill development.

It’s kind of like when the stock markets are down, that’s the best time to buy. Similarly, this is the best time to invest in skills that will accrue into your biz.

Form a mastermind with others in the industry

Establishments are generally used to working in silos, but what’s possible if we tackle challenges together on a regular basis? In different cities? Across borders?

Slow down

Common humanity will understand that service might not be as fast as usual and many things might be, well, out of the ordinary.

Encourage gift card purchases (and maybe even build an online store)

The community will still want to support you, it’s just not the best time to go out. On the other hand, it’s a GREAT time to promote gift cards. This will improve your cash flow, and the buyer gets something to look forward to.

You can also use a tool like Shopify to easily build an online store and create your own branded products — another great way for your local fans to support you.

Don’t be a hero

Do masks and gloves look uncool? Yes. Should your team be wearing them? Probably.

Encourage your team to stay at home if they’re feeling unwell.

Finally, for now, this is an amazing time to have more THINKING time and less DOING time

It feels a bit like the world’s been ‘hustling’ and ‘grinding’ for the past decade and a bit. I can’t help but be optimistic about a world where there’s more thinking, and more intentional doing.

I’ll leave you with this tweet:

Don’t leave us hanging. What are your ideas for finding opportunity, possibility, and solutions?


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    Kyle is co-founder and CVO of the Nimble Bar Co, where he helps bars and bartenders create theater so that they can be more profitable and have more fun.

Kyle Guilfoyle

Kyle Guilfoyle

Kyle is co-founder and CVO of the Nimble Bar Co, where he helps bars and bartenders create theater so that they can be more profitable and have more fun.

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