Published 20 March 2020
The current COVID-19 crisis sweeping the globe is having far-reaching effects on many industries, with one of the hardest hit being the food industry. Not only are people wary of eating out in public locations, but in some areas their access to restaurants and bars is being restricted.
In some locations within the United States and Canada, a state of emergency has been declared which has imposed severe restrictions on food businesses that allow customers to dine within their establishment. Some food businesses are required to operate at 50% capacity or less, and some are being required to close completely and only offer take-out or delivery services. It is likely that these restrictions will begin to be implemented in other countries around the word like Australia and those in the UK in the near future.
Here is what you can do to ensure business continuity — even if your food business has been instructed to close its doors.
The current coronavirus situation is very severe and impacting the lives of many food businesses. If you have been instructed to close your doors due to the pandemic, it is very natural to feel panicked. It is important to remember that panicking will not help your business in the long run. Making educated decisions and taking practical actions are the best way to protect your business and enact a proper COVID-19 response.
Even if your business is physically closed to the public, you may still be able to provide take-out or home delivery service to your customers. Many businesses are ramping up these services even if they aren’t forced to close because customers are more willing to use these services due to social distancing. If your business’ doors are closed, take the opportunity to switch to a take-out or home delivery model if you can, and if it is permitted by your local government.
Now is the time to sit down and analyze your financial situation. This financial analysis will determine what functions of the business are essential and non-essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. You should also determine what is the minimum amount of functionality needed in order to maintain the business at an acceptable level. Also take into consideration how long your business could be shut down before you would begin to suffer from severe financial impact.
With your business not serving as many customers, or any at all, you need to act swiftly on the food you have in storage. For fresh food such as fruits and vegetables, see if you can increase their use in your take-out or home deliveries so that they do not spoil. If you are shuttered completely, look into donating these items to a local food bank, shelter or other community service. For items in dry storage and the freezer, take note of their expiry dates on a list or form and ensure that you are disposing of items that have passed their use-by dates. Also make sure you continue to use FIFO (First in, first out) principles with your food storage.
If you are feeling worried, it is guaranteed that your staff members are feeling the same way. Your staff are most likely concerned about the future of the food business and their job security. Take the time to reach out to your staff either by phone or email to see how they are doing and let them know how things are going for the business. You do not need to get into the finer details of the state of the business (like financial details), but explaining what you are doing to ensure business continuity and success will go a long way to comfort your valuable staff.
You customers are the lifeblood of your food business. Without them, your business would not thrive. This is a troubling reality to face when customers are not purchasing from food businesses as much, or being barred from attending locations at all due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are completely closed to the public, make sure to keep in contact with your valued customers either through email, social media or posts on your website. Let them know how much you value their business, and the measures you are taking to ensure you will continue to service the community during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.