Winter and Beyond: Preparing for the Future

With the onset of COVID-19 this year, bars, in particular, have taken a major hit, experiencing widespread shutdowns across the country. As regulations change, some have been able to re-open their doors thanks to rallying efforts from owners and petitions like Seating Not Eating. As we head into the winter months and 2021, establishments like bars are going to have to shift their operations to keep doors open and seats filled.

winter dining covid-19
Featured photo courtesy of Jaeyoung Geoffrey Kang on Unsplash

What’s on The Menu?

Many establishments are now no longer able to serve alcohol without entrees. Does this apply to you? If so, are you equipped to handle a handful of food selections for patrons to choose from? If not, consider partnering with a local restaurant to help raise awareness that you are both open for business.

Utilize Spaces

Although the temperature is dropping, indoor dining restrictions are returning with limitations. It is important to use all spaces on your property to maximize capacity following safe, socially distanced guidelines. If there is a patio, consider installing outdoor heaters to appeal to patrons in colder weather cities. Remember sidewalks and street dining are still options, so transform these spaces if possible.

The Atmosphere

winter bar
Photo by Tom Cleary, Unsplash.

The most important thing to remember is that patrons must feel comfortable and invited. Cleanliness is top of mind. Is staff enforcing mask policies and sanitizing between parties? Are capacity guidelines being violated? The experience can make or break a customer’s decision to return or leave good reviews.

Go Digital

Consider replacing aspects from your everyday operations with digital alternatives. This includes adopting practices such as QR codes for menus and touchless payments to limit person to person interaction. Online ordering platforms can allow patrons to order and pay from their tables using their phones without ever having to interact with staff.

Take It To-Go

With colder weather, many patrons will be looking to stay warm, but that does not mean they will be against ordering takeout or having food delivered. Do you have a delivery system in place? Are you available via apps like Grubhub or Uber Eats? Remember, presentation is key. Make sure the options available, whether food or drink, can travel well and will not be a mess once they arrive at their final destination.

Make the Most Out of It

As mentioned previously, cold weather and changing regulations will impact traffic coming through the door, but to survive and turn a profit, bar owners will need to make the most out of every check. Create a merchandise assortment boosting your brand and your check average. Keep it stocked and very visible. Use gift card presentation in the same way. Think about establishing a loyalty program for frequent customers to keep them coming again and again and ordering more.

Cut Back on Costs

Heading into 2021, take a step back and evaluate what costs you can cut back on. What contracts need to be renewed and which do not? Where can funds be reallocated to and from? What can you do for less without sacrificing quality of ingredients, dishes, or the overall experience? Budgeting is important now more than ever.

The road ahead will be challenging, and calls for adapting to changes on the fly. If your establishment has been lucky enough to survive 2020, now is the time to continue to push into 2021 and beyond.

kathy holt
By Kathy Holt, a sales and channel lead at JPG Resources and an accomplished sales and marketing executive with 30 years of foodservice industry experience. She develops teams that are responsive to market activity while focused on sustainable growth.