Sharing Success – Tom Cortopassi
It has been a few months since I last wrote to you. During that time, we have been focused on the preparation and the execution of our Fresh Pack Tomato Season. We are nearing the end of the season, and I’m pleased to report that our efforts have allowed us to produce plenty of consistently high quality products, while keeping our dedicated employees safe and sound.
The fact that I haven’t written does not mean that you are not
on my mind. Never have I been more inspired by the resiliency, determination, passion, and competitiveness of Independent restaurateurs. I find this to be a comfort, since our family business is exclusively focused on quality-oriented restaurants. Being fully vested in independent restaurants also reminds me that we are truly in this with you.
Whether your business has thrived, struggled, or something in between, you have been forced to make changes. Our Stanislaus team is in contact with many restaurateurs and we have learned from our customers what has and has not worked for them.
I want to share with you what I’ve learned has been working during the Covid-19 restaurant crisis, and what I think are good practices that should remain even after this pandemic is gone for good.
- Cross training and flexibility. Whether dealing with dine-
in restrictions or having employees suddenly unavailable due to self-distancing, many restaurateurs have redeployed team members into different responsibilities. For example, idled servers have often transitioned into valuable prep cooks or delivery drivers. Many owners have been pleasantly surprised that their team was more capable and resilient than they previously realized. Additionally, working multiple jobs gives employees a better understanding of the interrelationships between functions, which is a good thing to have now, and into the future.
- Re-focused menus. To accommodate greater delivery/takeout, overcome short-staffed kitchens, or better control ingredient inventories; many restaurateurs restructured their menu offerings to better fit new business conditions.
- Table service restaurants new to takeout/delivery learned to limit their off-premises menus to items which travel well. This is a good idea for post-pandemic times as well.
- Kitchens left shorthanded have streamlined food prep by dropping labor-intensive items. If these offerings eventually make their way back to the menu, the price point should reflect the labor intensity of the dish.
- Fresh seafood restaurants facing reduced traffic have narrowed the fish varieties they offer to keep fast movers tasting their freshest, which is yet another smart move that will work in any economic environment.
- Resourceful thinking. When thrown a curveball like dining room closures, Independents have been remarkably creative in finding other ways to earn money. Beyond offering or expanding curbside pickup or delivery, some creative Independents expanded their offerings to include scarce grocery staples, pizza and/or dessert making kits, freshly baked specialty breads, cocktails to go, wine by the bottle, take and bake pasta entrees, etc. The pandemic may have been the catalyst for these creative ideas, but offering truly unique ultra-high quality items or ingredients may provide some extra revenue, but more importantly will enhance your restaurant quality image among your customers.
4) Touchless transactions. Even before the pandemic, more than half of all restaurant takeout/delivery orders were being placed and paid electronically. Even more consumers now seem to prefer prepaying for goods/services “touchlessly” via smartphone rather than physically exchanging cash (or even credit cards) in person. “Touchless” pickup and delivery options are here to stay.
I remain optimistic about our mutual long term future for two additional reasons:
- Despite restrictions/self-isolations, people still enjoy great tasting restaurant meals. Dine-in traffic has undeniably declined in recent months. However, off-premises dining has increased during the same period. While consumers may not be able to personally visit their favorite restaurants, they are still choosing to enjoy their foods…just in their own homes.
- Superior food quality and making customers feel valued are still how Independents earn loyal repeat business. Our restaurateur customers have told us how much their regulars have appreciated the lengths each restaurant has gone to accommodate their needs, make them feel safe, and comfortable and, above all, appreciated.
We are especially proud to stand with you, regardless of what the future may hold. Until next time, stay strong and be well!
President and Co-Owner