The restaurant industry has arguably suffered the most economic losses since the COVID-19 outbreak began.
And as the state and country reopen, restaurant operations can be dramatically different. To help navigate new challenges, the Small Business Development Center at the University of West Florida will host a three-part webinar “The Restaurant COVID-19 Playbook,” which begins Sept. 9.
The free, online webinar is just one of the resources the SBDC has offered during the pandemic, alongside virtual consulting sessions in the 10-county region. And while in-person workshops have been on hold, the virtual sessions have been successful, said John Emsing, business consultant at the center.
“It’s been great to continue delivering information to businesses,” he said. “And with the virtual workshops, we’ve seen an uptick in attendance. The scope is so much bigger.”
Emsing said the workshop on restaurant operations meets a demand the center has seen in the past several months. On March 20, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered food establishments to suspend dine-in food and beverage consumption. Restaurants were allowed to reopen May 4 with indoor seating limited to 25% capacity, and by mid-May there were able to increase to 50% capacity. Bars are still closed to on-site alcohol consumption, although some have obtained restaurant licenses to stay open.
Restaurants and food service jobs make up about 12% of Florida’s employment, according to the National Restaurant Association.
As restaurants worked to quickly adapt to carry-out and delivery services, some have had to completely rethink operations, said Emsing.
“Revenue in the restaurant business is based on how fast you can turn over a customer,” said Emsing. “When you’re stuck with carry-out that’s not always an option. It’s forced everyone to come up with new ways to operate and provide value.”
Technology has been a big part of that innovation, providing outlets for online ordering, payments and more. And some of those tech resources are free.
“We want to take a hard look at how we deliver information,” said Emsing. “Make sure to update Google My Business and to show you offer web orders or delivery.”
The workshop will address these issues as well as the changing governmental guidelines and insights in guest trends. Part one will cover operating procedures; on Sept. 16, part two will focus on guest experiences; and on Sept. 23, part three is about “surviving a crisis.”
Business Consultant Terry Mauer will lead the workshop bringing his 20 years of experience working in restaurant operations in Destin and south Walton County.
“The Restaurant COVID-19 Playbook” workshop is 9-10 a.m. Sept. 9, Sept. 16, and Sept. 23. Emsing said for now, online workshops will continue to be free as a service to the community.
“Our core function is helping small businesses grow and succeed,” he said. “And even if you don’t see a workshop for you, we have business consultants with a broad set of skills to help you.”