We Went Back To Our Bar

Foodie Friday, finally. If you regularly read this screed on Fridays, you might have picked up that Friday afternoons almost always involved a trip to my favorite local watering hole. In fact, I devoted one Friday rant to the place.

During the pandemic, while we’ve ordered food on a regular basis from the place to support it as best we could through the crisis, last evening was the first time in six months that we actually went to have a beverage. While bars are still closed here in North Carolina, restaurants are open with limited capacity indoors as well as distanced seating outdoors. Our plan was to sit outside and since it was a nice evening we ended up staying for dinner as well since technically our bar qualifies as a restaurant based on how much food it sells.

Of course, we did stick our masked faces inside to check out what was going on and to say hi to some staff members we hadn’t seen in a while. What a difference. The bar area was shut down – it’s usually packed – and several tables had been removed to limit capacity. Many more picnic tables had been added outdoors to make up for the lost seating. But it did get me thinking.

Many changes have already happened in the restaurant business. The biggest one, obviously, is that a significant percentage of them have closed their doors forever. It’s a marginally profitable business in good times and these days are NOT good times. For those that remain, adjusting to limited seating and a lot more take-out has also changed how the restaurant is staffed and operated. The quality that people have come to expect has morphed into wanting that quality at home. Cafeterias have died and drive-through fast food has been reborn to a certain extent. Without the need for a lot of service staff, operating within ghost kitchens has become prevalent. In fact, one franchise – Dickey’s Pit Barbecue – launching a network of ghost kitchens, including virtual restaurants to expand their reach in Chicago, Houston and Orlando, and entering into a new market using only ghost kitchens in Providence, R.I.

None of the changes have been easy, and the disruption points to something that’s applicable to your business as well. That’s leadership. In a crisis, leadership is even more important than in normal times because your team tends to panic and freeze or do silly things. The businesses who have really won in this environment so far are the ones that have a plan, have a good, strong corporate culture, have injected a little bit of entrepreneurialism in it, and stress execution. It starts at the top.

Does that sound like something you’re doing? Shouldn’t it be?

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