Happy New Year! I know it’s a holiday and I don’t typically post on these days, but hey, it’s Friday. What’s Friday without a Foodie Friday post? This post, written right after what I think was our last visit to a restaurant for a long time in mid-March, talks about what businesses need to think about when the s%$t hits the fan. If anything, I underestimated how much of that was about to go down, but the lesson remains the same. Originally called “Last Night’s Lesson,” it’s a great way to end/start the year.
It’s Foodie Friday. We went out for a bite last night to one of the places that’s in the usual rotation. On most Thursday nights the bar is crowded and there’s often a wait to grab a table. Last night we pretty much had the bar to ourselves and there were tables available without any delay.
My buddy Tina the bartender said that business wasn’t great and I think we all know it’s due to the fear of the coronavirus. It’s hard to keep a safe distance from folks in a crowded bar or when tables are close together. While you expect your servers and cooks to have clean hands, it’s not a great time to find out otherwise. Apparently, my little microcosm isn’t much different from what’s been going on around the country and, I suspect, around the world.
What a number of food businesses (this one included) are doing is a great lesson for those of us in other businesses with respect to how to behave when the proverbial pandemic hits the fan. I’ve seen Facebook posts and received several emails from places I patronize and most of them have the same message. First, they aren’t minimizing the situation with any kind of casual joking (“Hey! Come on out and play! It’s just a little flu!”). Second, they all talk about both their normal cleaning process as well as the enhanced measures they’re taking during the crisis. This includes more frequent cleaning using higher-strength disinfectants and retraining of staff.
It’s the big guys too. Starbucks, which markets itself as a gathering spot (not something we’re being encouraged to do these days) has actually taken to limiting seating, spacing seats further apart, and even closed a store temporarily after a worker fell ill. The message is loud and clear: we place our customers and their health above the short-term profit hit we’ll take. Well, duh, people. Dead customers don’t buy things, so helping to prevent the spread of this virus is smart business no matter the cost.
Some places have amped up their delivery service. I’ve heard of other places that will bring your food to the curb so you don’t have to get out of your car if they don’t deliver. Who knows – maybe those services will become a normal part of their business going forward – we all know how delivery services’ menu of menus has grown over the last year or so. Acknowledging that not everyone is comfortable or able to go out for dinner at this time and not attempting to persuade them otherwise is being supportive and adult. That’s what any of our businesses need to be.
We overtipped last night (50%). Why? These are our friends and they might be hurting for the next month or so. If you get out, do the same. Buy a gift card at your favorite place, restaurant or otherwise, and use it down the road when you go back. We’re all in this together, right?
I wrote this post in mid-March, just as the effects of the pandemic began keeping us home. It was pretty obvious to me at that point that life for all of us was going to be very different for a while and I had an unusual thought to go with the unusual times. Originally called “Quit Selling,” this was the most-read post I wrote this past year (18% more views than #2). It’s been 9 months and I still think it’s not a bad idea. What do you think?
What the heck do you do when everything changes in a couple of weeks? I fell behind reading my daily newspapers and as I was catching up it dawned on me that nearly everything I was reading related to a world that really didn’t exist a week later. The sports sections were previewing games and events that will never take place. Forget the numbers and analysis on the financial pages. Even the front pages dealt with topics that now seem so unimportant.
People can’t travel. You can’t really go out to eat or hang out with friends. Who could ever have imagined that the bars would be closed on St. Patrick’s Day as they were here and in many other places. Those are just a few examples of the devastating impact this pandemic has caused and the businesses that can survive this will be badly damaged. Many others won’t survive at all.
So If you’re a businessperson what can you do? May I offer a radical thought?
Quit selling. I’ve received many emails from companies that are behaving as if nothing is different. They’ve not changed their tactics or messaging at all. Others have done even worse by trying to capitalize on this global tragedy. Not only do I find these messages offensive but I’m making mental notes never to buy from those businesses again.
Everyone is suffering losses of some sort. Some folks are out of work completely with no income at all. Others are trying to work from home while schooling or at least amusing their kids. My parents who are in an assisted living facility can’t leave their room. Meals are sent up and there is no socialization. I think it’s the right course of action but I feel horrible for them and the other residents. People have had to cancel vacations and weddings. Others can’t attend funerals of loved ones. Everything has changed.
So quit selling. Recognize that now isn’t the time. If you give any sort of credence to the notion that you need to love your customers, love them now by asking how you can be helpful. Ask what you can do for them and not what you can sell them. There will be plenty of time for that when things return to whatever normal will become.
Maybe it’s a radical thought but these are times that call for radical thinking, don’t you think?
Happy Foodie Friday. I usually post the Thanksgiving Foodie Friday screed on the Wednesday before the holiday but it’s really the only food topic on my mind today. I’ve also made it a habit to repost an item I wrote a dozen years ago (can you believe I’ve been at this since 2008?) about the three “F”s of this holiday. Given how unusual 2020 has been (I’m being kind) so far, I thought I’d revisit the topic again.
Back then I wrote that “F” number one is Family. It’s the thing for which I am most thankful. That’s still true. If anything, I’m more thankful now because I’ve not seen my family in person for almost a year. We’ve lost folks who used to attend our dinner every year and others have moved far away. It’s an old truism that you can’t choose your family and for that, I’m thankful because I would never have chosen so well. Facetime isn’t face-to-face time and you can’t hug over Zoom. Let’s all hope this is a one-year abnormality.
“F” number two is Feasting. It’s weird not cooking for 25 and honestly, it feels less like a feast than it does a regular dinner. Still, I’m thankful that there is food of any sort on the table when I see pictures of many people struggling. Hunger is a problem here in the 12th richest nation. I’m not going to fry a turkey this year in the spirit of this year being totally different (let’s hope so). Buttermilk brined and spatchcocked, it will roast relatively quickly in the oven and what used to be days of prep and cooking will be greatly condensed.
“F” number three is Football. That won’t change although it’s weird listening to pumped in fan noise when the stands are mostly empty. It’s great that we have sports on this and other days to keep us amused but I worry about the athletes and the virus. I love the annual ritual of gathering to watch the games. I don’t love that the always-present risk of injury athletes live with is compounded by the risk from the virus.
This is how the original post concluded. Hard to believe that a dozen years later and in the midst of a pandemic not much has changed in my thinking.
Our family has been challenged this year by many of the same things that millions of other families face. Illnesses, the economy, wacky weather, and the other day-to-day events that keep it…interesting… Even so, we’re very fortunate and tomorrow will be a day to remember that. If anything, the adversity has pulled us even closer.
I’m very thankful, among other things, for those of you that take the time to read the screed every once in a while. I appreciate your comments when I hit home and even more so when I miss the mark. Have a great holiday!