Author: Allan Grant
Hello 2021, and goodbye to a challenging and unprecedented year.
As the New Year rises in our windshield, we see the train wreck in the rear-view mirror. I caution you all to avoid walking backwards into the new year and turn to face the opportunities that may be laid out in front of you. The biggest business moguls and Olympic athletes are forward focused, set long term goals and lay out specific plans of how to get there.
While we look back on all the COVID restrictions one of the things that people are missing the most is human interaction. Humans require interaction to be healthy and to be in balance. One of the hardest hit business segments, if not THE hardest hit segment, affected by these shutdown’s is the Food Service
industry. 40%-50% of all independent businesses have gone under over the last year in Canada. These businesses are also a key determiner of our culture; it is a meeting place and for many of us is a key to our ability to social interaction. With the advent of the vaccine, these restrictions will hopefully be lifted, if even gradually.
When the restrictions are lifted, and we have a population craving human interaction, what happens? People will likely flock to the restaurants that have survived, with fewer options in the marketplace. There will be a shortage of places to go. There will be a vacuum. According to the laws of physics, nature abhors a vacuum and will conspire to fill it. With the market being short of options, people will be looking to open food service operations and take advantage of the renewed need and shortage of places for people to go.
Whether you are one of those people who are looking to rekindle their lost food service business, or if you are a new investor looking for a great food service opportunity, or you want to start to market your grandmother’s tomato sauce recipe, here are 5 key things to take into account when starting a new venture post COVID.
1. Accept the Past
If you are looking at food service in particular, the last year has been terrible, a tragedy. An assault on our well-being, our finances, and our self-esteem. In order to move forward we must accept where we are, regardless of how we got here. You can’t go back and change what has happened, we can only control how we feel today, and how we act today and tomorrow in fulfilling our goals and dreams. Forgive yourself and the universe for where you have ended up; no-one could have foreseen the pandemic of 2020. Again, no athlete can re-run the lost race, you can only train harder for the next one. If you have not done so already, use the time you have to learn more about business and start planning how you are going to come back stronger!
2. Take stock of where you are NOW
We all have had to pivot. If you have been laid off, or had to close your businesses doors, or you have had to take a pay cut, we all have made adjustments
over the last year to accommodate the realities. It’s time to re-examine what has worked for you, and what did not work out as well. Keep the things that are working, and eliminate the things that are not. Try out new ideas to see how they may work for you. Just as life is ever-changing, so is the COVID reality. It seems to change regularly. What worked last May, might not be working anymore.
3. Make a Plan
If you are going to start a new venture, make sure you are clear on where it fits in the marketplace. What need does you business fill? Create a big hairy goal, a global vision that engages people to want to come to your establishment rather than the ‘other guy’. Then create micro-goals or baby steps on how you are going to get there. Many restaurants, businesses in fact, have missed this step. The ones who are unclear of their visions are often the ones that do not survive unforeseen things like pandemics. The businesses that have survived are the ones that have a loyal following; ones that fill a need in peoples lives. Their patrons have conspired to find a way to support them. Get a global engaging vision, then plan to make it happen; and stick to it!
4. Work out your Break Even Point
This may seem like a no-brainer, but in relation to COVID, many people have had to make financial sacrifices and even take on great personal or business debt to try to make it through. This is especially true if you had an operation that you have had to close and took some government loans or maybe you had to defer your mortgage to try to make ends meet. Factor those into your business plan. Take those into account. Create a cash flow statement that includes your plan to pay these debts back. If they haven’t already, these deferred loans are going to be coming due soon. Also, make sure you include your time. Too many business owners do not factor their own time in to the Cost of Goods Sold and are the last to get paid. Make sure you get paid in your new venture, that is why you are going into business! In short, make sure you know your Break Even Point, so you know how much revenue you require to start making a profit every day, week and month.
5. Create a sense of urgency
One thing this pandemic created was a sense of urgency in the business community. Multi-national companies created work from home strategies, small
businesses pivoted their in-person services to on-line or pick up within days. Restaurants that had no take-out or pick strategy suddenly rolled out a sophisticated initiative to try to keep money rolling in. All of these initiatives were undertaken and rolled out in weeks. Initiatives that usually take weeks, months or even years to roll out in normal times. If we all acted as if we had to make changes ASAP or our business would die, how much more would we get done? Ask yourself, how can I act every day with the same intention and urgency that was required in the first months of this pandemic, just to survive? And live that way every day.
I have heard many heart wrenching stories of family businesses going under as a result of this unprecedented pandemic. As a group, food service operators are among the most creative, the most resilient and the most essential in our cultural identity. It is a noble profession to be a restaurateur, a lot of hard work, and I look forward to the days when restaurants are no longer at risk just for attempting to stay afloat. Look for the days ahead when there is going to be a “Big Bang” of a new restaurant universe when these restrictions get lifted. Until then, stay happy & healthy. Make the most of the time you have. I can’t wait to see you at the local pub soon!