The restaurant industry will see a new reality, post COVID-19. What does it look like?

Recovery will obviously be a challenge for all restaurants: both large and small.  It will be a rebound that won’t happen overnight.

The reality of COVID-19 is that our industry has never had a large-scale modern event of this magnitude. We will likely see resurgence in COVID-19 in certain areas of the U.S., most likely, until a vaccine or medical advances allow for tools to adequately address the health crisis.

Social distancing is working and will need to have a place in our current landscape for at least foreseeable future. Unfortunately, restaurants will be closed or thinned, approximately 15–25 percent as a whole, according to some reports. Those who survive will need to:

In March alone, there have been a 3 percent permanent restaurant closures with April looking to hit an additional 11 percent of restaurants that will shutter doors.

Labor market will loosen up as people who have lost jobs look for steady income. As an opportunity, we likely will find stronger staff with experience.

Marginal restaurant sales growth of 3 percent compared to COVID-19 impacted sales will continue as competition closes.

Moving forward, curbside service will be a staple of the industry. There will also be a shift in consumer focus regarding food safety versus sustainability.

Third-party delivery companies and restaurant concepts will have a stronger focus on a touchless customer service customer experience.

Micro social media marketing focused on community-based advertising will become a larger focus to reach out to customers. For example, homeowners associations, next-door neighbor sites, city blog pages.

Pre-shift employees temperature checks will be implemented as a safety process.

Supply chain may see a dip in production for restaurant products as the commodity markets focus on retail production.

Restaurants may see a 3 to 6 percent month increase in sales growth as consumers venture outside followed by cash strapped consumers looking for value offerings.

Restaurant concepts will invest into drive thru or pick-up window options in construction designs. Restaurant sites will become available as landlords try to secure tenants in vacate locations.

Concepts will reduce the dining room footprint as they continue to see a trend of more takeout and delivery.

The employee labor market will continue to favor the restaurant owners.

Potential franchisees will be looking into how a franchisor responded to the COVID-19 crisis when picking a concept to invest into.

Who knows what other revelations may evolve post COVID-19.  The only thing constant in our industry is change.

Bryan StGeorge is the Chief Operations Officer of Little Greek Fresh Grill. StGeorge has spent the last 29 years in the restaurant business both domestically and overseas. Little Greek currently has 42 locations in six states (Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio and Texas).

Outside Insights, Story, Little Greek