Why COVID-19 is the best thing to happen to Zimbabwean restaurants

Notice how I didn’t say “small restaurants”?

Zimbabwe’s food industry has always sort of had a bit of a cushion underneath them. This does not dismiss how difficult it is to start a business in Zimbabwe, let alone keep it alive. Think about it, this is one of the most fast-paced and competitive industries. According to a study, the medium lifespan of a restaurant in the western US is only 4.5 years. It’s difficult to gather data for the local market because nobody is keeping track. IF they are, they aren’t putting it on the internet.

Photo by Retha Ferguson

Enough about that, let’s talk about how restaurants measure success for a bit. Slightly technical than we’re used to but bear with me a little. Studying any restaurants KPI’s should show where improvement is warranted along with positive performance. This is done by checking a few factors:

  • Sales
  • Historical sales
  • Cost of goods
  • Labor Cost
  • Prime cost

These would also include how many people book tables at the restaurant and how many refuse to pay because of mistakes in orders and all that. Let’s stop here. What am I getting at exactly?

Covid-19 not only stopped businesses, but it also exposed all the weak ones. It pointed out unstable business structures in restaurants but strangely handed out the solution too.

For the first two weeks of national lockdown we relied solely on the emergency supplies we had bulk bought. As time strung on and extensions kept rolling out, restaurants had to make decisions. Sink or swim type of situation. Stay with me here, I’m getting to the juicy parts.

Photo by Jamal Yahya

Most of the snug restaurants have one thing in common. Well, maybe not one. A couple of things,rather but let’s focus on the one factor that keeps them afloat even in pandemics. Got it?

Yes, home deliveries.

Of course this isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. But did you know that its estimated that delivery orders will make up 40% of revenue for restaurants very soon? 40% is a lot. Much more than the 0% most restaurants are receiving overall due to COVID-19. A classic rule in business is “Go where the business is”.

People are socially distancing (and for good reason too) but their cravings and lust for instant satisfaction are still tip-top. Not everyone’s buying essentials only, Gloria!

The Foodie community still wants those greasy fries, the pizza, the fried chicken, and whatever it is that you’re gracing them with. This will not only keep your business alive, but your customer base will also stick around too.

photo by cottonboy

With slimmer chances of getting back into the physical restaurant you worked hard on, how about putting in work in an online restaurant?

If your social media isn’t engaging or doesn’t even exist you’re missing out on profits that could transform your usual earnings.

By the time everyone is finally able to go outside, your competitors would’ve set up a system that allows their customers to order faster without leaving their offices or homes. Yes, this includes your customers too!

Consumers only stick with a brand if they are still getting value from it.

You might have customer service that puts Cinderella to shame but it’ll amount to nothing if you’re not delivering the best.

Say Hello to ghost restaurants

With food delivery making such an impact on the food industry, we’ve started to take notice of a new trend: ghost restaurants.

These are restaurants that rely entirely on food delivery. This means their main focus isn’t creating a warm ambiance in a brick and mortar building.

They focus only on the preparation of the food and fulfilling orders. It goes without saying that they are living their best business times right now in Harare.

When the lockdown was first announced, customers that already knew about them flocked there for their grub. Or rather, they flocked to their customers? Anyway.

Photo by Dazzle Jam

The benefits of operating that way? I gathered a few:

  • Less space, therefore, lower rent
  • Saves on labor because there’s no front-of-house staff needed
  • They don’t offer a dine-in experience so they save on furniture, place settings, and decor.

This is not me saying all restaurants should go ghost but at least start delivering. This is the best time ever to pick up the pace on the growth of your restaurant and your clients will love you for it.

COVID-19 snatched the comfy cushion from underneath Zimbabwe’s restaurants but this is the business antidote that was needed.

It not only doubles sales but it triples consumers too and there’s less overhead required. Not to mention that it develops the individuals involved because now you’ll learn to do social media properly.

By the time we’re all allowed to go outside, you’d have built a strong-ass brand that can’t be blown over by global pandemics. Keep up with the transitions, your restaurant will thank you for it.

Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva


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