Restaurant Lessons from 2020; looking to the future


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minutes to read.

Restaurant Lessons from 2020; looking to the future

The pandemic has affected few business sectors more intensely than the service industry. Restaurants, bars, coffee shops, you name it, any guest-facing F&B business has seen dramatic changes to both its operations as well as its revenue. The stresses of this period have revealed several truths about the nature of the hospitality business; both the weaknesses and the strengths of our unique industry have been uncovered.

The Difficulties:

To look at the downside, the fragility of our industry has been exposed. Skinny margins combined with generally light cash reserves form the perfect storm of cash flow problems when businesses can’t operate, as has been the case for many guest-facing food service businesses. Take away has been a bulwark against financial pressures for many businesses, but as the pandemic continues, the economic pressure gets more powerful for every business.

Additionally, given the fragmented nature of the food and beverage industry, with some large players, but many independent operators as well, gaining traction in D.C. for relief subsidies has been difficult as well. The airline industry, for example, is roughly the same size, but much more consolidated, and has received drastically more support, due to its well-funded, powerful lobby.

The Upside:

The good news is that these difficulties have revealed our strengths as an industry as well. The restaurant business has always been a hardscrabble affair, and our enduring flexibility and willingness to change to suit guests (and situations), has enabled us to flex to suit our current circumstances. This affirms our strength and the general value of approach and processes.

Secondly, the general sentiment among the public is that they miss restaurants; people want our spaces to gather again. They want venues to share convivial company and conversation, and F&B businesses are the obvious choice; the pent-up demand will be enormous as we move into higher vaccination rates later in 2021. Wise businesses will do well to plan as aggressively as possible to have banner Q3 and Q4s in 2021, and into 2022.


As the world gets back to normal, towards the end of 2021 readiness will be all. Are you systems in line for the changing market? Get your mise-en-place ready, and your pre-service checklists handled because the restaurant business is about to be back to work.


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