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restaurants coronavirus blog

With many states and cities putting limits on where and how restaurants can operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, many restaurant owners are stuck with the challenge of generating revenue and keeping their businesses afloat with little to no in-house traffic.

Here are a few creative ways we’ve seen restaurants handle the situation so far. We hope this provides some inspiration to help get you, your staff, and your business through this difficult situation.

10 Ideas for Restaurants During the Coronavirus Pandemic to Generate Revenue

1. Online Ordering for Takeout and Delivery

If your restaurant already offers takeout and delivery options through various platforms, you’ll be able to lean on this side of your business for support. If this isn’t something you already offer, you can temporarily pivot your business model to help recover lost revenue from the dining room. Seattle fine dining restaurant Canlis did this when they brought the dining room outside and established their Canlis Drive On Thru concept.

This is something that we are seeing with fine dining establishments, especially those in areas with mandatory shutdowns for in-house service. In addition to recovering some of your revenue, FOH staff that may otherwise have been out of work can continue to receive an income by processing orders or acting as delivery drivers – just check with your local regulations and insurance provider before sending them out.


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Third-party apps

Sign up for these services through the app website – there are a number to choose from including GrubHub, DoorDash, UberEats, and more. The upside to this is that you’ll have almost instant access to the company’s network of delivery drivers and get your restaurant’s name in front of the millions of potential customers who browse these apps daily. However, be mindful of the fees and other commission costs associated with these apps. If you only plan to use online ordering as a temporary solution during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s also important to ask the company about short-term contracts.

Native online ordering

An online ordering system that’s built into your website gives you more control over the menu without all the fees. You will be in charge of handling your own delivery logistics if you choose to only use a native solution, but it’s perfect for takeout or curbside pick-up, which is becoming increasingly common during social distancing.

2. Simplify Your Menu

Complex menus increase costs. By simplifying your menu down to a few items, you’re giving yourself more flexibility with how you spend your money and holding less inventory than normal. Scale your menu down to the most popular items (and the ones that travel best for delivery and takeout) until operations return to normal to ease the burden on your wallet.


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3. Adjust Your Inventory

This relates to the point above since simplifying your menu will mean cutting down on what you get from certain suppliers or temporarily cutting out certain suppliers altogether. This will also reduce the amount of labor needed for inventory management, freeing up your time to focus on more important matters.

4. Look to Local Communities for Online Tools or Listings

Food communities are trying to help restaurants and consumers who are struggling due to the coronavirus by compiling lists of restaurants that are still open for takeout or delivery. See if a state or a local organization or publication has something similar available and make sure your restaurant gets listed. Check out some examples below.

5. Gift Cards

Many restaurants have already been promoting gift cards as a way fans can help support their favorite restaurant during this time of social distancing and self-isolation, but it’s important to note that it’s crucial to your business to make these gift card sales as soon as possible. The longer this goes on, the less likely folks are to purchase more gift cards for future use.

Make gift cards available to your guests by any means necessary. If you don’t have a digital gift card option or online store, let them call the restaurant and place orders over the phone, then mail the gift cards to them or keep them on hand for their next visit.

Upserve customer Standard Gastropub got creative with their gift cards and started what they call “takeout roulette.” They drop gift cards into random takeout orders as both a thank you for people who are supporting them through this time and a way to entice more people to order who have maybe been on the fence.

6. Shift to Single Days of Service

If you are seeing a slow trickle of customers every single day, test out single days of service. Which days have been your busiest? Open on just those days for the time being to cut down on costs and free up your time for planning or trying out one of the other methods on this list.

7. Start Selling Your Inventory 

People need groceries right now, and you have access to goods at a price they don’t. Some restaurants are currently operating as a type of grocery store and offering customers bundles of inventory or items à la carte. Coffee roastery and breakfast restaurant Stay Golden in Nashville is offering “survival packs” for pick up or delivery in the area that include packages of their coffee, flour, eggs, and, of course, toilet paper.

If you are willing to share one or two of your recipes with the public, consider offering a recipe printout in a box with all the ingredients guests need to recreate their favorite dish at home.


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8. Request Rent Abatement

If making your rent for the next month or so is going to put too much of a financial burden on you and the business, you may be able to request a rent abatement. Contact your landlord and review the key aspects of your current lease to see what your options are. There may also be services through local governments that can help you through the process, so look into that as well. 

9. Ask Guests What They Want

If you feel like you’ve exhausted all your options and are still not seeing results, ask your guests how they’d like to support you during the COVID-19 pandemic. Create a survey (you can do this free with tools like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey) with a few basic questions to find out what services your guests are looking for right now. Send this out to your email list and post it to your social media accounts.

10. Make the Hard Decisions Now

We’ve put this one last because we know business owners care about their staff and would only consider this as a last resort. However, if it gets to the point where you no longer have the money to pay your staff their regular wages, or close to it, a temporary layoff might be in their best interest, especially if they are able to collect more in unemployment than you are able to pay them right now.

You’ve already had to go through the difficult process of closing your doors or paring down operations for the sake of everyone’s health. While it will be difficult to let go of loyal staff, even temporarily, it could be in their best interest financially. When things pick back up after the coronavirus panic subsides, you can easily hire them back, and they won’t have to worry about uncertain income during the downtime.

The popularity of online ordering is on a meteoric rise. How important is providing online ordering for your digital customers?

Download our Complete Guide to Online Ordering to start boosting profits with an online ordering solution today.

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Written by   |  
Stephanie is a Providence, RI native and eight-year food industry veteran. As Upserve's Content Marketing Coordinator she creates materials that help restaurateurs, managers, and service professionals succeed. When she's not writing, Stephanie is most likely traveling, cooking, or trying new restaurants.
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