Joe Essa Thomas Keller Group Restaurant Recovery

“There’s no other industry that has consistent, dedicated professionals with the passion to survive. We have the passion to think ‘new,’ to think creatively, and to be responsive to whatever happens around us.” 

Despite the billions of dollars already lost in the restaurant industry due to COVID-19, Thomas Keller Group’s CEO Joe Essa is optimistic about the future of the business. We spoke to Mr. Essa, the former National Restaurant Association Chairman, during a webinar on restaurant recovery to get his perspective on the current state and future of the restaurant industry.  Below are the highlights of that conversation:

Use a combination of data and common sense when it comes to reopening. 

When it came to reopening the Thomas Keller group restaurants, Essa and his team took 13 weeks to formulate a plan. Since reopening will look different to each restaurant, it’s important to consider your restaurant’s in-house data in addition to your neighborhood, demographics, and the safety of your staff and guests. For the Keller Group, “some of it was mandated by government regulations and some of it was mandated by the consumer deciding what they’re comfortable with. And then we just tried to be prepared,” says Essa.

Restaurant technology is necessary for recovery.

“I’ve learned over the years is that I have to adapt to using new technology, new tools new products.” Essa chose to join the Upserve board because the data and analytics the system provides helps restaurants make better business decisions. 

Learn more about safe and successful reopening in our free Restaurant Recovery Handbook.

Be prepared for things beyond sanitizing and distancing.

One of the reasons the Thomas Keller Group team took 13 weeks to formulate a plan was to ensure all bases were covered and they were ready for any type of new situation that may arise. Essa gives an example: “We see people waiting in line in one of our bakeries, and they have the mask on and [what if] someone has a claustrophobic reaction to wearing the mask? We’re not medical professionals, but we go out of our way to help. And we’ve got to be trained to know what to do.”

Communication with guests is key. 

Being transparent with your reopening plan, cleaning regiment, distancing measures, and other protocols will make guests feel more comfortable dining at your restaurant, whether it be in-house or to-go. 

Approach reopening as if you are opening a brand new restaurant. 

Use this opportunity to retrain your staff and streamline operations. Get them up to speed on new dishes, drinks, and procedures, have them take additional safety courses, and learn ways to help guests feel safer.

Understand that reopening may not be linear. 

Due to the uncertainty of the novel coronavirus, restrictions may be reinforced if spikes in cases start occurring. Being prepared for reopening also means being prepared to shut down again if necessary. 

For more restaurant reopening insights from Joe Essa, view the full webinar below:

Get prepared to re-open or reassess your business strategy and pivot for the post-coronavirus landscape with our Restaurant Recovery Handbook.

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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.