The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit by the country’s stricter lockdown levels. But in true South African style, restaurateurs have stepped up and proven just how resilient they can be. The management at franchises and privately owned establishments across Mzansi rolled up their sleeves and tapped into their creativity to find ways to keep bringing in money to keep them afloat.

In our latest blog, we look at four innovative ways in which restaurants have adapted to retain employees during the pandemic and how you can use their ideas in your eatery.

Cook it yourself

Restaurants weren’t allowed to serve or provide takeout meals to patrons during levels four and five of lockdown, but there was no restriction on selling raw food. And that’s exactly what a few establishments and smaller national and regional franchises did. They packaged all their most-loved menu items as raw foods and sold them directly to customers with instructions on how to cook the meals at home. Many establishments also sold their ingredients, like sauces and meats, at discounted prices to ensure that the tills were kept busy. The kitchen staff got involved in packaging food while front-of-house employees helped with storefront selling and arranging telephonic and digital orders.

Waiter delivery

As soon as restaurants were allowed to deliver takeaway meals, many establishments bypassed food-hailing services to keep their deliveries in-house and to ensure that their waiting staff could still earn tips. Restaurants turned to social media to encourage patrons to take delivery, at a set premium, directly from their staff who had access to private transport. Customers were also encouraged to tip generously, knowing it would go towards helping their favourite restaurant to retain employees.

Gourmet takeout

A few gourmet and fine-dining restaurants, which did not serve patrons off-premise before the lockdown, had to improvise to stay afloat. For these establishments, the dining experience and presentation were as much a part of the meal as the flavours and composition of the food itself. To replicate this, they had their chefs prepare their signature dishes especially for delivery and beautifully packed each course. Every component was marked with a number and instructions – included in the meal box – on how to plate their meals for the best dining experience.

Buy now, eat later

Another innovative restaurant tip from the hard lockdown was to sell buy-now-eat-later vouchers. To entice patrons who couldn’t enjoy a sit-down meal at their favourite spot, restaurants sold digital vouchers that diners could redeem once the establishment was allowed to operate again. They offered incredible specials on some of their high-end menu items or big discounts on larger-group meal reservations. This ensured that restaurants could retain employees and still encourage tips when customers came in to redeem their vouchers.

We hope you found these lockdown restaurant tips to retain employees useful. At Pilot, our products and features are inspired by technology and innovative thinking to help you deliver the best dining experience. For more inspo, download our Definitive 21st-century restaurant playbook.

Author : Rudi Badenhorst