Bouncing Back from COVID-19
Consider the legend of the Phoenix. How can your pizzeria rise from the ashes of the COVID-19 crisis stronger than it has ever been? From crisis comes opportunity.
As the requirements and restrictions from your local Health Department plateau, and you no longer find yourself adjusting your business operations daily to meet these mandates, it is time to plan the future of your pizzeria and your team.
Consider the operational changes you may have made: reducing tables to adhere to the six-foot rule, changing business hours, laying-off or hiring more employees, closing salad bars and dining rooms, adding curbside service, expanding delivery service, adding third-party services, additional safety precautions and sanitation, adding beer and wine for delivery and dozens of other small alterations designed to stop the spread of COVID-19 at your pizzeria.
Just as these changes did not happen overnight, the return to normalcy will also be a gradual process. What factors should you consider as you form your plan? How can you come out on the other side of this crisis with more sales, more profits and a stronger team of people? I propose three steps to achieve this.
Ask yourself these questions to take stock of the state of your business.
1. As restrictions are lifted, what health safety measures do I want to add or keep in place and for how long?
2. What operational changes do I want to keep in place permanently?
3. Did I develop new relationships with third-party companies for the ordering or delivery of my pizza, and do I want to continue those relationships?
For our restaurants, we plan on the following: Implementing temporary health safety measures once our dining rooms are allowed to re-open, such as screens between tables, employee assistance with self-serve drink machines, a salad bar protocol to prevent customers from using the same utensils and dedicated dining and bathroom employees for cleaning and sanitation. For more permanent changes, we learned that our customers enjoy curbside service and no-contact delivery. We decided against third party relationships, but if you formed new relationships maybe now is the time to consider whether you will outsource that entirely, share it or keep it all in-house.
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” –Andrew Carnegie.
You did not build your business by yourself. And you will not re-build it by yourself either. But your team looks to you for the vision.
Ask yourself these questions to take stock of your team.
1. If I laid employees off, do I plan on bringing some or all of them back?
2. Did any of my employees elect to stay at home for personal health reasons?
3. For the employees I plan to bring back, how should I support them while they are out?
4. When and how do I begin to bring these employees back to work?
5. Do I have employees who continued to work, but at lesser hours due to changes in the business?
6. For the employees who continued to work, is a reward in order?
In step one, you crafted your vision, your plan. Now it is time to communicate that plan. Remove uncertainty for your team. Begin with the employees who are still working. Describe what the business will look like one month from now, two months from now, six months from now. Explain that the plan is fluid and adaptable to the potential of Health Department restrictions in the fall and winter. Next, reach out to anyone who is no longer working. The CARES Act allows for two weeks of emergency sick pay and 12 weeks of continued pay for qualified workers in addition to anything that was already in place for their employment. See if they qualify and get them paid if they do. As a business, you can take 100-percent credit from your payroll taxes. A payroll company can help you navigate this. Share your plan with each of them and describe how they fit into that plan. In the worse case scenario, their job has been eliminated and you explain this and direct them to unemployment. If their delivery job has been eliminated because you switched to third-party delivery, perhaps direct them to apply for the third-party company. If you are offering to bring them back, tell them when that will occur and describe any changes they can expect resulting from your vision of what your ‘Phoenix’ pizzeria will now look like.
Also, consider rewarding those who continued working. Hopefully you have applied for and received the SBA PPP loan. Seventy-five percent or more of this money must be used for payroll, which is an excellent way to reward the team members who stayed on with you though this crisis. One possible reward would be higher hourly wages paid in arrears for the “Stay-at-home” period that your business remained open as an essential business. If no money is available, explore other ways to reward them.
Have your team implement your plan, your vision. That is worth restating for clarification. Have each member of your team identify what they will do to get results toward your vision. Rather than direct their actions, point them at their new job and ask them how they can work that job to achieve your vision. It is certain that every job has changed. Maybe temporarily, maybe permanently. How can they make curbside service better than the competition? How can they ensure a sanitized restaurant for their customers? Ask them to consider what tools they will need to accomplish their new jobs and supply those tools. As this will be a fluid, gradual return to normalcy, continue the conversation. Weekly updates of the progress towards your vision is your job. Implementing the vision is theirs.
The legend says that the Phoenix rises reborn; new and strong. So shall your pizzeria.
Dan Collier is the founder of Pizza Man Dan’s in California and a speaker at International Pizza Expo.