I don’t know if I’m alone in thinking this – and I hope I’m not – but I feel quite optimistic about 2022. The scrapping of most Covid measures across the UK recently has felt like a massive step forward and, although we can’t forget the VAT and National Minimum Wage increases are coming, at least we can start planning for them.
Trade for the majority of takeaways during the pandemic has generally been very good, especially those that mastered click and collect and delivery. For restaurants, it’s been a lot tougher and it has left many questioning the future of their dine-in facilities, especially those that have built up successful delivery and click and collect models in that time.
But for the first time in almost two years, I feel like we can confidently start putting some plans in place for the rest of the year without too much worry. I think footfall for restaurants will begin to pick up again as we approach Easter and with another staycation year looking like it might be on the cards, now is the time to reassess and put some positive plans in place.
If you’ve closed for lunch, have a look at passing trade, speak to other operators and see what the consensus is. Has it increased? With the work from home mandate now lifted there could be an opportunity here for you again. It might take some time to encourage customers to ditch their homemade lunches, but by pushing lite bites and different lunchtime options, you stand a good chance.
Perhaps consider how a new menu might re-energise your menu. Is there anything that has become more mainstream but that is lacking in your area? A quick search on Just Eat or Deliveroo can help identify what cuisines are and aren’t available in your neck of the woods. If, for example, it’s desserts have you got the capacity to add to this your offering? Maybe it’s hot dogs or loaded fries. Just don’t overstretch yourself or move into a market that requires lots of outlay and equipment.
Staying with the message of positivity, it’s a perfect time to start planning some events or PR activities. With Covid restrictions lifted, it means you have the flexibility to do more. Two big, don’t miss events are National Fish & Chip Day on Friday 27th May, the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, following conveniently on with an extra-long bank holiday weekend from 2nd-5th June. If they are not two occasions to celebrate eating fish and chips with then I don’t know what is! Start thinking now about what you can do. We shared a list of ideas last year, have a read and see if there are any that you want to adopt or take and make your own. We’ll be updating this in due course so do keep popping back for inspiration.
Do also think back to what you’ve done in the past. Flick through your social media, old calendars, walls charts and diaries because it’s easy to forget what you did before Covid, what worked, what got the most interaction. Don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t need to, if something proved a hit, revive it.
Going through old diaries is also a great exercise in re-establishing old habits. If you had a day with a large order, why was that and is it worth getting in touch with the customer again to see if they are doing the same this year. Think as proactively as you can, it will pay off.
This year we also see the return of exhibitions and I would wholeheartedly recommend you try and get along to one or two. These are a great source of inspiration with lots of new products, suppliers and operators that you might not otherwise get a chance to see. It’s been a long time since we’ve had this opportunity, so embrace it. I think you’ll feel very differently about your business once you’ve attended one as it helps lift the blinkers a little bit and see what else is out there.
FRY I.T. – Sunday 6th March, Three Counties Showground, Worcestershire https://friarspride.com/info/information/fryit
What’s Cooking? 2022 – Sunday 20th March, The Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh
Fish Frying & Fast Food Show – Sunday 12th June, Warwickshire Event Centre, Warwickshire www.tqualityfastfoodshow.com
And don’t think it’s too late to get onboard with click and collect and delivery this year. If you feel you’ve missed the boat, think again. It’s becoming a bigger part of shops’ revenue as people crave the convenience and, if executed correctly, can help your business run more smoothly. After all, you know to some extent what your trade levels are going to be which gives you a better idea of how much fish to prep, you can plan for large orders more easily etc.
Click and collect is a great middle-ground if you’re not quite ready to offer deliveries or you operate in an area where not covered by the big aggregators (no, they haven’t quite conquered the entire UK even though it feels like it at times). I’d definitely advise speaking to other operators, after all, they’ve made all the mistakes already and can help you avoid some of the pitfalls. If you need any pointers, get in touch and we’ll be able to help.
While I’d still offer a word of caution and say don’t commit to too much all at once – we’re still not entirely certain how this year will pan out – there’s definitely room to be more optimistic. So look for the opportunities this year to get your business out there. A positive mindset brings positive outcomes.