The threat of the coronavirus outbreak spread rapidly across the U.S. In one week, we went from the directive “wash your hands” to “self-isolate until May.” This has left an unprecedented number of business owners facing a potentially devastating challenge they were not expecting.
Still, in the midst of all the uncertainty, some businesses have come up with creative solutions to help weather the storm. These businesses were never set up to function at a distance from their customers, so they’re looking for opportunities to adapt. We’ll spotlight a few industries making adjustments to their operations, in the hopes that it may spark some ideas for your own business.
Restaurants: Take-out and delivery
It’s no secret that restaurants are taking the coronavirus shutdowns hard. But they’ve adapted as quickly as they’ve had to close their dining rooms.
In Austin, Texas, restaurants have quickly pivoted to a “ghost kitchen” model, making their menus available exclusively via to-go orders and/or delivery. Some tips we’ve gleaned from the restaurant industry:
- If you don’t have a website set up to take online orders, now might be the time to start. A software company called Toast is offering three months free for restaurants to set up digital POS systems to help restaurants quickly pivot to online ordering.
- If you can’t set up a website, start taking orders over the phone and running their credit card information on your point-of-sale device if possible.
- For to-go orders, allow customers to remain in their cars. Ask customers to text you when they arrive with a description of their vehicle, and deliver their order directly to their window.
- If possible, allow your front-of-house restaurant staff to deliver food to customers. You’ll want to consider the liability involved with a decision like this — for example, making sure you and your employees have auto insurance that does not exclude delivery vehicle usage. For more insight, check out this article and seek the advice of your own insurance company and/or legal counsel.
- Consider partnering with a food delivery service like GrubHub, UberEats, or Favor to facilitate food deliveries to your customers.
Gyms: Video workouts
Not all businesses can deliver their service with a driver. Gyms and classrooms, for example, are built to accommodate in-person participation. But luckily, it’s 2020 and you can leverage online video as a method of delivery. We’re going to see the true value of online video now more than ever before.
Take Orangetheory fitness for example. On March 18, they announced they would begin producing a new 30-minute workout instructional video every day throughout this period of mandatory social distancing. Each new daily video is an opportunity for them to showcase some of their favorite Orangetheory coaches from around the world — something they hadn’t done before this economic uncertainty. They’ve been able to turn this into an opportunity to demonstrate who they are as a company and what they value, while building community amongst members and non-members alike.
Of course, gyms aren’t the only businesses that can benefit from online video right now. If you have other products or services to sell, consider hosting webinars on topics relevant to your customers. As was the case during the recession of 2009, webinars are a great low-risk marketing tool for periods like this. Partner with other businesses to ensure you’re delivering value through education. This also helps maintain your brand and can position you as an expert in your industry.
Webinars can also be low-effort. It can be as simple as recording a meeting on Zoom or going live on your company’s Instagram account.
Some retail businesses have noticed that customers can become easily bored during self-isolation. We’ve seen pottery stores offering take-home kits with all the needed supplies to keep kids busy, or bakeries doing the same with all the ingredients necessary to make cupcakes. Pair this with curbside pickup and you’ve got a way to continue to provide a service to your community in a safe way.
Even restaurants have seen an opportunity in assembling kits to-go for customers. Antonelli’s cheese shop of Austin, Texas, typically hosts in-store cheese tasting classes. Now, with the city’s restrictions in place, they have begun assembling cheese sample platters for delivery and hosting a virtual cheesemonger experience for those who book appointments online.
Some restaurants have even begun including a roll of toilet paper with their to-go orders as a humorous gimmick during the coronavirus shutdowns.
One Pro-tip: Advertising on social media plays a big role in increasing awareness of these special offerings.
One way to supplement cash flow at a time when your revenue has decreased is to sell gift cards. You don’t have to be a major chain to take advantage of gift cards — this article compares the options out there for small businesses to create their own.
You might also consider offering a discount or special offers on gift cards. For example:
- Buy a $50 gift card for $40
- Buy a $X gift card and receive one free hour of personal training redeemable in the future
- Buy a $X gift card and receive a free t-shirt
People want to be able to support their favorite businesses during this time. Allowing them the opportunity to invest in future spending at those businesses can help.
Partnerships with other businesses
Small businesses can also take this time to partner with other businesses in their community to create win-win situations for both. For example, a rock climbing gym may partner with a yoga studio in a scenario in which the yoga studio offers a paid online class like “yoga for rock climbers” to the rock climbing gym’s member list. In exchange, the yoga studio sends its members an email for a 50% discount on a pre-paid membership to the rock climbing gym.
Start thinking about where else your clients do business and partner with those businesses to create something like a co-op.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the ways businesses are innovating during this uncertain time, but we hope it can inspire you to think outside the box for your own business. Partner with others in the community or online forums for your industry, and share ideas about what has been working and what hasn’t.
One thing the current health crisis has made clear is that our communities are more connected than ever. One of our core values at CareerPlug is: “Work Together, Win Together.” And as a society, to get through these ongoing setbacks, we’ll all need to work together so that we can win together.
If your business has had success with a creative solution during this time, feel free to share your story with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear what’s working for you!