Cafes and the Corona Virus

We’ve been working with clients to determine what they could do right now to address the current situation, and how they might prepare for what’s to come. With so much uncertainty, it’s hard to know if some of the ideas we’ll share will even be practical or realistically doable, but at least we can get a conversation going.

One thing’s for sure, this crisis is highlighting the importance of strong communities and the fact that we are all in this together.

Right Now

  • Obviously ensure all staff are practising recommended hand washing and other hygiene protocols. Download some templates on how to correctly hand wash and make these visible in key positions in your cafe.
  • Make sure you have hand sanitizer and wipes available for customers and staff.
  • Minimise risk by not accepting Keep Cups.
  • Communicate with your customers through social media, other comms channels and signage in store to let them know what you are doing to address the situation and reassure them that you are doing everything you can to keep them safe.
  • Communicate regularly with your staff so they are up to date with current information on both what you are doing (customer facing info) and what you are expecting for your business.
  • Make sure all food handlers are using gloves and know how to use them correctly. For example, opening an oven door with a glove on, and then picking up a sandwich to serve a customer is possible cross contamination.

Cutting Costs   

We’re seeing the downturn in customers numbers and revenue, and at this point it’s not clear if or when the government might call for a shutdown of your town or city. Given what’s playing out in other countries, we can assume that this is likely to happen in at least some regions in Australia, if not country-wide.

Either way, this means that as a  business owner, you need to think about your cash flow and do what you can to keep it in balance as best you can.

  • Adjust the roster where possible. The hard truth is that casual employees will suffer the most, but the reality is that cafes operate on such slim margins that a shutdown of even a couple of weeks could be devastating to many businesses. You might have to make some tough decisions if you want your business to survive, and for those casuals to have a job when we get through to the other side of this.
  • Minimise hours where you can, while trying to spread the loss of hours across the team where possible. Look daily at your POS data to determine your roster start and finish times.
  • Information for employers and employees from the government’s Fair Work department can be found here.
  • Get your full time and permanent part timers to take some or all of their holidays.
  • Trim your opening hours.   
  • In preparation for a potential shutdown, start to run out stock (particularly perishables) and minimise your menu accordingly as you deplete items. You might have to get creative, and run specials with perishables, for example. 
  • Do a stocktake so you know what you have on hand, to help you prepare a plan for stock management. What have you got sitting in your freezers right now?
  • Minimise purchasing where possible, including alcohol stocks.
  • Talk to your suppliers, especially your major ones, to find out their plans and to see how your supply chain might be affected. You might also have to negotiate the paying of bills at some point, and this is where the good relationships you’ve hopefully built up with your suppliers over time will come into play.

Maximising cash flow

Consider what you can do in the short term to keep customers coming through the door and what you might be able to do to diversify revenue streams.  This is a time to think outside the box and work to your strengths, and the opportunities unique to your business.

  • Can you offer a delivery service, with even a limited menu?
  • Offer pre-made frozen meals, even if it’s a deviation from your regular menu to something that is easy to make and freezes well, such as lasagne or a curry.
  • Offer gift vouchers that can be redeemed once the shutdown is over, to bring the cash flow forward. You could offer an added incentive e.g. pay $50 now and redeem for $60 value later.
  • Create a special offer and promote it now.
  • Create a retail space and sell some of your bulk items (large pasta sauce, bags of coffee, boxes of soy milk etc)
  • Look into the assistance that the government is offering small businesses to see if it applies to your business. Information and be found here.

Make the most of any downtime

If business slows right down in the short term, or your town does go into shutdown, what can you do to make the most of the time to the benefit of your business in the future?

  • Have a break and know that everyone is in the same situation. Talk regularly to your family and friends and support each other.
  • Carry out some of the deep cleaning and maintenance that you might have been too busy for or have been putting off for ages. Create a ‘to-do’ list for each department, and pass the work on to your permanent staff.
  • Start planning for reopening. For example you can work on updating your menu for winter/spring and ensure that your costings are up to date so that each dish is profitable.
  • Work on your marketing plan for when you re-open.
  • Create content that can be used either during a shut-down period and afterward.  This is a great time to consider building the profile of your business with creative content.
  • Produce marketing collateral such as flyers and menus to distribute once you’re open again.
  • Work on ideas for other revenue streams, like developing that catering menu you’ve been thinking about implementing for the past couple of years.

Although this is a scary time for many of us, we should draw strength from the community we have built, utilise our ‘social’ media channels to help us connect, and draw strength from the beautiful images we’ve seen on the balconies of Italy. The world is changing. For now emanating calm, peace and love is WAY more productive than allowing the fear to transcend our spirit.