Pivoting Your Business Model During a Crisis
How Room 33 and other businesses can change course amidst the COVID-19 pandemic
By the time you are reading this, you will have recently learned that the President extended the federal shutdown to April 30th due to the ongoing spread of the Coronavirus.
Prior to the closing of businesses (locally it was March 16), our business, Room 33, conducted 90% of its sales through our bar. Although we have a great menu, amazing Chef and kitchen team (bias aside), as a speakeasy-style restaurant (our name is inspired by the year Prohibition ended - 1933), we were naturally known for our hand-crafted cocktails and spirits. We have one location, a team of nine and have been in operation since December 31, 2017.
When this happened, we had two choices: shut down altogether, or pivot. I chose the latter. It's not that we have the financial capital, but rather the potentially insane fortitude to see this through. And I'm not alone in this.
But how one goes from 10% of food sales to any remote increase in a short time will be an interesting case study on its own (I'll report back more on this after).
However, since the shutdown, we have quickly ramped up efforts and done a variety of things to hopefully help strengthen our sales. We increased our hours to add lunch options, we applied for (and received) an "extended wine permit" allowing us to sell wine to-go (to anyone outside of Pennsylvania reading this, it's a Commonwealth thing); we have crafted a continually expanding take-out menu, and soon will be offering delivery options through GrubHub, DoorDash and UberEats (as soon as they all catch up with their own demands).
Given our constraints on finances, our marketing efforts have been very grassroots - through varying social media channels, our website and email newsletter.
We continue to offer Happy Hour specials but are doing so through takeout efforts. We are also trying to get more creative in our offerings to help garner interest and differentiate ourselves. During this time though, we are actively supporting other local restaurants and promoting them as much as possible. I've always been of the thought that a "rising tide lifts all boats."
This next month will be continually challenging for anyone in the non-essential business world. While I know there are already many loans, stimulus or relief packages in the works, other challenges will still arise. Specifically, morale. Because no matter what happens, someone will find a way to take it too seriously so, remember to add levity where you can.
These last two weeks have already seemed like forever, and I can only imagine what the next four might bring. For those in any service-oriented industry, how are you adapting? For those in the bar and restaurant industry, I am happy to share any practices or ideas we have come up with to date to support each other during these times. Because we are all in this together.
This article originally appeared via LinkedIn
Rebecca Styn is the proprietor of Room 33 Speakeasy. She is also VP of Ventures at Erie Innovation District and completing her Ph.D. in Leadership and Organizational Learning from Gannon University. Follow Room 33 on Facebook @room33speakeasy, and follow Rebecca on Twitter at @rstyn.