How does severe weather affect the restaurant industry?
In 2005 two major hurricanes hit the gulf coast region, Hurricane Katrina and the stronger Hurricane Rita. They devastated the south coastal states and with that shut down businesses including several restaurants. With similar effects, a string of severe winter storms in 2010 caused several restaurants to lose sales and close for a period of time. How can we take lessons from these past weather events to prepare for future weather incidents?
Below are a 8 general tips on how to prepare your restaurant stores for severe weather.
1. Keep communication open
If communication remains active and steady throughout severe weather, your restaurants have a good shot of staying open and generating profits. The problem is that open lines of communication become very difficult when severe weather hits. Electricity usually goes out, which means you lose phone and internet. Mobile phones may be your best bet because of their wireless capabilities but you must keep in mind that they need to be charged and many people will be using cell phones as well, so making a call may not even work. Your choices may be reduced to texting. Creating a laminated phone number directory and disbursing them to key franchises in affected areas may not be a bad idea. This way they will all have the contact information of key people they need to communicate with.
2. Protect your assets
Before severe weather even hits, you may have some warning. If you have time, it is important to protect your assets. Secure your physical locations by boarding up windows, doors, light poles, signage, etc. Most importantly protect your employees by communicating what is in store and how they should prepare.
3. Reopen ASAP without jeopardizing safety
In a QSR magazine article, I read Raising Cane’s had 28 restaurants in the affected areas after Hurricane Katrina and Rita, 21 of which were closed for some period. That accounted for 60 percent of their total system at the time. CEO, Todd Graves said "When we reopened, we were up anywhere from 60 to 80 percent. Response from the community was unbelievable. When you’re open, the community understands how hard you're working.” It’s important to open as soon as possible from a business advantage but also from a humanitarian perspective. You may be the only brick and mortar establishment that can operate. Do what you can without jeopardizing anyone’s safety.
4. Prepare a marketing strategy
In another QSR article, SPIN! Neopolitan Pizza, commented on how they dealt with a severe snow storm that lasted days. Instead of waiting it out and continuing to lose revenue, the organization decided to take things into their own hands. They prepared a marketing strategy to increase foot traffic despite the bad weather. By offering customers “crummy-weather vouchers” SPIN! effectively drove positive traffic.” Gail Lozoff, co-owner of the pizza chain said, "the effects of the crummy-weather vouchers had a beyond-expected reach. We analyzed it and determined that it really made us money and it also continued our traffic after the weather got a little better, too.”
5. Understand your vendors, employees and customers may be distressed
Once you have safely reopened your restaurant stores, it is important to understand that the people you will be working with and for, may be distressed and emotional. If power is out for hours, people may not have the opportunity to do simple tasks like taking a shower. But if they see you and your employees working hard, you can rest assure that they will be appreciative and this will have a positive impact on your brand.
6. Do not be surprised if sales spike up
When you reopen, sales may spike through the roof. This may be because certain areas around your establishment may be unable to reopen as soon as you can. Stores may be closed which means competition is reduced. Emergency workers and other outside assistance will make their way to the affected areas and there will be a concentration of people for a short period. If you can take advantage of this scenario while also assisting people, then you may make a profit and boost your company’s image.
7. Take the opportunity to become a leader
I can’t stress enough the priority of safety for you and everyone else in the affected areas. Once everyone is safe and you can effectively assist your surrounding community, you need to help as much as possible. Offer a safe place for shelter, water, free food, and anything you can during the roughest times. Your company will only benefit from giving back.
8. Measure statistics for future reference
In this day and age, I know it can be difficult to measure business statistics without power, but record key information with the ole paper and pen. Once you do get power and internet back, use a comprehensive tool to measure detailed metrics during the recovery of a severe weather incident. Why measure? For the future! By understanding what worked and what didn’t, you will be in a better place the next time weather rears its ugly head. Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. Get a plan ready now!
What are your thoughts?
Please share your stories, comments, and any other tips that may be helpful!
Mirus, through its proprietary platform, provides restaurant data analysis software. Solutions are designed for decision-makers who want to transform their data into actionable information to evaluate customer behavior and company performance. Headquartered in Houston, Texas, Mirus has been a recognized leader in restaurant business intelligence since 1999.
For more information, please visit www.mirus.com