One day, the term “post-Coronavirus” will become part of our vernacular, just as “post-9/11” has, for example. When that day arrives, though, is anyone’s guess. We listen intensely to the experts as they speculate about “aspirational dates” for re-opening the economy. One minute our hopes soar upward with a promising sound bite. Flip news channels and contradictory, dismal predictions replace hope with anxiety, even despair.
It doesn’t help that if you Google, “industries most impacted by the Coronavirus,” you will find that catering, restaurants, and hospitality, are near the top of almost every list.
I am writing this article about four weeks before it goes live. Predicting what reality will look like by June is unrealistic. It’s funny to think that just a little over six short weeks ago I was in Las Vegas with thousands of my comrades at Catersource. “Social-distancing” wasn’t even a concept. Now, most five-year-olds can define it!
By nature, we humans crave hard information, both positive and negative. We want to prepare, plan, and execute. Uncertainty and its ripple effects, especially when it bleeds into our livelihoods, feels unacceptable.
History is the best predictor of the future, but there is no playbook to reference. We have to figure out a once-in-a-lifetime global crisis as we go along. For the majority of us, the foundation of our lives, businesses, and futures feel like a wobbly house of cards.
Coronavirus slang is now woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. COVID-19. Flattening the Curve. Contactless delivery. Asymptomatic. Self-Quarantine. Incubation Period. Pandemic. Epidemic. Ventilators. Shelter-in-place. Masks. Gloves. “Dr. Fauci said…” Vaccine.
Untangling the knot
In mid-March, after the virus came crashing upon us like a tsunami, I observed a common thread of emotions work through our community. Denial. Depression. Anger.
Then, owners and operators splintered into separate directions. Some decided to close their doors in hopes the storm would pass quickly, with an eye toward a speedy reopening. The notion of the “pivot” (another new catchphrase), into home delivery and takeout business collided with their existing business model. “We’re better off shutting down completely rather than dealing with the hassle, expense, frustration, and probable significant revenue loss,” was the thought process.
“I understand. I get it,” was my response when these clients shared their decisions. And I did understand. At the time, it made sense on multiple levels for some operations to simply shut down for a time, as long as the storm passed quickly.
Other clients decided to stay open and give it their best shot, despite the new, incredibly challenging operating restrictions. For some, the knot became too tight. After two or three weeks, they threw in the towel.
“We are losing more money staying open,” was a common refrain.
“I understand. I get it,” was my response. And I did understand. We all have varying financial tolerance levels. Every operation has its own set of circumstances to evaluate.
A new frontier
Conversely, a handful of clients have aggressively and creatively pivoted their business model. They have remained open and stayed busy enough. Some were even in the position to make generous food donations to first responders and have been written about in their newspapers and/or featured on their local evening news.
COVID-19 safe meal-kits, groceries, weekend-party boxes, margarita packs, gift cards, frozen family meals, marinated chicken, beef and fish entrées, homemade pastas, sauces, soups, salad dressings, sponsored meals for first responders and yes, toilet paper have created a revenue stream for some.
It took two years for the 1987 stock market crash to recover fully. When it did, the economy came thundering back. The next decade, “The Roaring 90s,” was a historical period of prosperity and growth.
The horror of 9/11 sent our economy into a tailspin. But by the beginning of 2002, however, we were on the rebound. Notably, it was the messaging, that made a huge impact. “Live your lives. Go places. Do things. Be with friends and family. Don’t allow the terrorists to control where we go and what we do.” Pretty much the opposite of what we are being messaged currently.
As we live through the “Coronavirus Crisis,” remember there are lifelines that have been created. Take advantage of any and all local, state, and federal stimulus plans, business emergency loans (some that will be forgiven), government grants, small business relief, and payroll protection plans.
Support each other. There is a constant flow of webinars and Zoom meetings to help us manage through this time. Keep in touch with your staff, customers, and clients. Pick up the phone. Send an email. Read a book. Play with your kids. Exercise. Be kind to yourself. If you want to watch Netflix on a Tuesday afternoon—do it.
What lies ahead
When the dust finally does settle, what will the work landscape look like? Will telecommuting and work-from-home increase? I think, yes. Does this mean reduced demand for corporate drop-off catering? It certainly could. How long will the entire industry be impacted? History, sadly, foreshadows less competition. “Food safety” must become part of our brands.
“Hope” is a potent emotion that can keep us moving forward, regardless of a foggy landscape. Six minutes, six days, six weeks, or six months from now, collectively as One World, we hope for light at the end of the tunnel.
Think good thoughts
Research reveals that positive thinking is more than just being happy or displaying an upbeat attitude. Positive thoughts can actually create real value in your life and help you build skills that last much longer than a smile.
The more you redirect your thought process to positive and creative ideas, the more positive your outlook will be overall. It’s important to remember the people who work for us also take their cues from us. The attitude you are emanating will spread and stick.
Stay connected. Remain positive. Be safe. (And remember to wash your hands often, for 20 seconds.)