4 key takeaways from Restaurant Innovation and Re-Opening with Howie Kahn

Aug 26, 2020
3.5 mins | 795 words
By: Rebecca Younes

Rebecca YounesFor Ontario’s food and hospitality industry, Stage 3 reopening creates a new set of challenges from limited seating capacity to the increased cost of operation.

To help restaurants and other small businesses recover and grow, Invest Ottawa is delivering a series of virtual sessions as a part of the new Future Proof program. Recently, our team hosted a webinar on restaurant reopening, innovation and paths to success. The event featured food and beverage enthusiast, journalist and podcaster Howie Kahn.

Howie’s spent the last several years telling hospitality industry tales from experiences he’s had all around the world. And after the pandemic hit, he launched Take Away Only, a podcast to shine a light on the profoundly impacted and struggling hospitality industry and to showcase how the resilient continue to respond.

Read on and discover four key takeaways from Howie’s talk with Ottawa restauranteurs.

1. Show people how you’re working to keep them safe

In the restaurant business, your patrons and staff need to have confidence in you. Introducing procedures that help them feel safe should be at the forefront of everything you do.

Refer to the Safety First Guide as a great first step in launching a health and safety plan. During his talk, Howie suggested using the resources in this guide to create visuals for your patrons to see.

Turn your safety procedures and protocols into communications pieces. Visuals will go a long way in showing your patrons you’re taking the steps needed to help keep them safe. Display exactly what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and why you’re doing it.

People will likely feel comforted when they see their favourite restaurant promote safe habits: the more information, the better.

2. Find new revenue streams

Operating a restaurant during the pandemic has revealed infinite opportunities. Howie shared how he’s met with catering, fine dining, and take out restaurant operators. He labelled the industry as limitless, saying it’s one of those with the most opportunity – especially during a pandemic.

Eric Rivera Cooks‘ rapid change is an excellent example of being able to pivot and discover new revenue. At his fine-dining eatery, Addo, he uses the app Tock. Through Tock, customers simply reserve their meal, coordinate a pickup or delivery time, and join the virtual dining experience.

Eric also diversified to sell unique spices, high-quality fresh seafood and meats, dry goods, specialty wines, and online cooking classes. He suggests a lunch prep model, which could be another pivot opportunity for businesses. For example, subscription-style lunch delivery services to countless families working and studying from home.

The key is to explore other opportunities and find a way to connect them with your business model. The possibilities are endless!

3. Share the love of food

The pandemic has changed the way people enjoy their favourite meals, but if there’s one thing that hasn’t changed since the pandemic, it’s people’s passion for food.

Howie advised covering all things food from visuals, tutorials, tips and tricks, and on-trend offerings in your digital strategy.

If you can share the love of food with your follower, you won’t lose sight of why you’re really in the restaurant business. It will also satisfy your customers’ cravings (or activate them) and pave a new way forward.

4. Increase your digital capabilities

COVID-19 quickly proved how important it is to have a digital plan for your business – it’s essential to survival and success. Digital interactions have increased dramatically and became a new normal early in the pandemic.

Howie shared that online exchanges with your business are always an opportunity to create meaningful exchanges with customers. Appealing graphics, easy payment processes, and strong visual representations of your product are a few ways a restaurant can represent itself well.

We’ve witnessed a drastic economic shift as more and more sales are done through online marketplaces. It’s more important than ever for small main street businesses to welcome the changes and join this movement. They need to increase their digital sales capabilities to take advantage of the opportunities; to be sustainable and future-proof.

Digital Main Street Ottawa

Right now, Digital Main Street is helping small businesses impacted by COVID-19 in Eastern Ontario to recover and grow. Through the Digital Main Street Future Proof Program, qualified applicants (restaurant, retail shops, skilled trades, and home-based businesses) can access their own digital squad, business advisors, and training resources – for free.

You might need to build or improve your online food ordering system to grow revenue. Create promo videos or take high-end photos for Instagram ads. Attract customers back with digital marketing campaigns. Whatever it is, our team can help.

Apply to the program today and access personalized digital marketing services and more – it’s completely free. Visit investottawa.ca/digital-main-street/future-proof-form.

To learn more about Digital Main Street visit investottawa.ca/digital-main-street/.

Digital Main Street, learn more.


About the author

Rebecca Younes is the Digital Marketing Coordinator for Digital Main Street, a program offered through Invest Ottawa. She is also the marketing mind behind Prima Pizza and an expert contributor to the board of directors at her local community association.

A marketing and communications professional, Rebecca has a passion for helping small business owners reach their dreams.

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