San Diego restaurants go digital to profit during the pandemic

Experts say digital push can save businesses
Posted at 11:04 AM, Sep 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-03 15:36:13-04

SPRING VALLEY, Calif. (KGTV) — Even though the tables and chairs are empty, the pit-masters at Cali Comfort BBQ are keeping busy.

The kitchen and bar are filling takeout and delivery orders, thanks to increased online and phone sales.

"As restaurant owners, we can't discriminate how people eat our barbecue," says Owner Shawn Walchef. "If they want to order barbecue delivered to their office or the little league field, then they should be able to get that. They shouldn't have to come and wait in line."

It's a new strategy Walchef is using during the pandemic, thanks to his partnership with Restaurant Solutions, a consulting firm that helps small restaurants analyze their financial prospects.

"What we've been doing is really focusing on doing break-even analysis with our clients," says Sydney Lynn, the Director of Planning Advisory Services with the company.

She says restaurants need to focus on people's digital experience now more than ever, so restaurants can be profitable during and after the Pandemic.

"Restaurant entrepreneurs and owners are the most creative and innovative folks you'll know. So if anyone can pivot, it will be them," says Lynn.

Restaurant Solutions has four strategies they say can help the restaurants turn a profit every day during the pandemic:

1. Find your break-even point by learning how much money you can expect per customer.
2. Analyze your budget and look for ways to cut. This could include layoffs.
3. Adjust your menu to see if you need to increase prices or cut items to streamline the kitchen.
4. Bring your brand into the digital space, emphasizing the customer experience on the website, app, and social media.

Walchef says that means treating every customer online with the same hospitality you would if they came into the restaurant.

"It can't be a transaction. It has to be something where there's a heart," he says. "If there's nobody there, and your digital experience is just a fake facade, (a customer) might order a burger one time from a virtual restaurant. But if you don't know that there's an actual owner, that there are actual people there making this food, it's going to be very unlikely that you order from them again."

Lynn says it's a challenge, but restaurant owners have faced other challenges in the past.

"If they go back and remember how they were able to make it through that first year of opening, they're going to be able to make it through this as well."