It’s possible that your city hasn’t been much affected by Coronavirus yet, but it’s just a matter of time. It is spreading fast and it is coming. It not about “if”, it’s about “when”.

Seattle has been declared ground zero for Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the U.S. COVID-19 has not only negatively affected us individually, but the community, and local restaurant-industry as well. In just a matter of the weeks, restaurant business sales went from a 30% revenue loss to up to 90% in losses. Even celebrated restaurateurs like Tom Douglas are forced to close the doors for a while.

If you are a restauranteur or any for that matter a small business owner who hasn’t been hit by the crisis yet, you have a chance to be prepared. You have a chance to survive it. But you need to act now!

Here are 5 things you can do proactively to survive the crisis financially:

1. Make gift cards for your business.

When the crisis hits hard in your city, foot traffic will reduce dramatically. The downtown business will be hit the hardest when most corporate businesses’ employees start work from home schedules.

But you sure have loyal customers who would be willing to buy a gift card from you for future use. Get them ready now. Most point of sale systems like Square or Toast provides a way to generate e-gift cards.

Use your Square Marketing Tools or your Facebook Page to notify customers about how you need their support and encourage them to buy your gift cards which can be used in the future.

2. Reduce your menu

With reduced food traffic, food wastage is unavoidable. But you can control it.

Create a new LIMITED menu offering 3–5 of your top-selling items. Increase liquor selection and upsell them. Remember, in the food business, the margins are in liquor. This is time to reverse strategies and survive the storm.

3. Optimize your employee’s schedule

You most likely will have to cut employee hours and in the worst case reduce the staff size. However, it’s almost detrimental to employees to be laid off during these times who survive paycheck to paycheck. You can do better!

Assume your business will go down 40–50% in revenue. Shuffle your employee schedule such that you can pay a greater number of employees even though lesser hours. Consider reducing the hourly wage rate instead of laying off. Remember, the labor workforce is going to struggle to find a job in this crisis. So, evaluate ways of paying lesser instead of nothing. Survive the hard times with your team by your side.

4. Prioritize To-Go and Deliveries

Reservations will get canceled, so will catering orders, wedding bookings, and all other bookings. However, trends suggest that takeout orders have gone higher than usual. That might be your savior for some time.

Instead of having an extra server on the floor, ask them if they would be interested in doing deliveries for some time. Use your social media channels to advertise that you will personally deliver food ensuring the highest hygiene levels. Avoid 3rd party delivery services such as Uber Eats, Door Dash or others during this phase to limit the number of hands the food goes through. Increase your margins without a middleman. Reduce the chances of contamination.

Also, consider ghost kitchens where the rental is many-fold lesser than renting space downtown and focus on the delivery only business for a while.

5. Hail Mary — Go Fund Me

I hope it doesn’t come to it, but if push comes to shove, then you need to have a plan. Many small businesses have started their own go fund me campaigns to gather some funds and help them through this crisis. You can do too. You will be surprised how generous are supportive people are during this time of crisis. You can even create a fundraising campaign on Facebook.

Also, consider closing your restaurant temporarily for 4–8 weeks. Many Seattle restaurants have already done it. A closed restaurant might be more cost-effective than a functional restaurant with food-wastage, employee expense, and no customer. When you do open back, please try and hire back the people you had to lay off during the crisis.

Buckle up. Be prepared. We will survive the storm! But above all, let’s continue to lead and set exemplary hygienic practices that we as service-industry workers enforce daily, with correct hand-washing methods and more.

In good times and in challenging times, we stand together. Once you are ready to get back on your feet, check out these tips on how to re-open stronger than ever before with a solid team by your side.