Making Peace with the COVID-19 Surcharge
It seems as though everything has been affected in some way or another by the coronavirus, with financial impacts ranging from increased electrical bills (hello, work-from-home life) to skyrocketing grocery store tabs. The instability in the global supply chain that has resulted from the pandemic is also causing downstream impacts on many in the food-service industry, restaurants included. When you couple that with mandated restaurant closures and reduced seating capacity, it’s a recipe for financial disaster. That’s why many restaurants have begun implementing a “COVID-19 surcharge.” The idea is rather than fill the lack of revenue over the past several months by increasing menu prices, restaurants will add a small surcharge to every guest’s bill. This charge is meant to cover the increases in food and operating costs as a result of the pandemic. Think cleaning supplies, meat and poultry shortages, etc. While some customers may be fine with this added cost, still others may be infuriated. If you choose to go this route at your restaurant, how do you do so without angering your guests?
Setting expectations is critical when trying to avoid conflict. From your email correspondence to social media to in-restaurant signage, make certain your customers are well aware of the surcharge you’re imposing and why it’s necessary to help keep your business running. Taking reservations? Inform them over the phone. Place a banner on your website, too. There shouldn’t be any surprises when your patrons get their bill—especially ones that would cause them to harass your wait staff, who are just trying to do their job. In addition, make sure to be clear on your receipts exactly what this surcharge is for. Calling it a “COVID-19 surcharge” covers all of your bases and leaves no room for guessing.
Be prepared for infuriated guests and, in some cases, a decrease in customers. In the case of the mad customer, be sure to have a communication plan in place that ensures your staff is set up for success. Level heads will prevail, and a well-prepared staff should know how to remain calm in the face of fury. And always leave open the option for the customer to talk to management directly. Some fights are better fought by senior members of the crew, who often have more leverage to meet a customer’s demands.
Small Business Loans
A small business loan or line of credit from a trusted lender like ARF Financial could help you bridge the financial gap while your restaurant gets back on its feet. Instead of passing the increased costs of food and operating off onto your loyal patrons, you can take out a loan—such as the popular Flex Pay loan—that will allow you to make fixed weekly payments that aren’t tied to your credit card receipts. A seasoned loan consultant can help you build the loan terms that work best for your business now, while the world is in panic mode. Because someday, all things willing, life will return to business as usual. Until there, there’s help from ARF Financial.