This is the second in a series on how business owners and citizens can help weather the COVID-19 crisis. 

It's time to get to work. 

Granted, if you're in an industry like ours, the definition of that looks very different today than it did even a week or two ago. But that shouldn't negate our obligation to take care of our people and our organizations, and to grow to meet the challenges we're facing. 

"The most successful entrepreneurs I know are optimistic. It's part of their job description." - Caterina Fake

We must use this time to re-tool, re-imagine, regroup, reflect and ultimately, when the time comes, resume our missions as stronger, more effective businesses and citizens.

Below are a few tips to help those in the Raystown Lake Region's restaurant, retail and lodging industries foster resiliency during this time. 

1. Craft and communicate 2-week, 4-week and 8-week plans. 

Bad news does not get better with time. Your employees need reassurance that you have a plan in place to help secure the future health of their jobs and the organization. 

Communicate early and often to your employees about what the next two weeks will look like for them. Then expand that and communicate what the following four and eight weeks will look like. 

Perhaps this means you must make some difficult decisions regarding layoffs and hour cuts (or you already have). These temporary cuts are easier to stomach if your employees believe you are looking out for their long-term well-being and the sustainability of the company. Plus letting them know your plan for what lies ahead helps them prepare themselves financially and seek appropriate resources.  

2. Sharpen the saw. 

We traditionally understand this phrase, from Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People," to mean fostering our physical, social, mental and spiritual well-being. 

But is can also include taking a deep dive into the foundational aspects of our businesses.

Restaurant/food service - When consumers choose a restaurant, they expect the most value for their dollars - value in money, taste, health and convenience. 

Perhaps this is the time to take a closer look at your restaurant menu. Are there certain menu items that aren’t moving? Is your food cost correct? It may be time to trim down your menu and remove pricier items, like shellfish or prime cuts of beef and offer less expensive items that will appeal to customers on a budget. Remember, a bigger menu isn't always better. 

Two-for-one specials and coupons are all still great ways to lure customers. Offer them the most bang for their buck. Take your promotions online, utilizing social media to its fullest advantage. 

For up-to-date information and resources for restaurant owners during this time, visit the National Restaurant Association's COVID-19 page.

Retailers - Consider the following:

  • Add or expand digital sales channels as you have capability. 
  • Make sure you have a Google My Business profile and keep your store hours up to date.
  • Encourage visible hygiene management in your store by having all staff use gloves or wear masks. Have hand sanitizers readily available at the checkout area, near doors with handles, etc.
  • Promote in-store gift cards with an incentive (e.g. extra $15 for every $100 gift card) to encourage shoppers to come back to the store when things are back to normal. Use your social media channels creatively. 

For more resources for retailers during this time, visit the National Retail Federation COVID-19 page

Lodging - Under certain circumstances, private campgrounds and hotels in the Raystown Lake Region may remain open during this time. 

Predictions show the most greatly affected hotels are located in gateway cities, especially those with a large convention business or cruise line business. In addition, hotels that have a high percentage of their revenues derived from food and beverage, and those with heavy reliance on foreign tourism will experience a greater decline in property-level cash flow. Hotels with revenue streams from casinos also likely will see deterioration in performance. The majority of Raystown Lake Region lodging facilities lie outside of these categories and should be able to rebound much more quickly. Furthermore, the vast majority of our traveling visitors come from within driving distance, so we shouldn't feel as strong a sting from airline travel restrictions. 

For now, hoteliers should consider relaxing cancellation policies, which will help solidify future customers. A caveat, though ... experts in the industry recommendation refraining from implementing anything you might regret later, such as dramatic price cuts to attract guests from non-targeted profiles or giving too much business to opaque channels. Rather, take a long-term view of what is best for business.

Now is the time for owners and managers to re-evaluate their business practices - downturns can be a good time to train your people and review your plans for investing in long-term success. Additionally, when travel bans are released, tourist arrivals will rebound, and we will have opportunities to attract new guests from new markets and build a wider customer pool for long-term success.

For more resources, visit the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association COVID-19 page.