Lessons From the Restaurant Industry

I was dining at a restaurant a few nights ago with friends and, during the course of the evening, met the owner and chatted about her experience during the Covid lockdown. She talked about paring down to just three people working there, moving exclusively to take-out, and the various efforts they went through in order to pivot… to adjust… to adapt.

This made me reflect on those early months of Covid, when we were all reeling from an experience that none of us have had to deal with before. Some of us wiped groceries with antiseptic wipes, hoarded toilet paper, and wore homemade masks. There were theories and faint scientific reports about how this virus spread and we all hoped for a miracle cure as we watched how many people were impacted, some severely so, during those early days.

In my hometown, there is a stretch of road containing strip malls and restaurants not too far away and a simple inventory of what was versus what remains will tell the full story. I recall one restaurant in particular that immediately went to take out only. Employees would bring your food to you while you waited in your car and handled the transaction completely using enabled tech devices. They asked if we wanted them to place the food in our backseats and they wore gloves and masks. We now know that that was likely overkill… but it was, at the time, quite reassuring.

There’s another restaurant across the street that was not so adaptive. They struggled and temporarily shut down. Since then, they have had a difficult time reopening, hiring staff, and regaining the traction they once had. Two days ago, I drove by and saw that the front door was boarded up. They did not survive.

Ability to pivot, adjust, remain flexible. There’s an obvious but critical lesson for all leaders here…

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