The New Jersey Food Think Tank is up and running!

NJ Food Think Tank

Article contributed by Alyssa Smolen

Are Covid adaptations necessary or a novelty?

This is a group of New Jersey restaurants, academics from various New Jersey universities, and other experienced food professionals working with food think tanks to explore how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting their own businesses and Just one of the topics we covered when we talked about how it could be done. You can work more efficiently in the future. Doctor. Charles Feldman and Ethne Swartz of the Food Systems and Management Program at Montclair State University recently founded the New Jersey Policy Think Tank for the Food and Restaurant Industry.

Restaurateurs have indicated that limited capacity restrictions have forced restaurants to implement patio dining. This allowed us to make more money and stay in business. Al fresco dining remained a steady stream of revenue, according to restaurant owner James Avery of Bonney Read in Asbury Park. Despite higher costs, overall sales remained at pre-pandemic levels.

“It was a blessing,” said Avery. “I kept my investment in furniture to a minimum, and it’s been great and saved us completely.” When summer weather hit New Jersey, outdoor seating transformed business, The restaurant was able to overcome its previous footfall deficit.

“Patio dining saved us,” said Raoul Momo of Princeton’s Teresa Cafe. “That’s the only reason we’re open…we’ve been incredibly busy.”

Other restaurant owners, like Amy Russo of Toast City Diner in Montclair, New Jersey, were fed up with the longevity, even though many restaurants were forced to adopt outdoor seating.

“It saved me… do you think it could ever be Barcelona? Not New Jersey,” Russo pointed out. “We will continue to grow in resort towns and foodie towns.

Avery agreed with Russo’s suggestion that outdoor seating “didn’t have long-term guarantees,” but in the current situation helped keep the business afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. Earnings for some restaurateurs have increased more than expected. This also applies to Leia Gaccione, owner of South and Pine in Morristown, New Jersey. She said 2021 was her best year despite the challenges of the pandemic.

While the outdoor dining model has provided much-needed revenue for many establishments, it has not been able to offset other pandemic-related issues at these restaurants that have caused owners to change their business plans. The restaurateur tackled the use of Ghost His Kitchen and Virtual Kitchen (hidden takeout operations) in brick-and-mortar stores and the surge in Takeout His business. But there was no consensus on new opportunities to offer takeout or use online reservation services like OpenTable and Grub Hub.

“Whether we move from hospitality or not, [takeout] Lauren Hershberg of Turtle and Wolf in Montclair said: “If all I’m trying to do is produce food and give it to someone else, it really gives me pride and joy. I like.”

But newcomer Diamonique Lundy, who launched her first business Soul’s Food in June 2020 after winning a pitch award contest and a grant, implemented Ghost Kitchen and quickly adapted to the changing market. Randy used her social media platforms such as Facebook marketing to promote her business. In just one month, Lundy’s website had her 100,000 hits.

As all industries continue to change and adapt due to COVID-19, there are areas that affect all restaurateurs. The owner mentioned problems with inflation, rising rents, and the labor crisis affecting the business.

“Real estate is paramount to success. It’s difficult because the best real estate requires a lot of money,” says Hirschberg. “Some people are scratching their heads… Landlords are usually not willing to renegotiate.”

Hirschberg noted that restaurants are closing due to high rents due to the pandemic and the inability to negotiate leases with landlords.

Some have expressed concerns related to staffing shortages, under-employment and higher minimum wage requirements.

“We bit the bullet,” Momo said. “For the dishwasher he paid $15 an hour and guaranteed the server…it worked. In our business, we compete for customers and employees.”

To entice individuals to apply for jobs and stay in the workforce, Avery offers its employees $17 an hour, including five to eight hours of overtime. But it doesn’t come without a cost. This has forced restaurateurs to reassess their labor costs and consider moving to novel, more productive solutions. Labor savings could come in the form of ready-made foods such as mashed potatoes and the use of outsourced dishwashing services. Restaurateurs are trying to find ways to do more with less. They are aware of the current situation and try to adapt when new problems arise.

Some restaurant owners recalled a time when their employees were more passionate about working in the restaurant industry. Unfortunately, due to the current labor shortage, people are now tempted to “hire someone with a pulse” rather than someone who has a desire to learn from an established chef, as Avery reported. By offering more competitive wages, owners are compensating by raising menu prices, Gaccione predicts, which won’t satisfy customers.

For example, “People are complaining that your food is too expensive,” said Gaccione, “dinner, guests need to be educated.”

While the pandemic has presented significant challenges for business owners and restaurateurs, the overall consensus was that change was needed in the restaurant industry. Future conferences will be attended by more restaurateurs, government representatives and food industry stakeholders.

The meeting ended briefly with Amy Russo’s advice.

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