More and more, bakeries and other businesses are temporarily closing for a multitude of reasons, from a confirmed COVID case on staff or local government mandates. If your business needs to cease operations, it’s priority one to stay top of mind with your customers and your community so that when you do open, you can do so easily and with patrons waiting to support you again.
We’ve put together our best in class protocols for how to close and reopen efficiently, along with other considerations to consider so that you’re minimizing losses and maximizing your future potential.
Most often, there is not the luxury of time to plan. Learning you need to temporarily close happens with little notice. This means planning is critical to your success. Develop a plan now so that you can act quickly.
Brownie kits are extremely flexible and play into what consumers have come to expect during COVID. You can sell baked brownies that customers decorate at home, or you can offer take and bake kits for families to bake together. Kits can also come in a variety of sizes – bite-sized brownies, brownies by the dozen, and more, giving you another way to mix things up for customers and keep them coming back.
Be ready to communicate with everyone who would need to know you’ve closed (or will be closing) within hours. This includes first and foremost, employees. Be sure to have current contact information - email, phone, and text so that you can stay in continual communication with the heart and soul of your operation. Secondly, be sure you have all the channels organized for communicating with customers. This would include everything from social media logs ins and passwords, customer email lists, loyalty members, and any other sub-groups of customers you can contact directly. Lastly, ensure you’re on top of vendor and supplier lists, business partners, and any other organization that would need to know your doors aren’t open.
Now is the time to transition as many of your files, documents, and lists to digital formats if you haven’t already. This ensures access to the backbone of your business no matter where you are. Also create digital menus that you can post online and share with QR codes so that being closed won’t keep your customers away from what you have to offer when doors reopen.
Work with communications and PR professionals to develop a plan that equips you with best practices on how to communicate effectively with all your key audiences once you need to close. This should include messaging about the closure, when you expect to reopen, and how customers can still connect with you and support your business. The plan should also include local media outreach to manage community expectations and signage templates that can be quickly finalized, printed, and hung at all locations to share key details.
At the Time of Closure
Talk with team members to understand the skills they bring to your business. They may be a decorator, but in a former life may have managed marketing campaigns or possess another skill that can be put to use. Once you have a clear picture of abilities, determine the best path forward for your employees. Layoff or furlough employees in accordance with labor laws and document individual circumstances thoroughly. Update team lists and continue to communicate with your staff with clarity, confidence, and honesty. Leadership is critical.
What you can freeze and use in the future, freeze. What will go to waste, consider donating to a local food bank or to first responders.
If you have a website and active social media, being closed doesn’t mean you can’t sell online. Ramp up your gift card program and consider branded merchandise like tote bags, t-shirts and coffee mugs. These orders can be filled remotely and provide a small but consistent revenue stream.
In a time like this, you cannot over-communicate. Reach out to employees, partners, customers and the community frequently to stay top of mind and to remain connected with your stakeholders. No detail is too small, including signage on your doors, social media posts, email blasts, news releases to local outlets, and texts to teams. In all your outreach, emphasize “temporary” so that everyone knows you’ll be back soon.
Once you know how long you will be closed, clean, protect, and store your equipment properly to prevent any future breakdowns or inferior operation. You can work with equipment partners for guidance and even consider using the downtime for necessary service. Clean your space thoroughly and adding security cameras to monitor your bakery while no one is there.
Once you can open again, it’s important to build on the momentum you’ve maintained while closed. Many of the same tactics – consistent communication, assessing the skill sets of employees and using them best, adding online as an additional sales channel, and optimizing equipment and inventory – are equally, if not more important, now. There are also smart strategies you can put to work for your bakery throughout this new COVID climate that will help.
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