Businesses are experiencing changes in their operations as a result of COVID-19 and stay-at-home requirements, but some are reporting deeper impacts than others. American Express has found that many women-owned business enterprises fall within the sectors most at risk from the financial impact of COVID-19, and the majority – 99.9 percent – of women-owned businesses are small companies, with fewer than 500 employees. To minimize the impact of the slowdown on their operations, business owners are pivoting, finding new and unique ways to differentiate themselves and offer an alternative customer experience.
Heidi Knoblauch is owner and founder of Plumb Oyster Bar located in fashionable Troy, New York. Named ‘Best Brunch in the Capital Region’, the restaurant is known for its classic New American cuisine, craft cocktails and wide selection of fresh oysters. Leaving behind her academic career for the hospitality industry, Yale-educated Heidi opened Plumb Oyster Bar in 2016. Since then, it’s been a popular hang-out for locals and visitors.
Pivoting the business
Earlier this year, COVID-19 and the stay-at-home requirements presented a new set of challenges and circumstances for the hospitality industry, with many closing their doors and looking for new ways to generate revenue. Heidi made some swift but carefully considered adjustments to the restaurant. “We took the opportunity to plan a take-out only model. Now, the menu is completely online and available for curbside pick-up.”
When pivoting to the take-out model, Heidi wanted to stay connected with customers and help them replicate the Plumb experience in their homes. Usually a full service, sit down restaurant where diners order cocktails and multiple course, Heidi and her team decided to offer a take-out menu from which customers can order cocktails, beer, wine and food – so they have a sophisticated dining experience at home despite the stay-in-place ruling. Specials and limited offers still apply, to generate interest and excitement.
The new concept is a team initiative. “Our employees have been incredible,” Heidi says proudly. “They have been eager to bring new thoughts and ideas that we can use in this time”.
Engaging with clients through new channels
Heidi has also taken the opportunity to extend the company’s digital brand experience. “The big change that we have made is we’ve added a member to our team, a Content Creator who is trying to bring the experience of Plumb Oyster Bar into people’s homes through video and photos.” This means that customers can continue to engage with the restaurant, and the brand is delivered to a wider audience through social platforms such as Instagram – potentially attracting new clients, too.
“The customers have all been really supportive” Heidi says. “I think a lot of people are intentionally ordering local right now. They are aware of where they are spending their money and where it is going to. It’s been really great to see the community all come together and support Plumb Oyster Bar.”
Pause and look for the opportunity
Heidi has found opportunity within the crisis. She is thankful for the chance to reflect on her business. “This moment is giving us a chance to think about how our operations ran before and how they are going to run in the future. It gives us a chance to pause and critically evaluate how we want the company to grow.”
For businesses considering how to pivot their business models successfully, think like a start-up, advises Heidi. “Try new things. Try something, see if it takes, and if so, adapt on that. Similar to a lean start-up model that you would see in the tech industry”. It doesn’t have to be perfection – let your customers guide you. “Take one little model and do a sprint and put it out into the world even if it’s not finished. If people start to respond to it then that’s what you should focus on and run with”.
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