The PPP and EIDL Are Closed. Now What?

The SBA announced on April 16 that they will no longer be accepting new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan. After two weeks of fulfilling requests from hundreds of thousands of business owners across the country, the relief funds have run dry. The PPP is expected to re-open at some point, and it’s possible the EIDL may be replenished as well.

So what should you do right now? We recommend three things:

  1. Get your 2019 bookkeeping and taxes completed
  2. Pre-apply for the Paycheck Protection Program
  3. Explore alternative funding

Get your 2019 bookkeeping and taxes completed

Most businesses have gladly taken advantage of the 90-day tax filing deferral to July 15, 2020. However, getting your taxes filed will give you the official documentation you need to get approved for the PPP and EIDL if they’re reopened. And in order to fill out an accurate tax return, you’ll need 2019 bookkeeping completed. (Plus, the sooner you file your return, the sooner you’ll get your tax refund.)

So if you want to position your business to be ready if the PPP or EIDL reopens, the best thing you can do today is to get your bookkeeping and taxes taken care of.

Pre-apply for the PPP

It’s estimated that there are 800,000+ applications waiting to be processed once the PPP opens up again.

If you want to be first in line once the PPP opens, we recommend getting your application in order today and submitting it to a PPP lender.

Right now, that’s a little tricky since many lenders have stopped accepting applications, and the official SBA Lender Match page is currently displaying no lenders.

So what should you do?

We recommend reaching out to the financial institutions you’re already a member of first to see if they’re participating. Failing that, reach out to the community banks in your city, or check out online lenders that are taking applications such as PayPalFundera (technically a loan aggregator), KabbageBlueVine, and others.

Explore alternative funding

If you don’t qualify for the PPP but still need cash flow to keep your operations going, here are resources we recommend looking into.

Support from government

The Save Small Business fund

The Save Small Business fund is a grant made available by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and supporting partner companies. It provides $5,000 to small businesses with 3–20 employees.

  • $5,000 grant
  • Applications open April 20, 2020 at 12PM PDT
  • Requires W-9 form
  • Your business must be located in an economically vulnerable community. You can enter your business’s zip code on the site to see if you qualify.

You can apply here.

The employee retention tax credit

You can be eligible for payroll tax credits if you keep your employees on payroll, if you paid COVID-19-related sick leave for employees, or if you had to suspend operations.

Further readingEmployee Retention Credits: A Simple Guide (COVID-19)

The Express Bridge Loan

You can borrow up to $25,000 for disaster-related purposes from a lender you have an existing banking relationship with.

Further reading: The Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program (A Simple Guide)

Support from large businesses

Many large companies have stepped up with resources and funding for small businesses affected by COVID-19.

Facebook Small Business Grants Program

Facebook is providing cash grants and ad credit to small businesses with 2–50 employees.

  • Applications will be open to cities on a rolling basis. Visit the site to see if it’s open for your city
  • Must be a for-profit company that has been in business for over a year

You can apply here.

Google Ad Credits for Small and Medium-sized Businesses

Google is providing ad credits to small and medium businesses that advertised on Google in 2019. Credits will be added automatically.

Salesforce Care Small Businesses Grant

$10,000 grants for small businesses. Applications not yet open.

Regional support

There are many region-specific supports and resources offering emergency funding. Check your local chamber of commerce, economic development office, or nonprofit for relief programs.

Further reading: COVID-19 Resources, State by State

Private lenders

Banks, merchant processors, and other private lenders may offer lines of credit or other lending options. But the terms won’t be as favorable as the PPP and EIDL. One other thing: some of the below offers may have been changed due to COVID-19.

Traditional bank loans

We’ve compiled our recommendation of the best bank loans for small businesses in 2020.

Business line of credit

A line of credit is more flexible than a bank loan, and usually cheaper too. Here’s our recommendations of the best business lines of credit in 2020.

Business credit card

Using a credit card to float your business is usually a bad idea. However, some business credit cards offer 0% interest for the first year. Check out our recommendations for the top business credit cards to see if any fit your needs.

This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. Bench assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

7 New Financial Resources For Women Business Owners

Planning & Development

For years female entrepreneurs have fought for their seat at the table, collectively inching from secretary desks to C-suites. In 2019, American Express reported that majority women-owned businesses made up 42% of all businesses, employing 9.4 million workers—up from just 4% of businesses and 230,000 workers in the 1970s.

And for years small businesses have been the engine fueling female entrepreneurs’ rise, as 99.9% of women-owned businesses employ fewer than 500 staffers.

Now the coronavirus pandemic threatens to undo much of that progress in a matter of months.

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the economy, a recent poll from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce showed that 24% of small businesses are less than two months away from shuttering permanently, and 11% are less than one month away. And according to American Express, many women-owned businesses work within industries most vulnerable to COVID-19 devastation. Roughly 22% of all women-owned businesses are hair salons, nail salons, and pet groomers, and women also own 16% of the hospitality and food service sector.

“Women tend to have less of a track record with banks,” Laurie Fabiano, president of the Tory Burch Foundation, explains, “because women tend to borrow less than men. Most of them don’t have a banker on speed dial.”

The Tory Burch Foundation is one of many organizations that have mobilized to support female entrepreneurs during the pandemic, in ways ranging from resource gathering to professional mentorship to COVID-19-specific funding.

If you need help, start here:

Hello Alice, a machine learning company founded as a women’s virtual accelerator, is offering immediate $10,000 grants to small businesses, supplied by Silicon Valley Bank, the eBay Foundation, and other partners.

IFW COVID-19 RELIEF FUND

IFundWomen, a crowdfunding platform, is giving micro-grants to women-run businesses, issued on a rolling basis. “Start a campaign” to be considered.

FACEBOOK SMALL BUSINESS GRANTS PROGRAM

Of the $100 million fund, $40 million in grants is set for 10,000 U.S.-based small businesses. And of those, Facebook said it’s “prioritizing 50% of grants to eligible minority, women and veteran-owned businesses.”

Applications open by location, with an upcoming round in New York and Seattle on April 18. Check the website to see when your location opens.

VERIZON SMALL BUSINESS RECOVERY FUND

Verizon joined with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation to offer up to $5 million in grants of up to $10,000, “especially entrepreneurs of color, women-owned businesses and other enterprises that don’t have access to flexible, affordable capital.”

Its next round of applications starts mid-April. Register to stay updated.

SHEAMOISTURE COMMUNITY COMMERCE FUND

The beauty brand announced a $1 million campaign to support minority business owners. While the fund’s grant applications appear closed, women of color entrepreneurs can still enroll in an e-learning lab to “gain education, access to resources, mentorship, and advice on how to prepare for the economic downturn” from Sundial Brands, Unilever, and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.

ASSISTHER EMERGENCY RELIEF GRANT

Texas Woman’s University is offering $10,000 grants to women-run businesses in Texas. The funds are intended for “technology upgrades or other items needed to change or adapt your business model,” but should not be used for “payment of sales tax and payroll, advertising, purchase of food for consumption, penalties and fees, and charitable donations.”

ANONYMOUS WAS A WOMAN EMERGENCY RELIEF GRANT

Anonymous Was A Woman and the New York Foundation for the Arts are offering $250,000 in grants of up to $2,500 apiece, to women-identifying visual artists over the age of 40.

VISA FOUNDATION

The Visa Foundation pledged $200 million over five years, to be distributed in $60 million grants to NGOs that support small and micro businesses worldwide, with a focus on women’s empowerment. “When women thrive, communities thrive. We know this matters now more than ever as the global economy seeks to recover and rebuild,” Visa said. It has not yet publicized which NGOs will participate.

Selling on Instagram: Everything you need to know

Businesses shouldn’t be shy about selling on Instagram anymore.

Recent Instagram statistics point to the fact that the platform is booming for brands right now.

And as noted in our guide to Marketing in Gen Z, younger consumers rely on Instagram to discover, research and buzz about new products.

But selling on Instagram isn’t as simple as posting product photos and calling it a marketing day.

If you want to turn your fans and followers into actual customers, you’re going to need a strategy.

In this guide, we break down the best practices of doing business on Instagram and how to get your products in front of eager shoppers.

What does selling on Instagram actually look like?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to selling your products on Instagram.

That said, some strategies make more sense than others depending on your target audience and what you’re selling.

Below we’ve highlighted real-world examples of selling on Instagram and why they work.

Product photos and promotions

No secrets or surprises here.

According to Instagram themselves, a staggering 60% of users rely on the platform to find products.

Whether you’re a retailer or ecommerce brand, publishing product photos is a no-brainer to reach your followers and digital window-shoppers alike.

This post from Alex and Ani is a straightforward example of selling on Instagram. A time-sensitive offer coupled with a stylish photo is totally fair game for brands looking to drive traffic to their stores.

Here’s another good example from Lisa Frank, which points followers to their bio link to check out their latest product line release. Product and promotional posts like these are perfect for not only driving clicks but also creating conversations around whatever you’re selling.

Meanwhile, many brands are seeing success with Instagram Stories as an avenue for social selling. Doing so allows brands to experiment with new creatives, calls-to-action and Stories-specific offers beyond their regular feed. But if you’re still building your brand following, be aware you need a 10,000 follower minimum to use this feature.

Selling via Instagram Stories

User-generated content (customer photos)

Selling on Instagram doesn’t always have to be totally in your face.

It shouldn’t be.

That’s why so many brands are making user-generated content a cornerstone of their Instagram sales strategies.

Customer photos go hand in hand with high engagement rates and let your customers serve as your best billboards. Given how eager consumers are to share product photos, scoring user-generated content is often just a matter of asking.

For example, BARTON encourages fans and followers to share their latest purchases on Instagram through their branded hashtags.

Encouraging user-generated content via branded hashtags is a great way to encourage organic selling on Instagram

In turn, they regularly use customer photos as a means of highlighting their latest promotions with a much-needed sense of authenticity.

User-generated content allows your customers to see what your products look like in-the-wild. This also serves as a break from traditional promo posts and allows you to show your products from different angles, so to speak. For example, brands like KitchenAid supplement their commercial content with “after” shots of their customers’ creations.

Instagram Shopping

During 2019, Instagram’s native shopping features underwent some major changes for e-tailers.

Your followers can use now the Instagram Shopping platform to purchase products directly from your page (denoted by the shopping bag icon).

Instagram shopping is now seamless for retail profiles

In short, Instagram Shopping integrates with your product catalog and tags into your Instagram feed to create a seamless shopping experience.

Let’s look at an example of what the Instagram Shopping experience looks like with Bellroy.

Scrolling through the brand’s feed, a simple tap on a shopping-enabled photo highlights tagged products in that post. These posts are denoted by Instagram’s shopping bag icon in the top right corner.

Bellroy's profile is a shining example of shopping on Instagram

After tapping on the product tagged, visitors can see additional product details and close-ups. Then, visitors can make their way to a product page directly from Instagram.

native Instagram shopping allows customers to access product pages directly through Instagram tags

Users are also able to view all active products on a brand’s feed by tapping the Instagram Shopping icon.

Instagram shopping can also be done directly from the shopping icon

Enabling shopping on Instagram is a smart move for e-tailers and brands who already have an active product catalog on Facebook. If you’re interested in activating Instagram shopping, note the guidelines to approval that must be reviewed by Instagram themselves including:

  • Agreeing to the platform’s merchant agreement and commerce policies
  • Having an active Instagram business account
  • Having a connected Facebook Page
  • Selling primarily physical products and goods
  • Having a connection to a Facebook Catalog (either directly or through a third-party ecommerce service)

Shoppable Instagram tools

Beyond native Instagram shopping, there are plenty of tools out there with features focused around selling on Instagram.

Platforms such as CuralatePixlee and Dash Hushdon each represent all-in-one social selling tools for brands interested in turning their Instagram accounts into storefronts.

For example, Outdoor Voices uses Dash Hudson’s “LikeShop.me” bio link which sends visitors to a shoppable Instagram feed. Visitors can tap through individual photos to visit the product page for any given post.

Third-party Instagram shopping tools

A bonus of using these types of tools includes advanced analytics and user-generated content curation. Check out Outdoor Voice’s lookbook of Instagram content. User-generated content on-site not only helps convert more visitors but also funnel customers to your social presence.

Third-party Instagram shopping tools often have features which allow you to curate user-generated content

Influencer marketing

Note that not all selling on Instagram has to happen from your account.

Case in point, influencer marketing has exploded as a way for brands to get their products in front of their target audience through a more compelling and relatable manner.

The concept is simple: partner with someone with a highly engaged audience to raise awareness for your brand and potentially uncover new customers.

Influencer promotions are effective often because  they don’t feel as “salesy.” Also, influencers typically have highly engaged audiences whose reach might be greater than your brand’s own account.

Forming relationships with relevant influencers is a cost-effective way to hone in your Instagram promotions on people who will realistically become customers.

Instagram ads

Of course, many brands have found success selling through Instagram ads.

Taking advantage of creative ad types such as Stories and Carousels, such ads offer tons of flexibility and targeting options to reach customers shopping on Instagram.

Stories ads are a growing in popularity when it comes to selling on Instagram

What are the best practices for selling on Instagram?

As noted earlier, hammering followers with product photos and promotions isn’t exactly the best way to sell on Instagram.

Here are some key tips to consider to make your Instagram presence more sales-focused while still sticking to the platform’s best practices.

Craft compelling captions

How salesy you come across on Instagram really boils down to your captions.

Don’t want to shove offers or price points in your followers’ faces? You don’t have to! There are plenty of Instagram caption ideas that can help you inject personality into your posts without coming across as too promotional.

For example, consider how you can show off your products while asking your followers a question. Here’s a great example from Paper Mate.

Meanwhile, check out how JOAH manages to put their products front-and-center by asking for a comment.

See how that works?

Note that there’s currently quite a debate over whether or not salesy captions restrict your reach as part of the Instagram algorithm. To be safe, experiment with different call-to-action phrases if you’re looking to point followers to your bio.

And speaking of which…

Sell yourself in your bio

Your Instagram bio is valuable real estate, especially if you’re interested in sales.

After all, your bio link represents the sole avenue from your follower to your storefront if you’re not connected to Instagram Shopping.

As a result, make sure that your bio includes a combination of the following:

  • A call-to-action directing followers to your shop
  • A mention of your branded hashtags to encourage user-generated content
  • A trackable link (think: Bitly or a shoppable Instagram tool) to monitor traffic to your storefront
Alex and Ani's Instagram bio is optimized for selling on Instagram with their CTA

Publish people-centric product photos

Instagram isn’t the place for “ordinary” product snapshots.

And on the flip side, research shows that promotional photos containing actual people perform well on social media.

Why? Because people want to see products in a real-world setting. This not only makes them more compelling but serves as social proof, showing potential buyers that you have a track record of satisfied customers.

For example, Camelbak shows off their products in the great outdoors rather than confined to photo studio or kitchen counter.

Frequently featuring photos of people, specifically user-generated content, creates a snowball effect. That is, customers will want to take their own snapshots with your product so they’ll get featured on your feed, too. This results in more engagement and reach, creating even more opportunities to win customers.

Make your product photos pop

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: creativity counts on Instagram.

This rings true if you’re trying to sell products too.

Remember that you’re fighting for your customers’ attention, especially since they’re more than likely following competing brands on Instagram.

For example, this stunning snapshot from Skullcandy doesn’t feel like a sales pitch at all. In fact, it makes us want to stop and stare.

Meanwhile, Skullcandy regularly switches up their content’s color scheme as inspiration for styles and settings for the product photos.

 

Even when selling on Instagram your content needs to be creative and eye-popping

Here’s another awesome example from IL MAKIAGE. Although the brand has plenty of customer photos to choose from, they make sure to keep their content strategy fresh with eye-popping product shots as well.

Ask yourself: would your product photo be worth “liking” if it wasn’t trying to sell something?

You don’t need to be a master photographer to make it happen, either. Just take the time to review how to take good Instagram photos and explore creative filters and apps that can give your snapshots some pizazz.

Post more than just products!

This might seem counterintuitive, but hear us out.

Arguably one of the most important pieces of selling on Instagram is not selling.

Not all the time, anyway.

Sure, retail giants might solely post promotion content. However, if you’re an up-and-coming brand or you’re trying to grow your audience, some non-sales related content is the best way to warm up potential customers. After all, brands today are expected to show off their personalities.

Here’s an example. Suavacito regularly publishes photos about their products but also sprinkles lighthearted content like memes and dog photos throughout their feed.

These types of posts score tons of engagement and can be a gateway for new followers to discover your brand. As noted in our guide to social media for retail, it’s crucial for brands to create content for every step of the customer journey. That includes folks who are warming up to you or might not even know you yet.

As a side note, this speaks to the importance of putting together a social media content calendar. With the help of social media management tools like Sprout, you can find a balance between promotional and non-promotional content. Doing so ensures that your followers are consistently engaged with the right marketing messages day-by-day.

Sprout publishing calendar

Monitor your sales performance via Instagram analytics

Lastly, don’t forget about your data.

So much of selling on Instagram revolves around your analytics.

For example, which product photos score the most engagement? How do your Instagram shopping posts perform versus non-promotional ones? How much of a direct ROI are you seeing from Instagram?

Sprout’s Instagram analytics can clue you in on the answers and then some. Our comprehensive reporting makes it a cinch to track your paid and organic campaigns all in one place, including those happening beyond Instagram.

https://media.sproutsocial.com/uploads/PI_Analytics_Cross_Channel_Group_Report.png

With a constant pulse on your top performing posts, you can better align your sales and social strategy without second-guessing.

Sprout can help identify you top-performing posts on Instagram

And with that, we wrap up our guide!

What are you selling on Instagram?

Fact: consumers are more than happy to shop on Instagram.

And although brands don’t need to be subtle about selling on Instagram, sales don’t happen by accident.

Hopefully, these tips above serve as some much-needed motivation and inspiration to score sales on the platform. As long as you stick to Instagram’s best practices and keep a close eye on your analytics, you’re on the right track.

We want to hear from you, though. What’s your own experience with Instagram shopping and selling? Any success stories or struggles? Let us know in the comments below!

By: Brent Barnhart for Social Sprout

Train Your Sales and Reservations Team To Show Compassion For Cancellations

As a hotel sales trainer, it seems very odd to be writing a train-the-trainer article about how to manage cancellations, yet this is absolutely necessary as the lodging industry has been turned upside down temporarily.

Imagine how strange it must be for those who are tasked (and incentivized) for securing revenue are now dealing with a flood of calls and emails about reversing the flow. I’m sure it is time consuming, stressful and heartbreaking, especially when such staff are surely worried about their own job security and health concerns.

It’s at moments like these when we all need to remember that we are in the hospitality business, not the room or meeting space rental business.  Rather than just stating the cancellation terms, and talking about holding deposits and rescheduling, it is essential that we all show compassion for those who are canceling.

For salespeople who sell to the social or wedding markets, this is a lost sale to us but the postponement of a dream for the planner.

For those who sell to meeting planners, many of which are contractors who might also be suffering a loss of income due to this, we need to acknowledge their probable sense of wasted effort and check on their wellbeing.

Regarding the transient market, for traditional hotels with 24-48 hour cancellation policies, cancellation is probably happening online, although some guests will no doubt call in a panic and will notice and appreciate heartfelt compassion.

Transient cancellation conversations get a lot more complicated when guests have opted for a pre-paid / advance purchase booking, or at destination resorts, or for any guests who have paid an advance deposit that is non-refundable and not covered by trip insurance.  It seems that most companies have extended ‘apply the amount for a future stay’ option as the airlines have done, and I’m pretty sure that leaders have addressed how to explain whatever procedures are in place at your hotel.

What’s most important though is to train sales and reservations staff to show compassion for the person who is canceling.  Remember that the true heart of hospitality is human kindness, especially for strangers. Certainly, this is a good practice that generates goodwill for the lodging company, but even more important is that it’s simply the right thing to do for our fellow humans we call our guests.

So be sure to remind your sales and reservations staff that besides stating the cancellation, change or refund policies, they should also take a moment to share a personal statement to include two components:

One: A Personalized message about how sorry you are to hear that their exciting or important plans have fallen through. Examples:

  • “On a personal note, I know you have put a lot of effort into planning this meeting (or event), and I am so sorry about how it has turned out.”
  • “I’m sure your family must be so disappointed to hear the trip is on hold.”
  • “I’m so sorry to hear your vacation plans have fallen through.”
  • “I can just imagine how disappointing it must be that your trip is canceled.”

Two: A brief inquiry about how they are doing personally. This does not require a long chat (or a long paragraph in an email) and we don’t have to be therapists. Just something to pause and share the moment by listening reflexively.  Now if the caller is rushing through the whole conversation, or does not react well to the personalized message recommended above, you can skip this. Otherwise, just take a brief moment to pass on the spirit of hospitality.  When ending phone conversations, you might start with “Chris, before I let you go…” or when wrapping up emails you might start with “On a personal note…”

  • “…I just wanted to say I wish you and your family the best.”
  • “…We definitely look forward to having your visit in the future.”
  • “…Beyond planning for this meeting/event, I hope you and your family stay safe and healthy, and I look forward to hearing back working with you once we get through this and the plans are rescheduled.

On a final note, as hospitality leaders, while it is important to show compassion for all our staff members right now, be especially sensitive for those who are fielding calls and emails from panicked guests and planners.  When you check-in with your own sales staff, make sure your only question for them is not “How many bookings did we lose?” or “What other groups canceled?”  Be sure to pause and check with them personally. Thank them for working the extra hours and acknowledge just how stressful it is for them to be dealing with panicked people.

Doug Kennedy

March, 2020

About Doug Kennedy

Doug Kennedy is President of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of hotel sales, guest service, reservations, and front desk training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Doug continues to be a fixture on the industry’s conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations, as he been for over two decades. Since 1996, Doug’s monthly training articles have been published worldwide, making him one of the most widely read hospitality industry authorities. Visit KTN at www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com or email him directly doug@kennedytrainingnetwork.com.

Doug is the author of So You REALLY Like Working With People? – Five Principles for Hospitality Excellence.
Logos, product and company names mentioned are the property of their respective owners.

COVID-19 & your hosting business: How to minimize the impact

Updated March 16, 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting many in our community, whether personally or because of disruptions to their hosting or travel plans. And while many travelers are choosing to stay home during this uncertain time, some are still considering local stays and future travel.

Here’s what hosts can do to meet those guests’ needs right now:

  • Adopt a more flexible cancellation policy. Understandably, many guests are uncertain about booking future travel. If you currently have a strict cancellation policy in place, consider switching to a flexible or moderate one (you can always go back to your strict cancellation policy as needed). Knowing they have more flexibility to cancel may give guests the confidence to move forward with a new reservation.
  • Open your calendar for longer stays—and offer weekly or monthly discounts. Many guests may be looking for weekly and monthly stays closer to home. By opening your calendar up for longer stays, you can attract these guests, get more predictability throughout the month, and reduce the amount of time you spend cleaning and prepping for new guests. Consider offering a discount on stays of 7 days or longer—less than 50% of hosts offer a weekly or monthly discount, and those who do tend to get more bookings for longer stays.
  • Let guests know your space has the amenities they need right now. As many face school closures and shift toward remote work, those who decide to book a stay may be drawn to work- and family-friendly listings. If your space offers things like fast wifi, a comfortable workspace, and/or is suitable for children, make sure to update your amenities to reflect that. Please keep in mind that we’re encouraging all guests to respect local guidelines about gatherings or social interactions.
  • Offer self check-in. Many guests may prefer to check themselves in rather than meet in person. If you can, consider installing a key lockbox or smart lock with a keypad. Remember to update your listing to add self check-in.
  • Review your cleaning routine. Guests may want extra info about the cleanliness of your space. You might consider sharing the types of cleaning products you use, how often you clean the space, the type of cleaning products you’ll have available for guests, and other details. We recommend that all hosts review these cleaning tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More tips for hosting

We’ve also introduced a suite of tools and programs—what we’re calling “More Flexible Reservations”—to help you host and to help guests travel more confidently during this difficult time. Here’s what it includes:

  • Enabling hosts to offer refunds directly. Many guests have had their travel plans affected by coronavirus disruptions, and hosts have asked how they can be considerate of guests who need to cancel. So we’ve added a new tool that allows you to authorize a refund to your guest directly.
  • Helping guests find listings with flexible cancellation policies. We’ve rolled out a search filter to show listings with cancellation flexibility, so guests can easily find the ones that best suit their needs.

During these times of uncertainty, we’re asking everyone in our community to be considerate to hosts and guests who need to cancel. As the situation evolves, we’re closely monitoring guidance from governmental and health authorities, and we ask that guests and hosts follow official guidelines and recommendations.

For information about our extenuating circumstances policy, including eligible reservations, dates, and locations, so please bookmark this Help Center page for the latest details on cancellations without charges. For more updates, please keep checking our frequently asked questions—we’ll be adding answers to your top questions.

Thank you once again for being a host, and for your patience and understanding as we work to support our entire community.

What Does Social Distancing Mean for Social Businesses Like Restaurants?

What are some ways restaurant owners and operators can be safe and welcome guests while maintaining social distance?

As the Coronavirus crisis continues, Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine asked industry insiders what best practices restaurants should have in place for social distancing, as per CDC guidelines.

Rakuten Ready surveyed more than 100 customers to measure how behaviors around dining have, or are anticipated to change around the perceptions and impact of COVID-19 on restaurants, food delivery and order for pickup. Among the findings:

  • Most diners are not overly fearful, with 57 percent making no change to their dining behaviors.
  • However, 20 percent of respondents did, unfortunately, say they were avoiding restaurant dining completely.
  • 17 percent said they were just avoiding dining-in (opting to pick-up or have food delivered), with 10 percent appearing to lean toward Ordering for Pickup only.
  • 34 percent of respondents saying they plan to prepare more meals at home

“It’s a challenging time for restaurants — large and small — and we believe that there are some practical steps restaurants can take to address the social distancing concerns you and many are voicing today,” said Susie Fogelson, Founder/ CEO, F&Co. “First and foremost, restaurants need to address the obvious points about density and restrictions being put in place by local public officials, about cleanliness and safety and engagement.  Utmost care and attention is required today.

 

She said this is also a moment of opportunity for restaurants.

“The desire for convenience has always been present, coupled with an equally strong desire for delicious food.  In today’s world, safety is the third leg of the stool.  So the best way for restaurants to remain relevant, stay in business and stay connected to their customers is to increase delivery and pick up orders. And communications is front and center, particularly for restaurants that might not be as well known for out of restaurant food.  It is critical that restaurants message this option at every touchpoint (social!), reinforcing that the food customers love is still as delicious as ever prepared in a safe manner.”

Bo Peabody, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of restaurant reservation and rewards app Seated, Board member of Boqueria Restaurants, and Co-Owner of Mezze Restaurant Group, suggests:

  • Beyond spacing out tables, take advantage  of outdoor space if you have it available. We’re lucky in the sense that this outbreak is happening while we have milder weather, and people will feel more comfortable in an open air environment. So while it’s early in the season, open up patio and sidewalk space if you have it.
  • To the extent that you can, create spaces where people can feel safer because there’s airflow and they’re not confined in a space with no windows or open windows. Crack a window, open the blinds, do what you can to make the space feel open and airy.
  • Up the restaurant’s hygiene and cleanliness standards: fully sanitize tables, menus and chairs after each reservation. Not only does this maintain cleanliness, but it will provide comfort to other diners in the restaurant who witness it.
  • Continue to clearly communicate your plan of action to both customers and employees. Reassure them that as long as it’s safe and comfortable to do so, you’ll remain open but with heightened hygiene and cleanliness standards.

“It’s important to remember that in times  of disaster, restaurants have always served as a gathering place for the community,” he stressed. ” It’s up to us as restaurant operators to create a welcoming, comforting environment when people are feeling concerned.”

Rob Pellegrini, a real estate and business attorney for restaurants in Greater Boston, is anticipating a need for towns/municipalities to change their local laws so that restaurants can operate outside of the confines of their brick and mortar space (for those who are not permitted).

“Restaurants and bars with outdoor spaces will have the greatest chance of surviving a coronavirus downturn this year and for the rest, they may have to pivot to Plan B,”  said Robert R. Pellegrini, Jr. Esq., president of PK Boston.  That includes working with the town to amend certain by-laws and have an open dialog with local leadership.

Disaster response expert Patrick Hardy said preparation is key when establishing social distancing measures and said restaurants can quickly create customized plans for free via the Disaster Hawk app.

His other advice:

  • To avoid touching other people, implement a tablet ordering system. Be sure to wipe down the tablets frequently.
  • Use a system where the greeter informs the guests of where their table is and then have the person leaving the menus put their hand up so they know where to go. Then, they can take two steps back and let the guests sit at the table.
  • Have the servers leave the drinks at the front of the table and let guests grab them after the server has stood up.
  • They should consider leaving menus at the table instead of having the server take them. If this is not feasible then make sure that one of the bussers grabs the menu and not the server
  • Make it clear to the servers to limit the number of times they are touching cash and credit cards.

“Social distancing can be effective, but restaurant management needs to consider how it applies to both the front of the house where patrons are, and the back of the house where the staff is likely to be together for eight or ten hours,” said Roslyn Stone, MPH, COO of Zero Hour Health and Founder of Zedic. She also suggests:

  • Upfront, consider seating every other table, taking less reservations and upping “to go” options so patrons can eat at home. Certain jurisdictions like New York City are requiring seating only 50 percent of capacity.
  • In the back of the house, restaurant management should discontinue alley rallies and staff meetings; instead, communicate via group chat or video so all staff get the same messages.
  • Family meals should be “to go” or served buffet style -foregoing everyone sitting around one table.
  • Many employees socialize after their shifts – either at yur bar or elsewhere. Please discourage or suggest limits this right now.
  • Kitchens often have tight workspaces where staff are working closely together, particularly in prep areas.  Considering spreading prep out, either physically or by schedule.

“It bears reminding that we continue to hear about very complicated situations where managers worked sick and attended meetings, employees self-quarantined after very casual exposure to someone who hadn’t tested positive (or had) and many had difficulty finding testing for sick employees. These are all things that are out of our control, but social distancing is something that can be controlled in many circumstances and will help curb transmission.”

On Tuesday, March 17, Stone will present a free webinar in conjunction with The Food and Beverage Shows titled, “Restaurant Preparation to Minimize COVID-19 Disease Risk and What You Need to Do Now.” To learn more and register,  click here.

Rick Camac, Dean of Restaurant & Hospitality Management at the Institute of Culinary Education, pointed out the patrons and restaurant operators need to be smart and safe so this current health crisis doesn’t become a long-term economic one.

“Restaurants that are 70 percent-filled look empty and if they go to 50 percent, it will be horrible.” (Limiting seating capacity to 50 percent is in compliance with New York State’s COVID-19 public gathering mandate.)

Camac said many restaurants already have stringent cleaning practices in place making them a safer environment than, for example, the car service that dropped them off.

“You’re in a social setting everywhere,” he said. “Be smart about choices.”

By: Modern Restaurant Management