Growing up many people dream of owning their own business, providing employment for others, and becoming successful entrepreneurs. However, the road to realizing that dream is a difficult and often lonely one, full of pitfalls, setbacks and enduring the difficult realities of operating a business – this is especially true in the food service industry. The COVID-19 crisis has put a magnifying lens on these operating difficulties, with restaurants and other hospitality businesses forced to follow government mandated protocols and alleviate customer and staff safety concerns. Curfews, limited capacity and social distancing rules and abrupt changes to business models are just a few of the hurdles that needed to be navigated over the past year for businesses that intend to come out in tact on the other side of this pandemic. Binghamton Hots, located on Washington Street in downtown Binghamton, intends to do just that!
Binghamton HOTS has made many changes to its business model since the lockdowns began last March; some by choice and others by government mandate. Our goals were simple; continue serving our customers to the best of our ability, keep our staff employed and the business operating – and making sure we could do all this safely and within our new operating parameters. Pre COVID, Binghamton HOT’s business was largely based on downtown foot-traffic. HOTS was the spot to grab a quick and delicious lunch or a mouthwatering Burger or HOT Plate after a long night bar hopping. HOT’s downtown location made it the place to be! Drive by on weekend night and you could tell just by looking at the line backed all the way up to the front door. Unfortunately, nearly all this foot-traffic disappeared overnight last March!
With office buildings and downtown bars closed, a quick pivot to a delivery & takeout heavy model was the only option moving forward. “Curbside Pick-up” became part of the lexicon in the industry overnight and partnerships with 3rd party delivery services like DoorDash & UberEats proved invaluable for targeting a larger demographic, but not with logistical and operations difficulties.
While these new methods of serving our customers have certainly helped curb what would have been tremendous loses created by the pandemic, significant changes to the business model were necessary to ensure quality could be maintained in doing so. Staffing was reworked to alleviate bottlenecks created by an all “to-go” model and it had to be done in a way that guaranteed employee safety. Changes to the menu were made to optimize for items that would hold and travel well during delivery and family style packages were offered to drive takeout sales. More significance was placed on packaging and HOTS began using different to-go containers and methods of wrapping and securing food to make sure it arrived to customers warm and as they would receive it had they picked up in the restaurant themselves.
Maintaining a standard of operations in this fast-changing landscape has been tough to keep up with with, but we’re going to end up all the better for it in the long run. And while the impetus for these changes was an unprecedented and (hopefully) once in a lifetime pandemic, most of them have made a positive impact and helped to grow and strengthen our model!
While the turmoil restauranteurs faced this past year has been truly grueling, for successful entrepreneurs that pride themselves on being adaptable and overcoming these obstacles, there is bright light at the end of the tunnel!