In this 4-part blog series we’ll dive into what it takes to successfully navigate out of this pandemic, and what it will take to emerge stronger in a post-COVID-19 world. 

This is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Life, as we know it, has been put on hold. No travel. No dining out. No vacations. No shopping. For many, no work. 

The changes and challenges retailers, grocery stores and restaurants face today are unprecedented. Some businesses have had to close their doors temporarily, unsure of when they’ll be able to reopen, many have had to completely rethink their business model in this new era, and others have faced overwhelming demand with new challenges on how to keep customers and employees safe. 

The economy is on lock down, and we have no idea when it will be reopen. The Federal Government wants to open up as quickly as possible, while New York wants to take a slower, more regional approach. Governors in the Midwest are partnering to coordinate their openings, and Georgia is starting to open up everything from bowling alleys to tattoo parlors. The only thing we can count on when it comes to reopening the economy is uncertainty and inconsistency. 

So when will things get back to normal? Well… we don’t know. But big consultancies like McKinsey and Deloitte have taken a shot at guessing. McKinsey has developed a framework for thinking about potential recovery scenarios, most of which project a bit of a bumpy recovery with periodic outbreaks of the virus. If this happens, local governments will likely institute regional lock downs to contain the virus and get back on track. 

How can Restaurants and Retailers Emerge Stronger?

The most important thing retailers and restaurants can do to emerge from this pandemic intact is give both consumers and employees confidence they’re not putting themselves or their families at risk. Then they need to prepare their workforce for the next wave of normalcy.

The best way to emerge stronger is through a combination of agility, flexibility and transparency.

Agility: The ability to navigate city/state requirements that will likely be inconsistent and reactionary                            

There is no rule book for how cities and states will start to lift social distancing measures. Georgia and Texas started to reopen the last week of April, but with very different guidelines in place. Just last week the Wisconsin Supreme Court threw out the state’s stay-at-home order, resulting in local cities and counties scrambling to issue their own regulations. 

As other states start to open back up, the varying guidelines will inadvertently create a patchwork of restrictions (like those happening in Wisconsin right now) that businesses will have to navigate. And bear in mind, most regions have plans to slowly ease restrictions, meaning that day by day, or week by week, these regulations will change. 

Transparency: Keep the public and employees informed regarding safety measures and reopening plans

Trust in this day and age is paramount. Everyone who walks into your store or restaurant will be thinking “Am I safe?” This is true of both employees and customers alike. Many organizations are rolling out brand-new safety protocols on a daily basis. Employees need training on exactly what is expected, and corporate leaders need a way to validate exactly what has been done to ensure these new safety procedures are being met. 

Flexibility: Respond and react to changing situations, including employee needs, desires and ability to work

People want to work. People need to work. But most people are also very risk averse, especially those caring for others at home. The situation we’re finding ourselves in is changing day by day, and that will likely impact your employees’ ability and desire to work at a moment’s notice. 

Patience, understanding and flexibility are key, both on the side of the employee and employer. Governments are not blind to this, and there is much discussion on easing predictive scheduling rules during this crisis.

There is no Playbook 

We are in unprecedented times, and there is no playbook we can follow. One thing is for certain – the health and safety of our employees and customers comes first. Retailers and restaurants are going above and beyond to protect their workers, both from the virus itself, and the economic uncertainties that come with it. If we band together, support each other and keep an eye on the bigger picture, we will emerge from this crisis better, stronger and well-positioned for the future. 


Stay tuned as we explore the 3 key pillars of Emerging Stronger: Agility, Transparency, and Flexibility

Published: Monday, May 18, 2020