Pizza Today - June 2020 - 28

age from Hurricane Sandy shuttered the
beloved Coney Island institution for five
months. Each time, Totonno's, through a
special blend of hustle, passion and determined leadership, found its way to reopen
and rebound from life's unfortunate turns.
"It's not even a question of if we'll be
back," Balzano told Pizza Today on April
8, the 19th day of Totonno's closure. "We
just will."
As the COVID-19 pandemic swept
across the American landscape in March,
many restaurants were forced to temporarily close or shutdown aspects of their
business. On March 25, still the early
days of COVID-19's wrath, the National
Restaurant Association reported that 44
percent of operators had temporarily closed
their restaurants.
With carryout and delivery so engrained
in pizzeria operations, most outlets had a
head start on their culinary peers in servicing guests and fulfilling orders. Still, pressing challenges remained. Shuttered dining
rooms meant eateries couldn't capitalize
on high-margin beverages, while sagging
consumer confidence combined with food
safety concerns hampered sales.
"Shutting Totonno's was like turning off
a piece of ourselves," Balzano says. "That's
our blood, sweat and tears in there and it
hurts on so many levels."
Now, many pizzerias are plotting their
march back to sustainability, looking to
rebound from a global health crisis that
shook the American economy and altered
daily lives.

Life after a closure

Following a closure, pizzerias face a
litany of challenges to restore business
operations and achieve stability.
Some restaurants, for example, might
need to fulfill regulatory obligations such as
inspections before reopening to the public.
Others may encounter supply chain pressures. As other eateries reopen and ramp up
post-pandemic production, pizzerias could
face heightened competition for goods that
impacts availability and costs. Restaurants
will need to closely monitor inventory
levels and contracts.
For many, the most pressing issue will be
financial, as closures, even partial or tempo2 8 / P I Z Z AT O D AY. C O M / J U N E 2 0 2 0

rary ones, dampen revenue and cash flow.
Utilities, landlords and other vendors will
likely push for scheduled payments, pushing an already tenuous financial situation
to the brink. Seeing cash flow as critical,
Totonno's leadership spent much of March
and April communicating with banks and
assessing options for capital.
"Have a line of credit set up and ready to
go," Jeffery Elsworth, an associate professor
at Michigan State University's School of
Hospitality Business, instructs reopening
restaurants. "You don't want to get stuck in
a cash flow problem."
Beyond the financial, Elsworth says
restaurants will need to continue marketing,
albeit by favoring more creative, costeffective efforts like social media, loyalty
programs and limited-time offers that spur
relevance and brand awareness.
"You have to stay in the eye of the
consumer the entire time," Elsworth says,
adding that restaurant websites should be
"up to speed" as well.
In addition, restaurants will have to
reintegrate employees back into the mix, so
many of whom were laid off, furloughed or
had hours cut amid the pandemic. National
Restaurant Consultants CEO Richard Weil
suggests operators fine-tune their training
manuals and procedures and capitalize on
the opportunity to incorporate "A players"
in a shaky post-virus labor market.
"We're going to see a labor component
that we haven't seen in close to a
decade and stores might be able to become
choosier with staff," says Weil, the former
president and chief operating officer of the
135-unit Nick-N-Willy's Pizza chain.
An invitation to reset and evolve
While the road to recovery will undoubtedly be rocky for pizzerias, it's also an
opportunity for operators to redefine who
they are and who they want to become. In
fact, Elsworth says the restaurant closures
demanded by COVID-19 allow ownership
to put "fresh eyes" on their business. That
means assessing the business plan and
operations while also exploring new
revenue opportunities or ways to engage
customers.
"In many ways, [COVID-19] has given
restaurant operators an opportunity to

assess what they're doing and to reset,"
Elsworth says.
The COVID-19 pandemic, for instance,
pushed curbside pickup into the mainstream. A fringe service option at U.S.
restaurants, curbside became commonplace
amid social distancing guidelines and
pizzerias across the U.S. added the service
model to their operations. Though born out
of necessity, curbside could have long-term
potential for restaurants, according to Weil.
"I really think curbside will be part of
the new model," Weil says. "I see runway
for those who keep it personal, efficient and
convenient."
After a closure, Weil continues, is the
perfect time "to trial new models and
incorporate new trends." Stores might
also revisit their menu, ridding it of poor
performers and introducing new, on-trend
dishes, refresh the dining room or revitalize
company branding elements. Such changes
will not only modernize restaurants, but
also give operations something exciting and
interesting to discuss with customers upon
reopening.
"You almost need to view this as a grand
opening - talking to press, balloons, the
whole bit," Elsworth says. "Try to secure as
much attention as you can get and take that
opportunity to reintroduce yourself to the
community."
In fact, when Totonno's reopened after
its 2009 fire, it did so with music on the
street and a ribbon cutting.
"What a way to reconnect with our
community, to show them we were back,"
Balzano says.
With consumer confidence shaken by
the pandemic, especially on the dine-in
side, Weil says such displays of positive
energy and assuredness will go a long way
to encouraging visits and orders. Otherwise,
a pizzeria, after enduring all COVID-19
threw at it, could languish and perish in its
aftermath.
"People need to know it's okay to dine
in," Weil says, "and we need to give them
reason to believe so." n
DANIEL P. SMITH Chicago-based
writer has covered business issues and best
practices for a variety of trade publications,
newspapers, and magazines.


http://www.PIZZATODAY.COM

Pizza Today - June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pizza Today - June 2020

Pizza Today - June 2020
Commentary
Digital
Conversation
Mike’s Monthly Tip
Man on the Street
Building Blocks
Tony’s Trending Recipe
Knead to Know
Destinations
Product showcase
Pizza Today Yellow Pages
The Marketplace
Expo Spotlight
White Pies
Pizza Lupo
Life After Closure
Marketing DELCO
Selling Merch.
The Phoenix Rising
Low-labor Delivery Items
Pizza Today - June 2020 - CT1
Pizza Today - June 2020 - CT2
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Pizza Today - June 2020
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Cover2
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Commentary
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 4
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 5
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 6
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 7
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Digital
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 9
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Conversation
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 11
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Mike’s Monthly Tip
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 13
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Man on the Street
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 15
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Building Blocks
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 17
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Tony’s Trending Recipe
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 19
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Knead to Know
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 21
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 22
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 23
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Destinations
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 25
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Life After Closure
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 27
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 28
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 29
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Marketing DELCO
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 31
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Selling Merch.
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 33
Pizza Today - June 2020 - The Phoenix Rising
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 35
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Low-labor Delivery Items
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 37
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 38
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 39
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 40
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 41
Pizza Today - June 2020 - White Pies
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 43
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Pizza Lupo
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 45
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 46
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 47
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 48
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 49
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Product showcase
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 51
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Pizza Today Yellow Pages
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 53
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 54
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 55
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 56
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 57
Pizza Today - June 2020 - The Marketplace
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 59
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 60
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 61
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 62
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 63
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 64
Pizza Today - June 2020 - 65
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Expo Spotlight
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Cover3
Pizza Today - June 2020 - Cover4
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