As a longtime consultant, Jon Taffer has pretty much seen it all. But helping restaurateurs and other business owners bounce back from COVID is a first, and that’s not the only challenge.
“The technology industry is working diligently 24 hours a day to erode the business of on-premise restaurants and retailers,” explains the popular reality TV host. “Third-party delivery services such as DoorDash, for example, want people to use delivery and not come into our restaurants. They’re destroying our profitability.
“There are companies whose sole purpose is to create virtual trade shows to eliminate the need for in-person shows. Technology is stepping in, and it wants to take that business trip away from the hotels and create a digital meeting. The hotel industry is really struggling with occupancy in some business-driven markets.”
The problem is real
“We’re being challenged by the pandemic, but we’re also being challenged by forces far greater,” warns Taffer. We’re seeing a shift from brick-and-mortar to digital business and online business. It’s a disastrous effect for many of us. We have to understand that retail has to be experience-driven. There has to be a reason to come to the store.”
Focusing on the environment
“We have to use music in stores to make people feel like they’re in a hip, cool place. We need to get rid of harsh, white lights and use those with movement and animation, that draw the eye and create excitement. There are also products like Atmosphere TV, which provide customized video content.
“You can add a fresh coat of paint or hang colorful flags. It’s about energizing your space and creating a dynamic personality. We have to reinvent how we do business within our four walls. It’s the biggest challenge we’ve faced in my 40 years in the business.”
The perfect storm
Taffer says dining establishments have been hit particularly hard in recent months.
“I didn’t see this coming. Our restaurants are packed, but they don’t have the employees. My peers’ restaurants are full of customers they can’t serve. Their food and beverage prices are through the roof. Employees aren’t coming back to work because of incentives to keep them away. We have to ignite these environments so we can retain employees, draw customers, and have the opportunity to compete against the click-through.”
Dealing with the pandemic
In addition to encouraging employees to get vaccinated, Taffer says business owners should take advantage of new products to protect against the spread of COVID.
There is scientifically tested technology that promotes air purification through a product that eliminates airborne contaminants. A major ceiling fan manufacturer is mounting UV lights onto the base of its smart ceiling fans to rid a room of viruses and bacteria in the air. There’s also a new item that allows workers to hold their hands under a special light to check for germs.
What happens in Vegas
When Covid hit Las Vegas, unemployment skyrocketed to 35 percent, the highest in the country. Watching his hometown become a ghost town was heartbreaking for Taffer.
“The industry was devastated. I saw these big, beautiful billion-dollar buildings boarded up. The parking lots were empty. When I drove down the street, I cried.”
This season’s episodes of his hit show are focused on helping Vegas’s struggling businesses recover.
“I’m fighting for their financial lives. Most get that, and how hard I’m working for them.”