Turn butternut squash into butternut pies — plus other tips for pandemic resilience - Albuquerque Journal

Turn butternut squash into butternut pies — plus other tips for pandemic resilience

Yashoda Naidoo

New Mexico is a foodie haven.

With more than 3,200 places to eat and drink across the state, New Mexico’s spicy and unique blend of cultures offers delicious cuisine and a variety of restaurants.

But, like many other industries, the restaurant industry was hard hit by COVID-19. Nearly two years later, restaurants are still facing many of the operating hardships brought on by COVID-19. In fact, restaurant owners face challenges of fluctuating demand, inflation, employment shortages and the continued spread of COVID-19, many of which have led to a $65 billion drop in restaurant industry sales from 2019’s pre-pandemic levels.

But, as we’ve learned, New Mexico business owners are resilient as ever. The pandemic has forced restaurant operators to be flexible and find creative solutions to the various, unexpected challenges. Now, as we optimistically look ahead to a world post-pandemic, I’m sharing some of my favorite tips, to navigate this ever-changing landscape and keep a restaurant afloat.

Turn Butternut Squash into Butternut Pies: For restaurants, many high-quality ingredients have become unavailable due to changes in the supply chain. A September 2021 survey fielded by the National Restaurant Association, revealed that 95% of operators said their restaurant experienced supply delays or shortages of key food or beverage items in recent months. Though your restaurant may have a familiarity with using ingredients, when they become unavailable, find opportunities to incorporate ingredients that are accessible rather than removing menu items. If pumpkins are not available for the holidays, but butternut squash is, take advantage and create some delicious butternut squash pies.

Invest in your current employees: The number of employees in the restaurant industry, at the end of 2021, was down by one million from pre-pandemic levels. Rather than focusing all efforts on hiring, focus on developing those already on your team. Cross-train staff for different areas of your business, provide the opportunity for employees to be promoted, and provide opportunities for them to fill in as needed. Those who may normally work in the kitchen can now staff the front of the house. Efforts like this have become critical to addressing staffing shortages and may help to retain the staff on hand.

Apply for programs: The financial impacts of COVID-19 have limited what many businesses can invest their monies in for sustainability and growth. Look for programs, such as Comcast RISE, that support your business’ efforts. Comcast RISE recipients have the opportunity to receive a marketing package at no cost, which includes the production of a 30-second TV commercial and a 90-day media placement schedule or a technology makeover to upgrade businesses to state-of-the-art technology and internet, voice and cybersecurity services for up to 12 months at no cost. With the Comcast RISE media package that our team received, our business was able to focus our funds on operational costs all the while continuing to keep our branding in front of consumers.

COVID-19 has created obstacles for New Mexico businesses. But the above ideas can help address some of what restaurants around the state are facing. And as a community, we must continue to come together and generate innovative solutions, to preserve the rich blend of cultures in New Mexico.

The Executive’s Desk is a guest column providing advice, commentary or information about resources available to the business community in New Mexico. To submit a column for consideration, email gporter@abqjournal.com.

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