Creating a Reopening Business Model for a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses across America to change their operations. For restaurants, that’s meant expanding delivery and takeout in place of dine-in services. For retailers, it’s meant relying on digital platforms for sales and implementing curbside pickup options for customers.

Every business has had to rethink their approach to interacting with customers in order to reduce in-person contact.

What’s changed since March

The conditions of the coronavirus pandemic have changed since the initial, widespread lockdowns in March. For months, national efforts to slow the spread led to a flattened curve, which in turn raised hopes for reopening. Many envisioned a gradual reopening process that would set businesses on track to operate in-person again by mid to late summer. Unfortunately, the reality has been more complicated than that.

While some regions, like New York and surrounding states, have seen steady declines and are gradually reopening, other states like California, Texas, and Florida have seen second waves of the virus.

The dramatic uptick in cases across the country has highlighted the ever-changing nature of this crisis and shown business owners the kind of uncertainty they will need to contend with over the next year or so. Adapting your business to operate in the pandemic won’t be a slow and steady reopening – it’s more likely to be a constant back and forth, where operations will resume and halt, depending on regional conditions.

Lockdown Phases

In order to understand these conditions, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the regulatory framework that many states and cities are using to govern restrictions on in-person dining and commerce. Most jurisdictions are approaching reopening in terms of phases. Each phase progressively marks improvement in containment of the virus. With each phase, more in-person operations are likely to resume.

Running a business in these uncertain times means there isn’t a clear timeline to use for reopening plans. Elected officials can set goals for moving into new phases, but any changes in public health conditions can set those goals back.

What this all means is the reality we’re living in isn’t going to be a gradual reopening, but a status quo that will shift between different guidelines like a pendulum swinging back and forth. For a few months, conditions permitting, restaurants may be able to seat customers at 75 percent of maximum capacity. The very next month, it could be reduced to 50, 25, or even zero.

Making a Plan

A good business plan going forward will take this variability into account. It won’t just plan for reduced operations for a couple months, but rather, it will put together a plan to scale back operations rapidly whenever necessary. The businesses that can shift seamlessly from nearly full operations to reduced, contactless ones will be the businesses that can most effectively survive changing public health conditions.

This will be a challenge for any business, but it will be manageable with the right approach. The simple fact is things aren’t going to improve right away. However, by understanding that conditions will ebb and flow, business leaders will be able to make the best preparations. Understanding the phases of reopening and being able to transition your business quickly to meet them is what will set you apart from the rest of the pack in the coming months.