The Fog of War Is Clearing. Now What?

No matter your industry, station, or geography, life changed a year and a half ago. We all hunkered down, were glued to our TVs, emptied the shelves for toilet paper (for some unknown reason), and heard the warning calls that eventually turned into a droning and numbing cadence of caution, crisis, and then an acceptance to curl over and wait for the “new normal” to introduce itself.

Your customers, crews, stakeholders, and shareholders all put their faith in your judgment and leadership. But who has the playbook for this sort of thing? You did the best you could. We all did.

Now the fog is clearing and leaders are expected to emerge from their bunkers and show us the way forward. To lead. With conviction and confidence that is informed by experience, intuition, and exceptional foresight about the way the world will work in the foreseeable future.

Celebrate the Success of Your Survival and Strengthened Stamina to Face New Challenges

‘Unprecedented’ and ‘uncertainty’ have been two of the buzziest phrases of the last year and a half. We have all seen the news cycles over the months, restaurants closing, jobless numbers are high, but businesses are struggling to hire and retain employees. It’s the same thing over and over, and constant coverage we’re consuming on the pandemic in multiple facets — now on to restaurant recovery from COVID.

This has been one of the largest cultural shifts that the world has ever experienced. Even World War I didn’t impact the planet as much as COVID has. The battlefield after the war is clearing out, but there’s so much shock from what just happened that many haven’t fully planned out what to do next. Those who were agile to respond have already started to pull ahead in terms of market share. And “the new normal” is a phrase we’ll continue to hear in earnings calls and throughout boardrooms for years to come.

We know plenty more now than we did 18 months ago about the virus itself and how individuals, businesses, and governments responded. What used to be unknowns are now variables that can be factored into strategic plans looking forward. By now, we have been through enough to get to some level of certainty — even if that surefootedness is in understanding the levels of uncertainty we can expect.

And while the pandemic is still very much a factor in our day-to-day lives, it can no longer be a scapegoat for the uncertainty in businesses.

You’ve Just Earned Another Badge: Corporate Survivalist. Would You Like Another?

While we have been thrown into the washing machine and tossed around just trying to survive since early 2020, the fog is clearing just enough to start planning what the next five years can look like.

Think back to how different things were in the foodservice industry just five years ago — it’s hard to believe that delivery was hardly a profit center for any restaurant chain (in the U.S. especially) back then, compared to now.

From any crisis can be born opportunity — in that they can create the motivation to make changes that should have been implemented (long ago) anyway. Companies can take this as an opportunity to ask themselves the tough questions and reconstitute their promises (that competitors aren’t willing to make) to make the brand stand out. It’s hard, and costly, and a lot of effort — but the industry pioneers who make the investments get rewarded for it.

Potential and Prosperity are Built on Purposeful Promises

Even in darkness and fog, sailors sleep better on a ship knowing it’s equipped with radar. There’s something to be said about knowing where you’re going — and having a heads up for what is coming your way. In fact, providing certainty has proven to maximize engagement and drive lasting performance from team members.

In our view, there is no better way to provide certainty for your team than to have a well-crafted strategic plan. And this is the perfect time to create (or refresh) that plan.

For restaurants recovering from COVID, some of the questions to ask to better inform your plan can include: 

  • What damage did we take?
  • What did we fix? What still needs fixing?
  • What initiatives were killed, and why?
  • What should we rebuild?
  • How can we overcome brooding negative sentiment, inertia, and disillusionment? 
  • How can we best champion and enable our transformation?
  • Should we buy someone? Should someone buy us?
  • Does our pre-COVID 5-year plan still hold any relevance?
  • Where should we invest our resources?
  • What does “competitive moat-building” mean for our company?

It’s not easy to create this reassurance — informed by a sense of purpose or “North Star.”  To do so, it’s necessary to define the current state and reimagine the ideal future state. Today is the right time to do it.

You Survived. Now Inspire.

As more C-suite executives are set out to pasture with the ‘retiring for family reasons’ moniker, everyone not performing in the top-quartile can feel at least some hairs raise on the back of their necks called by the guillotine shimmering in the new day’s sun.

But there is no good reason to let fear nor uncertainty cloud your future constructs. As the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”

You are stronger now. You survived the worst of it. The sense of insecurity and/or flying without a net you feel at times is the stimulant and free space you need to help create a more confident and sure-footed way forward for yourself, your family, your company, your co-workers, your partners, and is the inoculant that will both strengthen you and inspire those around you.

About Aaron Allen & Associates

Aaron Allen & Associates works with global foodservice leaders to find, size, and seize opportunities to drive growth, optimize performance, and maximize enterprise value. Our approach to strategic restaurant planning enables our clients to understand and capitalize on the future of foodservice, as well as anticipate and act against the rapid evolution of disruptive technologies, evolving consumer dining behaviors, and increased competitive dynamics. You can learn more about our services or get in touch here

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