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Make The Comeback Greater Than The Setback: Lessons Learned From COVID-19

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Make The Comeback Greater Than The Setback: Lessons Learned From COVID-19

In the evening hours of March 15, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf made an announcement that will be etched into the minds of Pennsylvania restaurant or tavern owners forever. That announcement officially ordered restaurants and taverns in certain SEPA counties to close their dine-in facilities at 12:01 a.m. March 16 to fight the spread of COVID-19.

The very next day during an afternoon presser, the governor expanded the order to include restaurants and taverns in all counties.

Despite the panic and fear it caused within the industry, overwhelmingly Pennsylvania’s restaurants and taverns followed the order with many redefining business models to provide take-out food and beverage service only.

None-the-less, COVID-19 is a setback for every establishment and every industry employee. Revenue has been lost, and income-producing jobs have been put on hold.

So, we must ask ourselves a question … what has our industry learned from all of this?

Upfront, we learned the importance of having a business continuity plan.

Equally important, particularly as any crisis eases, is having a recovery plan. Here are four things to consider when working on your recovery plan.

Customer Communications

Those who were able to conduct some business during the COVID-19 crisis learned the value of keeping in touch with past customers. Many establishments saw value in using email lists and social media.

If you haven’t built a customer email list, now is the time to get started. Find a way to collect email addresses every time a customer places an order. Not only can you use an email list during a crisis, but you can also tap its power for normal business operations. Tools like MailChimp make it easy and affordable to maintain email lists and create promotional emails.

As we learned in a social distancing world, social media plays a huge role in connecting with friends and family. Many restaurants offering take-out service as part of their COVID-19 business continuity plan relied partly on Twitter and Facebook to get the word out. If you’re not already using these two tools, it’s time to get started.

Ordering and Delivery

The role of online ordering and delivery services increased as the COVID-19 crisis grew. Establishments that had Websites ready to take orders had an advantage. Similarly, those already connected with delivery services like Uber Eats and DoorDash were a step ahead of their competition.

Since these tools are growing in popularity, and maybe now part of the customer culture as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, your establishment needs to take them seriously. Talk to your Web designer to see what you can do to improve your online ordering capabilities. Maybe you even need an app for use on cell phones. Also, reach out to a delivery service and connect.

Insurance Review

How many owners really knew what was and wasn’t covered in their business insurance package before the COVID-19 crisis? For sure, many found out during the crisis what wasn’t covered.

As the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association has said in the past, shopping around and doing a yearly review of your insurance needs should be a part of your annual business plan (see March 2020 edition of this magazine). If not, now is the time to work it into your recovery plan. Talk to your broker or directly to an insurance company for help.

If you don’t have a broker, the we suggest contacting Independent Food & Beverage Insurance Brokers, Inc. (IFB), which is an Associate Member of our Association and ready to help Members with their needs. To reach IFB, call Michael Sabino at (201) 460-8465 or 1 (800) 336-6121. Or send an email to

Also, Integrated Specialty Coverages (ISC) is another Associate Member of the PLBTA. You can purchase ISC insurance through a broker or through Gaslamp Insurance Services at 1-888-681-1230. For more information on ISC, call (619) 550-8786.


You don’t want to be left in the dark during a crisis. And it helps to be in-the-know during times of normalcy. Being a part of organized taverns should be in your yearly plan.

During the first three weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association sent 25 alerts to Members. Each alert contained valuable information ranging from financial matters to safety issues to breaking news.

Based upon the open rate and click-thru rate of each alert we sent, it was very evident that each alert was being read and then circulated. Having access to this type of information can save a business.

We also know that non-members suffered by not being a part of organized taverns as they scrambled to get important news and help. Members certainly had an advantage.

Maintaining your membership in the PLBTA is important at all times. Renewing or joining is as easy as going to and using your credit card. Those who are not Members can easily begin the Membership process using the same Web address.


This story was republished from the May 2020 edition of the Pennsylvania Beverage Media, which is the official monthly magazine of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association.

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