Originally published by Etie Hertz on Modern Restaurant Management on February 14, 2018.

Forty percent of small businesses never recover from a disaster, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.) The statistic is especially sobering in light of the devastating hurricanes that hit Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico this past year, where local independent or family-owned restaurant businesses have felt the debilitating impacts of natural disasters along with their surrounding communities. Recovery for affected restaurants is often not as simple as picking up the pieces and opening up shop once more.Properly supporting the rebound of your restaurant requires that you have the ability to do three critical things: reference a comprehensive history of business activity, accurately assess the damages you’ve experienced and employ some versatility in navigating the transitional period. With some help from your tablet-to-cloud POS system, you can channel these three tips to pave a reliable, informed path to getting your restaurant back on track.

Knowing Your History

Disaster or not, having a clear perspective of how your restaurant operates, its sales and performance is imperative. In the event of a disaster however, the value of historical information increases exponentially. Having a record of what has and hasn’t worked at your restaurant, what sells and what doesn’t, what times you see the most traffic, customer insights – these are all areas that can be essential in informing your approach as you rebuild and work on getting back online.

Beyond the value it brings to your own recovery efforts, this type of data is also beneficial when it comes to support programs. The ability to easily report data regarding past sales, performance trends and more, can offer useful transparency when participating in government assistance programs designed to reimburse you for losses.

Furthermore, that data is accessible regardless of the state of your physical restaurant location. Thanks to your cloud-based POS, you can retrieve all the information you need right when you need it – a remarkable convenience when considering the vulnerability of paper records or local servers.

When bracing for Hurricane Sandy, some businesses in the area placed their local servers on top of tables, with the expectation that they would get three feet of water. But the three feet turned out to be six – causing those servers to be lost along with the valuable information they stored. Using your cloud-based POS, you can circumvent such risks to your restaurant in the event of a disaster – and always have your history on the record.

Scoping the Damage

If your restaurant was impacted by a hurricane or different disaster, it’s critical to have an understanding of what was lost. The damages to your business must be assessed, as well as their value – from every piece of broken furniture to every last bit of lost inventory. It’s important to be able to establish what expired in the pantry, what won’t be reusable by the time you’re able to reopen your doors and how much all of it cost you.

Unlike other businesses, restaurants deal in inventory that primarily consists of food, which spoils at a much faster frequency. What’s salvageable? What’s depreciated beyond the point of return? These are questions you will want to have an answer for – and your POS system can help in the process.

Through your POS solution, you can leverage the historical view to see exactly what inventory levels were at before and after a disaster. You can utilize that data as a basis to determine exactly where and how your restaurant has been affected. The resulting findings help you report your losses with confidence to your insurance provider – or to government assistance programs – to ensure your restaurant’s path to recovery receives appropriate aid.

Employing Much-Needed Versatility

In the wake of a disaster, it would be a mistake to imagine that you can get back to business as usual the moment you get your restaurant up and running again. What can’t be forgotten is that the impact of a disaster is felt by the entire neighborhood and community your restaurant is a part of – so getting your business back online doesn’t necessarily equate to a return to normalcy.

With the surrounding environment changed, you need to treat your restaurant like it’s a brand new business.  Looking forward after a disaster, you must be able to analyze your business operation and make adjustments on the fly. Versatility becomes key for success. Leveraging the insights yielded by your tablet-to-cloud POS, you can closely assess transaction and sales data, cut out the things don’t appear to be performing well for you, identify areas of opportunity and capitalize where it counts. Such transparency into how your business is operating can also equip you with the perspective needed to define an adjusted budget for the weeks or months your restaurant is forced offline or required to operate on an abnormal schedule.

Also, versatility takes on new meaning given the emerging trends reshaping consumers’ relationships with restaurants. For example, it’s feasible that mobile and online food ordering and delivery see a spike in activity after a disaster, considering they can serve as a necessity or convenience for people whose homes or living situations have been disrupted. Through integrated capabilities to support such orders on your POS, you can seamlessly meet that demand. Even if your restaurant isn’t yet ready to be open for customers at its physical location – as long as your kitchen is in functioning shape, you may have the opportunity to offset lost revenues by maintaining online order and delivery services for the duration of the recovery period.

A POS-Driven Rebound

The bottom line after a disaster affects your business is as simple as this: every day your restaurant isn’t online, you’re unfortunately at a growing disadvantage. Your tablet-to-cloud POS platform helps minimize the time spent offline by giving you the tools you need to fix the key aspects of your business and expedite your restaurant’s recovery – and this applies to both the period after a disaster and before it. The latest POS solutions come loaded with features that allow you to automate reordering for materials and inventory from your various vendors – if the news is telling you to brace for a severe hurricane, you can make sure to adjust those orders ahead of time to reduce potential waste, or cancel them altogether if necessary.

Another understated but important aspect of your POS solution: the technology partner providing it. With the right partner, you can expect reliable customer support to guide you through all of the above, every step of the way – particularly in the aftermath after your restaurant has been impacted by a disaster. At the end of the day, rebounding from a hurricane – or any other natural disaster – can seem daunting for your restaurant business. But with a little help from your POS platform, all the unnecessarily hard parts can become the easiest – and you can fast track your restaurant’s road to recovery.

Alissa McCue

Alissa McCue

Alissa McCue has over 10 years of marketing and public relations experience working for top brands in retail and technology. As Senior Manager of Public Relations at ShopKeep, the #1-rated iPad Point of Sale System, Alissa is focused on highlighting ShopKeep's major achievements and thought leadership in the POS and technology space for independent businesses.