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Find Out How Restaurant Owners Are Operating Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Restaurants Revamp Menus, Operations to Stay in Business During Pandemic

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Lucy Kwak paints a sign on the window of a fast food chain's restaurant indicating that the drive-thru window is still open as well as a takeout option during the coronavirus outbreak in Garden Grove, Calif. VOA

In the battle to keep their New York City restaurant going despite sharp restrictions during the coronavirus outbreak, the owners of Il Posto Accanto tried something Beatrice Tosti di Valminuta would have considered sacrilege in normal times.

That was offering their traditional Italian dishes for delivery, “which never, never, never, ever, ever, ever happened before,” she said. “I like my food to go from the kitchen to the table, and that’s it!”

On Friday, she said she and husband Julio Pena decided to suspend operations because employees were wary of being out in New York City, which is now the U.S. epicenter of the contagion.

“We respect their feelings,” she said. “It’s not like we were making money.”

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James Mark, right, owner of the restaurant Big King, talks with Jennifer Wittlin as they prepare for dinner take-out orders Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Providence, R.I. Mark said pushing to restart the economy before the health crisis is over would put businesses like his in a terrible position. VOA

Across the United States, restaurateurs are transforming operations to try to stay afloat. The National Restaurant Association warns that the outbreak could cost 5 million to 7 million jobs and hundreds of billions in losses and is pushing for a special federal relief package for restaurants.

In an industry of traditionally tight profit margins, some decided it’s time to take chances.

Frisch’s Big Boy restaurants, a Cincinnati-based chain that laid off more than a third of its 5,000 employees in the first days of bans on in-restaurant dining, last week pivoted into the grocery business. Besides its signature Big Boy double-decker burgers and onion rings, customers at its 100 restaurants in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky can buy bread, milk and and produce at its drive-throughs and carryout counters and via home delivery.

Frisch’s saw a quick jump in revenues at a time when people have been frustrated by long lines and shortages at traditional supermarkets. Toilet paper is in high demand, and Frisch’s and others are using it as a lure.

Westmont Diner in Westmont, N.J., has added it to carry-out options at 60 cents a roll, along with paper towels, soap, bleach and other household needs. Lindey’s in Columbus, Ohio, throws in a free roll with all takeout orders. Frontier in Chicago gave out decks of cards to homebound customers with their carryout dinners.

Some close

With the number of states with stay-at-home orders growing, some restaurateurs decided to shut down. Cameron Mitchell, based in Columbus, said carryout offerings weren’t bringing in enough business to keep his namesake chain of 36 restaurants in 12 states going. More than 4,000 employees were laid off last week.

Some fine-dining restaurants unused to carryout are trying scaled-down menu at bargain prices.

In Chicago, patrons can now carry out food for a fraction of the typical dine-in tab at Alinea, where nabbing a seat typically requires reservations weeks in advance and dinners can cost as much as $395 per head. Alinea now offers takeout meals of beef wellington, mashed potatoes and creme brulee for $39.95, and reports strong sales so far.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday that with Californians under a stay-home edict, restaurants are allowed to deliver alcoholic beverages along with meals to boost their revenues.

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Frisch’s Big Boy restaurant employee Nicole Cox bags up an order of toilet paper, among in-demand items including milk and bread the double-decker burger chain is now offering during the coronavirus outbreak in Cincinnati, Ohio. VOA

Sitting in the nearly empty Frisch’s “Mainliner” restaurant where the chain originated in suburban Cincinnati in 1942, CEO Jason Vaughn said customers at the privately held chain’s 100 restaurants have asked for additions, such as bottles of orange juice, quarts of soup and coffee for home. Frisch’s is trying to leverage its supply chain to accommodate requests.

Vaughn predicts the crisis will change the industry.

“People have changed habits,” he  said. “When the green light goes on, we don’t expect to come back as status quo … when we go to whatever that new norm is, we’ll see if we can continue it [groceries] if it’s a service the community wants.”

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In New York, Tosti said leftover meals would be given to city firefighters. She said the restaurant’s future after some 15 years of operation would depend on how long quarantining and edicts against in-restaurant dining lasted.

“I’m better at taking it one day at a time,” said the Rome-born restaurateur. “We can hope for a better day.” (VOA)

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Social Media: A Boon Amid Lockdown

Social media has proved itself a boon, be it dealing with a crisis or emergency and sometimes even saving a life

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Social media has proved its worth in these times. Pixabay

BY PUJA GUPTA

There have been several incidents when social media has proved itself a boon; be it dealing with a crisis or emergency and sometimes even saving a life. There are various groups and communities formed on different platforms that work as a support system of communities.

‘My Pincode’ is one such group on Facebook that was launched by the NGO Social Media Matters in April when the entire country was confined in their houses. It is about local groups on Facebook to virtually connect, communicate, collaborate and create a support system for each other in their respective pincode areas. These groups bring together users, community leaders, subject matter experts, resource points and organizations at a very hyper-local level to provide immediate support, relief, and share critical information.

Blood donation, ration supply, repair work, daily essential information, government advisories are the highlights of My Pincode as these demands top the charts across posts made by users. Partners like Sarvahitey, Akshay Patra Foundation, Blood Bank were fundamental in their roles to look into all the requests and take immediate action.

Shantanu Garg, who lives in West Delhi, posted on the group requesting for a blood donor on behalf of a friend. Within a few hours, moderators of the group who tagged all volunteers and other admins and started reaching out to other blood donor agencies were able to arrange the required amount of blood. There have also been other instances of such donor requests. Sajal Bhateja’s request for urgent requirement of blood on South Delhi Group was also addressed in two hours.

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There are various groups and communities formed on different platforms that work as a support system of communities. Pixabay

Other topics that are being discussed on the groups are:

Which is the nearest clinic I can visit?

Where can I get emergency help?

What does the situation look like right now on the roads?

What are the queues like at the shops?

How much longer will supplies last?

Are courier services working in the area?

Which are the nearest Government and Private Testing Centres?

Can I visit the police stations?

Are postal services working in the area?

How do I obtain a curfew pass?

What is the situation at the hospitals?

Are there any blood donor requests?

In an attempt to bring together communities from 170 hotspots of India across 17 states (as identified by the Central Government of India in April 15, 2020) and crowdsource help, open groups have been formed and are being managed by moderators and group admins, trained by the NGO. It will be further extended to 32 states and union territories.

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Social media groups bring together users, community leaders, subject matter experts, resource points, and organizations at a very hyper-local level to provide immediate support. Pixabay

Each state has a moderator and several admins who have been moderating the discussions and letting users connect with each other for essential and verified information as to keep fake profiles/information away.

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Every day the lead moderators sift through all the groups to look for any inappropriate content that is posted/approved/queried. As soon as users post on the group, the network of admins gets activated and they look into the prime information or request made by the user. Once that is identified, the request is verified and then the network gets activated to resolve the request. (IANS)

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Cybercrime on Rise During Pandemic, Warns UN

There has been a 600 percent increase in malicious emails during the ongoing pandemic

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A Toyota Hybrid during a test for hackers at the Cybersecurity Conference in Lille, northern France, Jan. 29, 2020. VOA

The U.N. disarmament chief said the COVID-19 pandemic is moving the world toward increased technological innovation and online collaboration but warned that “cybercrime is also on the rise, with a 600 percent increase in malicious emails during the current crisis.”, as suggested by Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) news.

Izumi Nakamitsu told an informal meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday that “there have also been worrying reports of attacks against health care organizations and medical research facilities worldwide.”

She said growing digital dependency has increased the vulnerability to cyberattacks, and “it is estimated that one such attack takes place every 39 seconds.”

According to the International Telecommunication Union, “nearly 90 countries are still only at the early stages of making commitments to cybersecurity,” Nakamitsu said.

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Nearly 90 countries are still only at the early stages of making commitments to cybersecurity. Pixabay

The high representative for disarmament affairs said the threat from misusing information and communications technology “is urgent.” But she said there is also good news, pointing to some global progress at the United Nations to address the threats as a result of the development of norms for the use of such technology.

Also Read: New York Times Devotes Entire Front Page to COVID-19 Victims

Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas, whose country holds the Security Council presidency and organized Friday’s meeting on cyber stability and advancing responsible government behavior in cyberspace, said “the COVID-19 crisis has put extra pressure on our critical services in terms of cybersecurity.”

He said the need for “a secure and functioning cyberspace” is therefore more pressing than ever, and he condemned cyberattacks targeting hospitals, medical research facilities and other infrastructure, especially during the pandemic.

“Those attacks are unacceptable,” Ratas said. “It will be important to hold the offenders responsible for their behavior.” VOA

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Reimagining Business Models for a Post-Pandemic World

The idea is suggested by a book named "It's Logical: Innovating Profitable Business Models"

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The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will cause a drastic reimagining of business models in going forward. Pixabay

The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will entail a drastic reimagining of business models in going forward says a new book on the subject that proposes frameworks with Design Thinking as the backbone for creating win-win situations.

“Today, more than ever, there is a strong need for re-imagining the way business needs to be conducted through deep empathy and exploring win-win situations for all stakeholders involved,” writes Kaustubh Dhargalkar, an entrepreneur-turned-academician, innovation evangelist and start-up mentor, in “It’s Logical: Innovating Profitable Business Models” published by Sage and which is available as an ebook on Amazon.

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The book is available as an ebook on Amazon. Wikimedia Commons

To this end, the book proposes “frameworks (with Design Thinking as the backbone) for creating win-win situations to visualize sustainable business models in times to come, which should prove useful in the prevailing, unprecedented circumstances”.

Laced with multiple real life studies, the book advocates that innovation is not about flash in the pan ideas; it is driven by pure logic. It further explains how to map the ecosystem to understand synergies for creating innovative offerings.

In his foreword, Sudhakar Nadkarni (Founder, Industrial Design Centre at IIT-Bombay; Founder, Department of Design at IIT-Guwahati) writes: “It takes great effort and a long time to develop an innovative culture. Innovation, as is often said, does not fall from the heavens. It takes vision and a strong commitment to the objective.”

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Noting that he has “some reservations” about the “fashion” that innovation centres have become, Nadkarni says: One cannot innovate in the absence of an ecosystem that drives innovation. This book, supported by deep research and many case studies, shows that it is possible to come up with an innovative business model that does not stick to conventional paradigms.”

Drawing an analogy with cricket, Nadkarni says that creating a good business model involves “searching for gaps, angling the bat and caressing the ball in the desired direction. It requires a creative yet trained mind. This book tells you exactly how to spot those gaps in the field and train your creative muscle.” (IANS)