Diligence in preparation is crucial to survive in the post-covid economy.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” ― Abraham Lincoln

The pandemic experience abruptly interrupted “business as usual” across America within the restaurant industry. Discouraging cross-contamination forced restaurants to change their transactional process of doing business. Owners in the hospitality industry must adapt their business models to satisfy newly prescribed criterions for safe food service set into place by the CDC and FDA.  Retail food-establishments now re-opening for business face the task of chopping down these barriers to success prior to hosting customers once again in their restaurants today. Wise implementation of necessary changes can create forward momentum taking actions towards continuous improvement, and renewal for the returning customers and employees returning to the restaurant.  

Steven Covey has published a book entitled, The 7 habits of Highly Effective People. Covey has registered the phrase, “Sharpen the Saw” because of the weight of its meaning, in reference of Abraham Lincoln’s use of it. This phrase is now attached to Mr. Covey’s label for the 7th Habit.


“Seek continuous improvement and renewal professionally and personally.”

Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have–you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.

  • The philosophy behind this habit is to take some time out and invest it in the biggest asset, because no one else is going to do it for us.

By definition, a sharpened axe can effectively chop deeper using less effort and yielding cuts that are more accurate. Time spent in preparation for any ‘big task’ is crucial to optimum results.

Social distancing requirements ask for wider pathways, seating that is spaced apart, and more elbow room in all high traffic areas for employees and customers in the kitchen, dining areas, cocktail lounge areas and lobby waiting spaces. 

Revising the table floor plans to allow for leisurely pass throughs of customer and servers might feel like an improvement to the use of space to customers today. Over the time which Americans have had some time out for health protection. New expectations for individual personal space, and visual proof needed to verify their surroundings are hygienic is now important to Americans. The sociographic of the American consumer have changed – but not to worry – their appetite has not gone anywhere! Americans now place a much higher value on self-care, germ control, avoiding stress, and working to hold onto a peaceful state of mind.

Adapting the physical environment in retail food establishments for ease of movement in pedestrian and employee traffic areas works to satisfy new desires of American consumers as well as the CDC and FDA. Customers who return to a familiar restaurant to find a roomier environment, and visual evidence of measures taken to sustain a hygienic environment will be put at ease. Opening areas where employee and customer foot traffic can ‘bottle neck’ may ask for investment of time and resources. Perhaps a restaurant improvement and renewal are at hand. 

Ben Jackson stated in his May 2020 article entitled, “Covid-19 is a call for investment”, published in Digital Transactions magazine that “The Covid-19 pandemic is a mandate for making investments in customers, employees, and corporate infrastructure.  The pandemic has caused many new problems, but even more so it has shown that old problems need to be addressed more than ever before”. 

“Old problems to be addressed” might be finally addressing the bottleneck of meal preparation caused by a cramped cooking space in the kitchen.  Making space for flow and distancing between the Chef, sous chef, and the expediter could improve the speed of meal delivery. Do too many workers crowd around the same monitors in the kitchen? By adding monitors in open spaces along the prep line – workers can see what their priorities are easier, and they don’t have to breath on each other while looking at them.  Breaking down the food prep flow into steps and adding a printer where a new step is created can help to create a less frantic food prep environment as well.  Some hardware investments might provide better movement for workers as they move from the dining areas to the kitchen area. The installation team at Kitchen Armor are professionals at making those physical changes (https://kitchenarmor.com/services/). Their expertise is working with stainless steel which always makes the kitchen appear clean with its silver shine.

Other “old problems to be addressed” might include finally adapting one streamlined POS implementation that works from Hostess station to the point of paying the bill.  Forcing workers to perform at their best while trying operating a hodge-podge of systems that are not integrated with each other (seating/food prep/payments) adds serious time to how long the customer has to occupy the table before they can leave for the next customer to be seated.  Shaving minutes off your ability to deliver meals will matter more now because customer counts will be limited because of the spacing requirement. Kitchen Armor (https://kitchenarmor.com/testimonials/) made a name for itself by doing this very thing. A streamlined POS system can minimize the number of times the waitstaff, and/or the customer must touch the pay screen. Less touch points increases germ control. Adding on a customer paging system also helps to alert your customer that their table is ready which helps communicate when people are trying to wear face masks and voices become muffled.

Advance preparations help chop down post-covid worries and helps your business survive the change. Before re-opening the doors to your restaurant(s) “Sharpen your Axe” by applying mindful preparations and changes to how business is done with a sense of being a business that is continually improving. One might discover this season of their business might become a rebirth via renewal by preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have- your restaurant and its community.

Covey, S., 1989. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Brooke Knight
Author: Brooke Knight