For most people paying attention to the economics of the hospitality industry, the impact COVID has had on bars and restaurants begins and ends with those individual businesses. What are capacity limits? When’s last call? How much longer am I going to have to enforce this freakin’ mask order?
But there’s much more to the restaurant economy than just dining spots. It’s made up of linen companies, florists, cleaning companies, apron makers, PR reps, menu printers, tea and coffee providers, chemical suppliers, farmers, ranchers, liquor distributors, and on and on. We were curious about how these folks have been affected, so we cornered Kyle Ewing, founder and president of Denver menu printer TerraSlate Paper, for a quick Q&A.
DiningOut Magazine: What portion of was your business was menu printing prior to restaurant shutdowns?
Kyle Ewing: It was about 50 percent hospitality. In January we had an all-time sales record. Typically, that’s a slow time of year so that was a surprise. February was really good, and then March fell completely on its face. We saw an initial dip [in sales] in Asia and southeast Asia, then restaurants all over the world stopped spending.
April was slow and things picked back up in May. We’re now back to 100 percent [of pre-COVID] sales.
DO: What changes to services or operations have you made since March?
KE: We didn’t invent the touchless menu, but we made the best QR menu on the market. [Restaurants] need a QR code to load anywhere, regardless of location—whether they’re in a basement—or provider. If it doesn’t load within two seconds, restaurants get complaints and then they’re looking at a bad Yelp review. We host it on a very high-speed portal for a one-time fee ($49) and no monthly fee; basically, we host them all for free indefinitely. This has sold very well, and we’ve seen a lot of customers ordering touchless and paper menus.
DO: What are your revenues compared to this time last year?
KE: Our revenue had taken a hit [earlier in the year], but now we are up $72,000 from last year at the end of September. One of the things that’s nice for us is that we make waterproof menus that happen to work really well for restaurants. In a post-COVID world, we got lucky because the menus are easy to sanitize. You can clean them with soap and water, spray them, or run them through the dishwasher. [We still sell] way more paper menus than touchless menus.
What business are you curious about in these—say it all together now—unprecedented times? Email your experiences (and thoughts, opinions, and questions—anything, really) to email@example.com.