When an opportunity arises, it’s how you frame it that can make all the difference.
The team at Expo Party Rentals, Fresno, Calif., experienced that firsthand. Like so many other party and event rental operations, it has been hit hard by the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
It’s been “a devastating time,” admits Jared Medaris, CERP, president, Expo Party Rentals, Fresno, Calif., and an ARA of California board member.
“Part of our business is setting up trade shows. We saw all of the trade shows, then the corporate events and then weddings and other large gatherings cancel or postpone,” he says. That meant laying off staff and trying to figure out how to survive during this difficult time.
But Medaris and his reduced staff didn’t wait for business to come to them. They went out and searched for it anywhere they could.
“Members of our executive committee — our best talkers, even though not necessarily salespeople for our company — started going out, making personal visits to businesses and actively seeking opportunities,” he says.
Helping them in that effort was the American Rental Association’s (ARA) Clean. Safe. Essential. program. As soon as ARA unveiled it, Connie Viramontes, one of the owners of Expo, jumped onboard to take the training certificate program and put things into practice. The team touted the company’s adherence to the program’s guidelines to potential customers.
“That has really helped our business. Before we went through the program, we felt we were doing OK. Going through it helped us see what the standard is. We have marketed it to our customers,” Medaris says.
Eventually their hard work started to pay off. At first, they were able to secure tent rentals at area hospitals for testing sites and waiting room areas. Then they put up tents for food processing plants that needed extra breakroom areas for their essential employees. All these tents were long-term rentals, which is exactly what Medaris and his team needed.
When California started allowing restaurants to offer limited-capacity outdoor dining, Medaris thought that might be another tenting opportunity.
But then “we realized there were a lot of restaurants that started putting up popups or they decided to close because they couldn’t provide a nice dining experience outdoors,” he says.
That’s when an opportunity arose.
“We had one local restaurant that was getting flak from the city because the owner attempted to defy the order where you can only eat outdoors. He was fined quite a bit and ended up on the local news and radio. We reached out to the owner and sold him on the idea of a tent — but not just a tent. We went into it like we were going to do an event. We made suggestions and even brought in items and set it up for him to see how it would look,” Medaris says.
Part of that setup included bringing in Astroturf, portable bars and high-pressure misting fans that just cool the air but don’t coat everything in water. “There were three trees in the parking lot. We incorporated the trees into the design. We wrapped those trees in lights and strung lights throughout the tent to tie it all together,” Medaris says, adding that the owner wanted to use his own tables and chairs, so the company’s items were not brought into the mix.
The owner loved the idea and went with the rental because it created the right ambiance for his customers. It caught the attention of the local press, too.
“You should have seen the headlines in our local newspaper: ‘[Name of the restaurant] changes its ways.’ We received some good publicity from that. We even worked it out where we placed one of our banners on the backside of the tent. Once we did that restaurant, most of the high-end restaurants in town started calling us. We now have tents up at seven restaurants and another four would like tents up by the end of the week,” he says.
“It was a great way to break into this market and get some publicity from it. Plus, this restaurant owner is thinking of keeping the tent up through the winter because it helps his capacity so much,” Medaris adds.
The tent rentals at the hospitals, processing plants and now the restaurants have been a tremendous help — “a true saving grace,” Medaris says. “More than 80 percent of our rentals are coming from these long-term tents. If we didn’t have these, we would be looking at some really tough decisions. We have been able to bring back 20 percent of our workforce so far.”
It wasn’t easy to get to this point. “We didn’t wait for the opportunities to come to us. We had to decide where it was best to put our efforts. Rather than spending time in our warehouse cleaning up or doing projects, we thought it would be important to muster up some business,” he says, adding, “we are just trying to stay alive right now.”
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