Off Premises as the New Normal—First How-to Webinar in a Series
"I think we have our hashtag for the week: getguerrilla," said Tom Kaiser, editor of Food on Demand, during the first webinar of a five-part series called Restaurant Recovery Week.
Restaurants large and small that vowed they'd never do delivery are doing it. And people above 60 who had never tried delivery, "they're doing it now. They're not going back after it's over. It's here to stay," said Vishal Agarawal, founder and CEO of ItsaCheckmate.
He spoke during the first installment of Restaurant Recovery Week, a series of five webinars aimed at helping restaurant operators survive COVID-19, from Food On Demand, the Restaurant Finance Monitor, Foodservice News and Franchise Times.
It's week five, more or less depending on location, for most restaurant dining rooms to be closed, yet restaurants are not seeing an 80 percent drop in revenue, the typical percentage of dine-in business before the pandemic. They're seeing maybe a 20 to 25 percent total drop. Meanwhile, total delivery volume has gone up by 35 to 40 percent, said Agarawal, on a panel moderated by Food On Demand Editor Tom Kaiser.
With curbside pickup and delivery the only remaining channel for restaurants, Kaiser asked how to do it profitably. "The menu pricing on a third-party platform has to be different," Agarawal said. "Please mark up your items on your delivery platforms. Please do not lose money on every order."
Scott Absher, a panelist and CEO of ShiftPixy, advocated for native delivery, meaning restaurants should deploy their own staff as delivery personnel and marketers rather than relying only on third-party services.
"People have to rethink their business," he said. "They're losing their connection with employees; they're losing their connection with customers. Now's the time you can pivot, and get people retrained in these technologies and emerge from this pandemic a transformed business. That's how people need to think."
Started as a platform to help restaurants find staff, ShiftPixy now also offers a service to enable the quick launch of native delivery. Absher points out for restaurant operators to continue to qualify for payroll protection loans, "they're going to have to bring people back to work whether there's work to do or not. So, get guerrilla," he said. "Put them to work doing marketing, handing out fliers, and then driving and delivering orders.
Said Kaiser: "I think we have our hashtag for the week: getguerrilla.
Melissa Chavez, director of sales at Dot-It, said contact-free delivery will be a major trend that lasts long after the current crisis subsides. "First and foremost, it's keeping their employees and the public safe. Letting the public know what you're doing, putting minds at ease that you know how to handle food." She recommends sealing the food once it's prepared with a tamper-proof label, including beverages, and including marketing messages about your brand and your safety protocols in each order.
"I also think folks are going to be wary of large gatherings. I don't think you'll have jam-packed dining rooms or bars overnight," so investments in these areas will pay off. "It's critical for brands to invest in the packaging and the tamper labels. In all cases today, your customers are no longer engaging with brick and mortar," she said. "Put a message that says: Sealed for you by our company because we care."
Restaurant Recovery Week runs each day through April 24 at 1 p.m. CST. Tomorrow's topic: Real Estate Update: Restaurant Operator Tactics Today and Opportunity for the Future, moderated by John Hamburger, publisher of the Restaurant Finance Monitor.