For most restaurants, there have always been three ways to serve guests and make money: dine-in, takeout and delivery. Now that government authorities, in an effort to help flatten the coronavirus curve, have required all dining rooms to close, you’re left with only the latter two options. And as a result, you may find yourself scrambling. How could you not? Unlike a known disruption like a mandatory minimum wage increase, no one was prepared for a global pandemic.
This is certainly a time to get creative and scrappy, but don’t panic. Plan. What you do now in the short term can mean the difference in your establishment’s long-term survival.
With that in mind, we offer the following quick checklist of considerations for dealing with this new world of dining.
Create a delivery protocol.
Now is the time to put your best foot forward. Whether it’s your own staff making the delivery or an outside vendor, take the time to perform a quality check before the order leaves your premises. Consider designating someone (perhaps repurpose front-of-house staff members for this role) to cross-check the order with what’s in the bag.
First impressions can make or break a repeat order, which is critical in this environment.
Whether it’s staples or tape, seal the bag. When the fear of germs is so very top of mind, make it clear to the diner that their bag was impenetrable on its way from your kitchen to their front door.
Create (and communicate) your hygiene protocol.
State on your website what you’re doing. Don’t assume the general public knows you’re checking temperatures before staff crosses your threshold; that everyone is wearing gloves. Provide peace of mind. Go the extra mile and include a simple insert that tells diners the precautions you’re taking to make sure everyone that comes in contact with their order demonstrates the highest level of hygiene practices.
Don’t rule out local delivery services.
Even if you have partnered with one or more of the national players (Seamless, GrubHub, etc.,), now is a great time to work with local delivery service providers. RMS recently spoke to Shane Broussard, of the Restaurant Marketing & Delivery Association and DeliverLogic. He explained that in the online ordering game, guests are interested in delivery, not loyalty. So cover all your bases; be everywhere. For a list of delivery services in your area, send a DM to https://www.facebook.com/thermda.
When working with a locally-owned provider, Broussard points out, you have more leverage when it comes to co-marketing opportunities than you would with a national partner. This also plays well with the current interest in supporting local communities. Again, the point here is to ensure you are in as many places as possible.
- Offer contactless-delivery and contact-less curbside pickup.
The greatest risks of virus transmission are (so far) associated with interacting with people, not food. Now’s a good time to resurrect the childhood prank of ding-dong ditch and use it as a differentiator. The customer orders, the order is left at the door with no human interaction. Similarly for curbside pickup, the less interaction, the better. It might be the only way to stay afloat and open—and avoid mass layoffs and furloughs like the many restaurants, even airports, we’ve already seen do so.
- Check and recheck social media accounts.
In the midst of self-isolating and mandated shelter-in-place orders, it’s safe to assume social media will play an even greater role in our lives. Customer engagement will no doubt increase across all platforms. Pay attention to customer feedback regarding all facets of your brand: accuracy of order, packaging, menu options, and delivery experience.
These are, to state the obvious, trying times, especially for our industry. At RMS, we want to help you make the best decisions. Each week, we will feature new tips, and expert input and analysis to help guide and inform you. Our data analysts are currently at work, examining data from the 2007-08 recession to understand what led to the eventual bounce back then—so we can help you get there faster this time. And you will. We all will. Stay well and stay tuned.