Surviving the Fall Pandemic in Your Restaurant: Start With Some Research
As a result of consumer changes around the coronavirus, the restaurant industry has been hit hard with restaurant and foodservice sales losses surpassing $185 billion between March and August. Without the expansion of off-premises business in restaurants across all segments, the impact would have been much worse.
To boost off-premises business, some restaurant operators added curbside takeout, added by about 67% of operators since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in March. That’s according to a survey of 3,500 restaurant operators conducted by the National Restaurant Association from August 26 – September 1.
Third Party Restaurant Delivery Is Up, How To Keep It Profitable
Twenty-seven percent of operators say they added third-party delivery, while 17% added in-house delivery. Among the restaurant operators that added any of these off-premises options, a majority say they plan to continue offering it after COVID-19 passes. This points to changes in both consumer behavior and how restaurants work.
The $26.8 billion online ordering market is turning out to be the fastest-growing source of restaurant sales in the United States, according to The NPD group. Digital orders, while still accounting for just 5% of all restaurant orders, are growing some 20% each year. Restaurant visits, meanwhile, are remaining mostly flat or declining. Expect the numbers for online and call-in orders to continue to grow.
Develop A Menu Matrix To See How Your Guests Are Changing Their Purchasing Behavior
Take a look at what’s selling and compare that, month-by-month over the past 6 or 7 months to see if there have been any shifts in what people are buying from you. Run a Product Mix (PMIX) from your point of sale for each month in order of popularity and look for any changes that have occurred (if you do this correctly you will have 7 reports to compare). This will tell you what your customers are interested in from you and what you might offer in the future. Keep in mind, some of the changes in what people order will be seasonal, but other changes will be about how they are dining with you and what products you are offering travel best and which items best represent your brand currently.
Talk To Your Guests
This can be through social media, or over the phone, or in person but ask questions about the food, service and how they feel about you and your products. It never ceases to amaze me how few restaurant operators simply ask their customers what they think. Especially since most people want to offer their opinions. What’s more, the better you know someone the more honest they become. Except most people stop asking. So, here’s what you do, when you see someone who visits your restaurant on a regular basis, ask them a short list of questions to help you better understand how you might improve to help you grow.
Pay close attention to comments and reviews, and answer each comment good or bad in a nice way (do not make things worse by arguing with anyone, ever). What you are looking for are any changes that have happened in the past few months. You are also looking to build a stronger relationship with your potential customers.
And finally, test your products. As an established restaurant operator, you probably know how your plated products look and taste in the restaurant. But have you taken your products home with you? Do you have any idea how well your products taste once they have sat in a car for half an hour? Test everything you sell and make sure what you’re making will taste great after it sits for a while. If it doesn’t, take it off the carryout menu. And if someone insists on ordering the item, tell them what to expect. Honesty in this situation is your best policy. Simply tell the customer that you don’t recommend that item for carryout or delivery because it doesn’t meet your quality standards if it is not eaten fresh.
HotOperator is a foodservice marketing agency. We love restaurants. We want them to survive. But we can’t do that unless we work together. Hire us to help you romance your restaurant brand.
Mark and Kelly are a marketing team and managing partners of HotOperator. They have been working in the restaurant business since 1989. Contact them through the HotOperator website, or by calling 800-316-3198. or contact Laux here.