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How to Utilize Technology to Thrive in Challenging Times

In this time of uncertainty, restaurants are dealing with a number of challenges. From operational adjustments to ensure safe delivery to effective communication and labour costs, restaurants should look to technological tools to help them thrive during this crisis.

Delivery and takeout have been essential to keeping foodservice businesses afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, and while restaurants across Canada have begun to think about or prepare for reopening, it’s estimated that delivery and takeout will still remain vital to operations.

Third-party delivery apps are used by many operators to ensure that their business gets in front of the widest audience as possible. While many third-party delivery apps are working with restaurants to support their operations, there are still some challenges such as higher commission rates or longer payment times.

Additionally, the reality of the “new normal” is that restaurants may have to deal with a reduced number of guests and increased costs for cleaning procedures (number of seats and time to turn over tables). Recruiting and retaining labour will continue to be an issue, and with so many changes, restaurants will need to effectively and efficiently communicate with customers to ensure loyalty.

Restaurants navigating these challenges should pivot and reformat:

  • Reduce the menu to signature dishes and daily specials instead of trying to offer something for everyone, specialize in the items that you excel at.
  • Takeout menus need to be thoroughly thought-out to items that will carry well.
  • Limit and revolve the takeout menu to four to five dishes at a time to enable producing and delivering large number of orders in a short period of time (think food truck mentality efficiency).
  • Leverage the customers’ previous experience with what makes your restaurant unique, the idea is to deliver the same experience in a different format. With reduced seating the same customer who would come once a week and spend $120 – $150 dining in, you want to price/value for them to pick up take out two to three times a week with an average bill amount of $50 – $60.

What are the technological solutions that restaurants can work with?

  • Communication

Restaurants need to focus on having a direct effective communication conduit to their customers, think kitchen tablet to a customer’s cell phone.

  • Automation

Utilize or add on automation tools that integrate your web and in-store order management infrastructure to scale up to larger order capacity with less manual labor and human error transpositions.

  • Timing / Scheduling

Rethink your hours for service and preparation. Consider advance booking for pick-up to enable efficient preparation. Ensure that your operation is practicing social distancing for both delivery drivers and customers and staff. See the Restaurants Canada COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Guide for more information.

  • Pricing

It may be time to reassess your costs and margins, shifting takeout costs to encourage higher ordering frequency by adding value at lower than dine-in costs, cost/convenience ratio for pick-up to the customer.

  • Loyalty

As we all know, travel and tourism will be greatly impacted for the foreseeable future. This may translate to a large drop in international tourists and an increase in domestic tourism. Anticipate and reward the loyalty, encourage their feedback, and enhance the direct communication to capitalize on the unique experience you provide. Leverage your existing customer relationship to foster a new conduit through their mobile device instead of shaking their hand. Rotate special offerings for premier customers.

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