Restaurants have been one of the hardest-hit industries—along with the live entertainment industry—since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Much like theatre, restaurants thrive off of having an actual audience to fill their seats, enjoy their culinary performance, dine, and leave satisfied to tell their friends and families. Both industries walk a fine line of profit, usually making barely enough to stay afloat under normal circumstances. If your restaurant has been feeling the loss of seeing your loyal customers in person, you're not alone.
The good news for restaurants is that online orders have supplied some means of cash flow, unlike theaters that sit completely dark. That's not to say the situation is in any way easy, but that there's hope to hold onto thanks to the fact that customers know to make an online order to support your business. Although pivoting into the world of delivery and pickup is a unique challenge, adopting an online order system that integrates mobile apps like ChowNow, Postmates, Doordash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats to streamline the takeout process for your restaurant will make work much more efficient.
Last year, your restaurant and staff may not have needed all the delivery systems and analytics in one place, because you had fewer delivery orders and could easily manage each separate online order system. Now, it's a good option, because it means your orders won't get lost in the shuffle. That way you can still give excellent customer service even if it's done remotely.
POS system analytics give restaurant owners and their teams some valuable insight into customer data, which is why it's important to have POS integration with your existing POS system instead of all of the information being spread across several tablets. It's worth the monthly fee to know exactly where your business stands, so you can make the necessary decisions to ride out the pandemic.
Once you have your POS together, you're left to navigate the staffing and supplies during the pandemic. While delivery platforms like Uber Eats, Doordash, Grubhub, Postmates, and ChowNow generally provide their own drivers, there are other things you'll want to get taken care of, too. Here are a few tips that will make this maintenance as painless as possible for restaurant owners.
Cutting back where you need.
For small restaurants, especially, it can be difficult to make changes or cuts to your staff. You know each person individually and they may have been part of your team for a long time. Depending on what kind of demand you have for curbside pickup and Facebook orders, layoffs or cutting hours may be your only option. The bottom line is that as a vendor, it's more important to keep the business afloat than to have every member of your original staff.
Eventually, the pandemic will be over and you'll be able to offer them their old jobs back. Stay on good terms with staff that you've had to lay off or furlough. Once you've paired down who's essential on your team, you may still need former employees to help if one of your workers has to take time off, because of COVID-19. Take a hard look at your books to consider which workers you absolutely need for restaurant operation. If your monthly sales are high enough due to an influx of online food orders and supplies that aren't costing you too much more, keep your staff. Restaurants of all sizes are facing the same challenges, so you won't be judged for doing what's best for business.
Fill in the gaps with the employees you already have.
Sometimes you have to step into a new role during times of need. Since mobile ordering is so popular, you may want to offer your own takeaway service to ensure that meals get to your customers nice and hot—or cold—depending on your restaurant brand. Online sales can overwhelm delivery drivers and even if your staff can handle the online food ordering system, that doesn't mean there won't be more tickets than a single Doordash driver can manage on a bike. The third-party platforms are great to help expedite delivery in the restaurant industry, but to keep delivery time low and your restaurant partners happy, have one of your former waiters with a car start work takeout.
Doing an online advertisement in-house.
One of the many pros of working in the restaurant industry is that it attracts people with many different specialties who are making their way through school or paying back student loans. You might be shocked by the insights that a waiter can provide you about your restaurant website, email marketing, and your Facebook page, not to mention how easy it is to use your online ordering platform compared to major mobile apps like DoorDash.
More and more, business owners need to know how to create their own website in order to stay relevant and competitive, no matter what they do outside of the service industry. Especially for younger generations who grew up on smartphones and mobile apps, the setup of an online ordering website could be a breeze for some of your waitstaff.
If you've been paying a big firm to help you with advertising, see if anyone on your waitstaff or in your kitchen could handle the job at a fraction of a price. Customer support in real-time and updating the web-based menu items for online sales is an important component of customer satisfaction. If you've had to furlough waiters, because your dining room is closed, reach out and see who has the skillset. Since that person knows your business inside and out, they may be able to provide useful insights and create more effective marketing campaigns.
Curate your menu to fit your needs.
Many restaurants are pairing down their food offers in order to accommodate their supply chain. As empty shelves in grocery stores have shown the general public time and again, some food is just hard to come by right now. As a vendor, if you're unable to provide your full menu to customers due to a lack of supplies, that's okay. Instead, curate a menu of your greatest hits with food that you can find in abundance. You can also do limited offerings of dishes that ingredients that are difficult to come by, just sell it at an additional cost. You may be able to upcharge even after the pandemic if people are desperate enough for one of your signature dishes.
Weed out your surplus before it goes bad.
If you've been buying in bulk in order to mitigate food shortages, it's possible that you might have a surplus of ingredients with an impending expiration date. In order to avoid losing money on food waste, you can offer discounts on food you have in surplus as a form of real-time inventory management. Coupons and promotions always attract customers and a lot of people are only able to afford takeaway if it's at a discount right now due to layoffs.
If you don't want to give a flat out discount, create a loyalty program and reward more points to customers that buy meals that are made with those items. That should help with your inventory management, relationship management with existing vendors, and boost online orders. Customers don't have to know the true reason behind your generosity.
Especially with third-party platforms like Uber Eats, GrubHub, DoorDash, and ChowNow taking a commission from your online orders, driving more business to your restaurant can help you mitigate payment processing fees from credit card companies like Mastercard as well as transaction fees and commission fees from online ordering software like DoorDash or ChowNow. Finding a POS system that offers a flat monthly fee can be even more important in these scenarios since it means that you get all of the key features you need in real-time without having to pay extra for payment processing or to integrate with another online food ordering system.
Even in the most difficult times, it's important to try to make good out of a tough situation. The changes you're making in your staff and the setbacks in supplies aren't permanent. Cut the fat in your restaurant and try to innovate solutions that not only benefit the company, but also your staff and customer base by reallocating staffing positions, keeping advertisement in-house, and being flexible with abundance/scarcity in your supply chain.