While every industry was hit hard during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the restaurant industry faced especially tough challenges. Lockdown restrictions either greatly limited the number of customers who could dine in, or they eliminated in-person dining altogether. Many small restaurants were forced to close their doors, and those that survived had to quickly adapt to providing online options.
The demand for online orders in food service has risen sharply in the past couple of years, with 60 percent of U.S. customers stating that they order takeout or delivery at least once a week, and 32 percent claiming to use third-party delivery services at least twice a week.
It's clear that if you hope to survive in the food industry, then you need to take your business online. There are several ways to do this, such as adapting online food delivery to your existing restaurant, setting up a ghost kitchen purely for delivery orders and pickup, or even selling meal kits or fresh produce through an e-commerce shop.
The thing to keep in mind is that a "virtual brand" refers to any food service where customers are only able to place orders online, rather than going to an in-person location.
No matter what route you decide to go down, you're going to need some great virtual branding on your side in order to attract customers. Online marketplaces are constantly expanding and becoming more competitive, so everything from having a convenient checkout process to your online presence makes a big difference for your business. Here are just a few of the biggest things you can do to make a positive impact on your virtual brand, so your kitchen will be able to survive and thrive in an ever-changing market.
Modern customers demand convenience and near-instant gratification from virtually all services these days. Providing this convenience can often make things more hectic for business leaders and workers, but it doesn't have to be that way if you're incorporating the right technology into your brand. You've likely heard of point of sale systems, and while they're often used in retail businesses, a restaurant POS system can make a tremendous difference for your virtual food service brand. You're already trying to delight your customers' taste buds—now you can delight everyone.
When customers go to the checkout line with their groceries at a retail store, they'll interact with a POS system equipped with a computer, customer-facing display, credit and debit card reader, barcode scanner, and more.
For online orders, a POS works a bit differently. It will collect orders from all your different virtual brands, run them in the same system, and create tickets for each order to distribute in the kitchen. This saves employees from having to sort through confusing tickets themselves, improves the accuracy of your orders, and increases customer satisfaction when orders are completed faster.
Even better, a POS system is the perfect way to collect customer data, which you can use for online promotions and marketing strategies to build your virtual brand further. You'll be able to determine who your best customers are and make them special offers or provide coupons to further encourage customer loyalty.
Creating a virtual restaurant brand will let you appear on as many third-party delivery apps as you want, increasing your potential customer pool significantly. You've likely tried out some of these apps (Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats, etc.) yourself, and you may have noticed that certain restaurants will appear on some apps but not others. Appearing on as many as you can increases the odds that more customers will come in contact with your virtual brand.
One of the biggest roadblocks to this approach is that these third-party apps generally charge commission fees on each sale. Collecting orders from different delivery apps on multiple devices can also be a big challenge for your kitchen staff. Wouldn't it be great if there was a way to collect all your delivery apps on a single device for a flat monthly fee?
That's the service we provide at Cuboh, and our online ordering system can revolutionize the way your kitchen works. We can seamlessly integrate with your POS to provide data-driven insights with our deep analytics. This will help you determine which virtual branding strategies are working and decide when you'll need to scale your kitchen to keep up with increasing customer demand.
If you're running a virtual kitchen already, there's nothing stopping you from having multiple virtual brands. Comfort food is extremely popular on online apps, and if you notice that your sandwiches and wraps with fresh produce and veggies are hot sellers, you can build a virtual brand around them. Naturally, if you have popular desserts, you can create a virtual dessert brand as well. Anything you excel at can become a virtual brand for you to push on food apps and social media.
Take a look at some meal kit brands like HelloFresh while you're at it. These meal kits include fresh food that can be prepared with simple step recipes if it's not ready to be eaten already. If there are certain types of food that you frequently have left over, instead of letting it become food waste, you can sell these veggies or other items in your own meal kits. Simple step recipes may include directions for making a gourmet salad, craft burgers, soups, or anything else you want to sell. The greatest thing about virtual brands is that they give your kitchen the freedom to experiment with new ideas at relatively low costs.
You'll want to attach each of your virtual brands to social media accounts as well in order to connect with customers on a deeper level. Pictures of chefs making your most popular meals, stories from satisfied customers, and current promotions are all great things to share on social media. You can even set up free accounts for business aggregates like Google My Business to increase your rankings in local search results on mobile devices. With the right virtual branding, you can help your restaurant dream thrive in practically any environment.