On the other side of the pandemic, restaurant operators will need new ways of engaging."

“How do we come out of COVID-19 whole?”

That’s the difficult question the foodservice industry is working hard to answer.

Many restaurant operators have had to make very tough decisions about reworking their business models to continue to generate revenue and provide resources and income to their staff and provide food to their communities. While delivery, curbside takeout and family meals might be a fit for some restaurants, not all operators are able to make pivot successfully.

But remaining status quo during a time of so much change is terminal. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your business model so that you can adapt to the unseen future is paramount.

On the other side of the pandemic, restaurant operators will need new ways of engaging. Customers will have higher expectations about how restaurants execute business. Delivery and takeout may still be the largest generators of consumer purchase and providing transparency will be key.

Additionally, consumers will want innovation. Restaurants need to continue to provide new options on their menus to stay relevant.

Sharing success stories can help the foodservice community learn and grow together as we navigate this health and economic crisis. Here are four strategies that are working for many operators:

Pivoting to takeout and deliveryRed Robin has done a great job of adapting. Opting into “native delivery” or “direct delivery,” the chain is offering “Red Robin Delivery” (with cashless tipping) to save on hefty delivery commissions. It’s a win-win, as customers earn rewards and Red Robin captures integral user data.

Moving to virtual brands and ghost kitchensDog Haus has stepped up its game to generate some relief to the revenue lost due to COVID-19. The chain is launching The Absolute Brands, a series of brands designed to operate in a ghost kitchen, a professional foodservice operation set up solely for delivery meals. Looking at the operator’s current pantry list, menu and previously successful limited-time-only items, co-founders Hagop Giragossian, Quasim Riaz and Andre Vener designed eight new concepts to fit. Dog Haus is able to maximize its digital presence and potentially engage with new customers in new dayparts.

Selling direct to consumers with “RestauMarkets” — Some restaurant menus aren’t designed for the delivery space. To continue to operate, restaurants like Capital Grille are offering meal components, like raw steaks and sides, for purchase to prepare at home.

Using technology hacks — Restaurant operators are using existing reservation platforms in a new way to reach their guests. Farmer’s Restaurant Group has remade its restaurants into markets and uses platforms such as OpenTable to schedule specific pickups for guests to buy goods. Reservation platform Tock has pivoted into an app designed for fine-dining restaurants to offer curbside pickup. Chicago’s Alinea and BOKA are using Tock to provide fine-dining-quality comfort foods at an affordable price.

Good ideas can come from anywhere. A crisis of this magnitude affects everyone: CEOs, managers, hourly employees and others. When one opportunity closes, there is always more than one way to evolve. The foodservice industry, by nature, is comprised of some of the most forward-thinking and creative individuals — chefs, marketers, business entrepreneurs and go-getters — and they’re all digging in to find new ways to provide services.

Advantage Solutions

Jess Bograd
Director of Culinary R&D
CSSI Marketing + Culinary

Jess Bograd joined CSSI Marketing + Culinary in 2012. She works strategically across the enterprise providing continued innovation and support to all of her clients.

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