The novel coronavirus has affected restaurant businesses heavily, as governments across the world are enforcing social distancing rules and discouraging public gatherings. Concerns related to food safety and hygiene has also emerged among customers, though there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 through food.
Customer footfall is down tremendously and only cloud kitchens, delivery and takeaway models are operational. In response to the current crisis, restaurants are getting creative and coming up with innovative ways to fight back.
The challenge is unprecedented, but restaurants have quickly undergone a seismic shift by thinking out of the box. Let’s look at some of these short-term changes implemented by QSR chains to stay relevant, engage customers and do their bit for the community.
New Operational Models of Food and Essentials Delivery
Safe Delivery Initiatives by Junzi Kitchen: US-based fast-casual restaurant Junzi Kitchen had started their contactless delivery model four weeks ago that allowed couriers to drop-off the food package at the door of the customer. As tensions have escalated, they have adopted a new practice – delivering the food with a new ‘integrity seal’ that protects the bags from ripping open on its way to customer location.
Restaurants Signing Up for Online Food Delivery: Deliveroo Singapore has reported a 50% jump in restaurant sign-ups as a growing number of eateries are looking to join the online food delivery business model. As per reports, 600 new restaurants in Singapore have signed up since late January to deal with the drop in customer footfall.
Domino’s Pizza India Partnered With ITC For Delivery of Essential Items: Amid the 21-day countrywide lockdown, Jubilant Foodworks that operates Domino’s Pizza in India has tied up with ITC Ltd. to supply its Aashirvaad brand of wheat flour and spices to customers. Domino’s is leveraging its pizza delivery network to deliver grocery essentials to customers, through the “Dominos Essentials” section on its mobile app. This comes at a time of disruptions in the logistics network, making it harder for households to buy goods of daily use. Demand for home delivery has also surged with the Government-advising people to stay indoors.
Investing In Mobile Apps: Mobile Ordering Saving the Business for Duck Donuts
Duck donuts’ USP was made-to-order donuts, and hence the shutdown was particularly challenging for them. Thankfully, they had launched mobile ordering in 2020, that gives them the option to salvage sales, while providing ordering convenience. In addition to curbside service, some franchisees are creating the made-to-order experience in deliveries, by providing add-ons of sprinkles, toppings, etc. that customers and children can use to decorate donuts at home.
Trimming Their Menu To Bestsellers: McDonald’s USA to Remove Unpopular Menu Items: McDonald’s USA has decided to cut short their elaborate menu in the light of the coronavirus outbreak. The idea is to simplify their operations as they work with less staff and plummeting customer traffic. Restaurants are likely to leverage the offerings of data and analytics to pinpoint their bestselling items and drive sales through personalization via mobile apps.
Innovative Ways to Keep Customers Engaged: Customers of Burger King France are huge fans of their Signature Whopper burger. With an easy-to-follow picture guide, the burger chain tweeted the recipe of the Whopper burger to let the customers make it at home. As the tweet gained traction and engaged customers, Burger King France went on to release recipes of more of their popular dishes.
Implementing Social Distancing Measures: Subway and Domino’s chains in Singapore are doing their bit to enforce social distancing in their food joints. The stores have demarcated designated ordering areas and made seating arrangements to ensure the safety of the customers. Hourly cleaning and sanitizing of all customer touchpoints are also part of their efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
Giving Back to the Community: In the midst of huge revenue losses, restaurants are still coming forward to fulfill their social responsibility towards medical personnel and their employees who are risking their health and safety for their work.
Serving Healthcare Workers and Frontliners
Free Meals for Medical Personnel: In a humanitarian move, Nando’s North America has launched a Community Service Program with the aim to bring hot catered, free meals to the hospitals near all Nando’s outlets. They have also pledged to provide free takeout to healthcare workers who walk in with a valid ID and donate surplus food to local food banks.
Delivering Happiness for the Frontliners: Cafe Amazon, Tim Hortons, BonChon and Dairy Queen are doing their bit to help and support healthcare workers, medical personnel and front liners during their fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in the Philippines.
Minor Food Group in Thailand, and its brands – The Pizza Company, Sizzler, Dairy Queen, and Burger King, have extended assistance to the frontline medical workers across the country. Their initiative is to deliver food and sweets directly to the hospitals as a token of support and appreciation.
Addressing Employee Needs
Jollibee Food Corporation in the Philippines has launched an emergency fund of PHP 1 billion for its employees who cannot make it to their workplace due to enhanced community quarantine measures.
McDonald’s Philippines have also announced a special package for the employees who are risking their safety to go to work at their select stores that are open in the midst of the pandemic.
Chipotle Mexican Grill has started to give their hourly employees who are still willing to work a 10% increase in their salary as a token of appreciation.
Yum! brands, through its brands Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell and The Habit Burger, have launched multiple initiatives in the month of March, helping communities, employees and franchisee operators. Right from providing free meals to front-line workers, healthcare professionals and children impacted by school closures in the US, to providing financial support to employees and restaurant managers and books to families in need.
The increasing ‘shelter at home’ mandates have given restaurant businesses a push to think outside the box! Social distancing is the motto of the day, and probably for many more months ahead. Restaurants have the opportunity to be creative and many are adopting new-age technology and becoming more data-driven. Investments in mobile apps are on the rise, and so is the quest to upgrade their personalization to drive sales and online customer engagement.
Will the changes in consumer behavior last, long after the crisis is over? Will the new methods of operation and surge in online ordering stay for good? What do you think?
About the Author:
Bhavna is responsible for product marketing for Manthan’s Customer Experience Portfolio, and is continuously striving to help technology buyers navigate a complex martech landscape. She works with the product team, analysts and clients to create and evangelize technology enabled customer engagement best practices. Reach out to her to understand how customer data and personalization are disrupting traditional marketing in the retail and restaurant industries.