Another way that we’ve been uniquely positioned is from our closed kitchens which means minimal opportunities for physical interaction. We had strong food safety procedures in place already, such as buzzer signaling the need to change gloves and wash hands every 15 mins, and we’ve added to them for extra protection. We’ve communicated our enhanced safety procedures via email, in social media and at the store level. We continue to make improvements with the safety of our guests and employees being our number one priority. Only this week we rolled out new procedures for making our interactions with guests completely ‘contactless.' We have the advantage of closed kitchens, so the cashier is the final place where guests physically interact with crew. We now have gloves, trays and new procedures to remove that physical contact altogether.
Even so, what are some challenges the brand is facing? Are less people going out in general, drive thru or not? If so, how do you plan to weather the crisis?
Our mostly drive-thru only restaurants, closed kitchens and delivery partnerships with multiple national providers has really helped our brand to fair better than others during these difficult times, and the majority of our restaurants remain open. However, some of our restaurants, particularly in New York City, that are dine-in only have been hard hit. We are seeing reduced traffic, especially during late night due to curfews in various markets across the country, so we’ve cut back on late night hours in some locations. At the same time, we’re also seeing larger than average delivery checks as our customers stock up on meals, which is offsetting about a third of the traffic loss.
In terms of franchisees, what are some ways Checkers & Rally’s has lent operators a hand?
As we work with our franchisees through this crisis, the key is communication, communication, communication! We send our franchisees daily updates about our response to coronavirus-related issues, changing government mandates, information about the CARES Act and the latest tools from organizations like the National Restaurant Association. And as I mentioned earlier, we’re also offering our franchisees options on royalty deferments and reduced marketing fees, and for operators, we’re shipping items to restaurants that support our efforts to create contactless experiences like special gloves for cashiers and trays to hand out our to-go bags.
Talk about the community response so far.
We are a working-class brand operating in many instances in working class communities. We are grateful that so many of our loyal guests continue to support us during this crisis. In return, we are doing everything we can to support our communities as they struggle through this crisis. As an organization, Checkers & Rally’s is partnering with No Kid Hungry to provide up to one million meals to kids in our communities who are going without am struck by the tremendous acts of kindness that we’re seeing throughout our system ... Many of our franchisees are going above and beyond to give back. One of our franchisees in New Jersey, for example, is distributing thousands of free combo meal certificates to first responders and he’s delivering free meals to local medical centers. Another franchisee is serving free kid’s meals in his community.
What are your thoughts on how the stimulus package might help?
We are extremely grateful for the leadership of the National Restaurant Association as they worked with Congress to ensure restaurants would be helped during this crisis. We are hopeful that in the next few weeks our franchisees and our company restaurants will receive the aid they need to pay their employees and manage their businesses.
Lastly, generally speaking, what do you think the industry is going to look like on the other side of this? How will it change Checkers & Rally’s specifically?
In general, I think that the restaurant industry will manage through this temporary situation, and as curfews, stay-at-home mandates and other guidelines are lifted, I think we will see guests with “cabin fever” return to restaurants in large numbers. For Checkers & Rally’s, I believe we have an optimistic path forward, built on our drive-thru only concept, delivery program, and the assistance coming from the CARES Act. In addition, our leadership team, franchisees, operators and team members have shown tremendous dedication and passion for our brand and for serving our guests, and because of this, I believe we will emerge stronger than ever.