Throughout the fall, mild temperatures kept diners coming to restaurants with the ability to have either an indoor or an outdoor experience. However, with COVID-19 cases on the rise, restaurants in cities like New York and Philadelphia once again shut down their indoor operations. As diners choose to forgo outdoor experiences because of the cold weather, restaurant owners need to develop a sound strategy to handle this second wave, putting carryout and delivery back on the table as practical ways to serve customers.
It is probably safe to say that carryout and delivery aren’t the top ways in which restaurants look to engage with their customers when they open for business. However, the pandemic has exacerbated the need for these services, and restaurant owners must have a concentrated plan for how these operations are going to keep their businesses afloat a second time around. So what is it that they need to consider? Technology.
Optimization is where restaurants need to focus
Technology has been part of the restaurant industry for some time. However, the growing demand to meet customer needs and expectations has pushed restaurants into a place where they need to do something different in order to make a difference. For example, retaining a significant percentage of customers even though indoor operations are shut down would be a massive win for restaurants, and something like this ultimately boils down to enhanced optimization.
Most of the restaurants in the world today work on the FIFO method: first in, first out. While seemingly practical, this method precludes restaurants from making smart decisions regarding when preparation should begin and if there will be a courier to meet the order as soon as it comes out of the oven. However, technological advancements have rendered the FIFO method irrelevant. It is now all about considering all parts of the journey, taking into account factors such as order type, driver location, number of items in the order and more, and being able to prioritize preparation and delivery status based on these other factors. The situation where drivers are waiting for food to be prepared (labor cost waste) or the food waiting for the driver to arrive (cold food) is seemingly eliminated.
By considering these different factors, restaurants are able to operate both their kitchens and delivery operations (whether it be in-house or through a third party delivery system) with efficiency, guaranteeing hot & fresh food at the client’s doorstep.
Moving delivery in-house is critical for success
Delivery aggregators have certainly held their fair share of the market since the onset of COVID-19, and rightly so. Their services are convenient. However, as fees have mounted and some cities have had to put limits on how much of a cut these services can take, restaurants have an opportunity to meet their customers’ needs without having to fall victim to aggregator fees. By providing a way for customers to order from the restaurant’s website or app that mimics the ease and convenience of third party delivery systems, restaurants can skip the high fees and provide a sound customer experience – including sharing every step of the food preparation journey and accurate time estimates for delivery. In fact, researchers have found that customers enjoy tracking package deliveries, so why not provide that same service to food deliveries and increase customer engagement and retention?
Consumer lifestyle changes are changing delivery habits, and restaurants need to adapt
Across the board, consumers have changed the way they approach going out and ordering, and what once was the early bird special is now the norm for dinner. While many wouldn’t think that a change in time as minor as this would have an impact on restaurants, it actually changes their entire operation. Given that consumers have leaned towards the early side for food, breaks that restaurant workers once took in the mid-to-late afternoon are now eliminated to accommodate the increase in orders during that time.
A way for restaurants to capitalize on the early bird audience is to offer different dinner services. For example, if consumers begin ordering around 5 p.m., restaurants can cater to certain needs between then and 7:30 p.m. After that, they can add “late night” offerings that may add or eliminate parts of the menu and, but reach another audience to ensure that they are catering to everyone.
Ultimately, the most important thing is for restaurants to be nimble and continue adjusting to the ever-changing needs of the customer. Restaurants have a lot they can do—both in the kitchen and during delivery—to ensure their processes are seamless and customers are kept top of mind.
Ido Levanon is the CEO of Dragontail Systems. He has 20-plus years’ experience and a proven track record in successful management and turnaround of various international companies. He was CEO and a seed investor in several technology start-ups and a Financial Planning Manager for Fujitsu USA. Ido holds an MBA from San Diego University. He has been part of DT Israel since its inception in 2013 as one of the founding investors