During COVID, Restaurants Need to Find Their ‘Why’

    Coolgreens CEO Robert Lee on how to stay rooted in your vision.

    Coolgreens

    The best ideas prior, during, and eventually after the crisis will be the ones that solve a problem but also align with a brand's purpose.

    In business, it’s essential to remember your “why”—why you started your company, why customers love your brand, and why they make your brand a part of their life. When the COVID-19 crisis struck, restaurants were forced to immediately shift their strategies. For our team at Coolgreens, one of the hardest parts about the pandemic was acting fast while still remaining focused on our “why.” Because at the end of the day, isn’t our vision ultimately the most important part of our brand?

    Over the years, we’ve seen that the best and most successful brands are those who understand their “why” and focus on getting guests to embrace their point of view, not just their product. At Coolgreens, our vision has been clear since day one—we sow the seeds of health in every community in which we plant our roots. We offer much more than just chef-inspired nutritious foods, we build healthy lifestyles through contributing to vibrant communities. So, as the industry continues to evolve, we have to determine how to consistently incorporate this critical element of our brand into everything we do.

    Here are three ways your brand can keep up with industry shifts while still progressing toward your vision: 

    Identify a forward-thinking business model that fits your goals. For the first couple of months of the pandemic, brands were in survival mode. We quickly realized that we needed to shift to a business model that was conducive for the near term while still enabling us to accomplish our growth plans.

    In early 2020, we launched Coolgreens Market—smart fridges that offer a quick, affordable and delicious way to grab healthy food on-the-go. Initially, Coolgreens Market was targeted for high-traffic, dense areas such as airports and stadiums, but the pandemic steered us in a different direction. We took the opportunity to alter our focus towards high-rise apartments and corporate office buildings to enable guests to conveniently enjoy our foods at home or in their workspaces. In addition to Coolgreens Market, we also decided to open a virtual kitchen space so that we can easily and safely deliver meals directly to guests. With both of these business models, we remain in alignment with our vision of making our foods easily accessible to those pursuing a healthy lifestyle.

    Stay committed to the experience your guests know and love. There are so many great brands that have exceptional food, but you have to offer something that people desire that goes beyond the food. During lockdown, operators became limited in the experience they could provide, and guests felt it too. Our local teams missed interacting with our guests, which is one of the easiest, most direct ways we educate the community on the benefits of healthy living.

    So, our first question was, “how can we maintain our culture, within our team, when we aren’t seeing guests as often?” For some locations, curbside delivery ended up being the safest way for us to provide meals while keeping up those meaningful conversations that make our brand special. In locations where curbside is not possible, we have made our To-Go/Pickup more efficient and streamlined our app’s ordering process to improve the experience for our guests.  This has allowed us to continue building relationships and encourage healthful lifestyles within the community.

    Establish ways to fulfill your guests’ changing needs. As the pandemic is now coming up on  a  year, we realize that life has changed. New consumer habits have been created that force brands to determine how they will  fit into their guests’ new routines. Our regular customers are still our regular customers, but their habits have changed. Many have switched to online ordering. We’ve seen an increase of 150 percent in online orders and online ticket averages are 20% higher than in-restaurant. People are increasing the size of their orders and treating us as an important part of their family’s meal planning for the week.

    This change in consumer habits made us consider what other options we should offer now so we can adjust to our customers’ shift in routines. To adapt to the new trend, one of our franchise owners is launching a subscription service that enables guests to place a weekly salad order. For a fixed price per week or per month, Coolgreens will deliver fresh, great tasting, healthy meals directly to guests’ doorsteps. This is one innovative way that we can provide meals to help our guests consistently eat healthier.

    Throughout this trying time, we’ve realized that our best ideas prior, during and eventually after the crisis are the ones that solve a problem but also align with our vision. Even as we reach our consumer in new ways, that brand identity that brought customers to our restaurant in the first place is still very much ingrained in our concept. We are staying focused on our core; we won’t waver or dilute our brand. We’re excited to be offering new avenues to access our food because we are confident and proud of how we’ve stayed true to what we aspire to be. No matter how different things have become, we’re still fueling communities with “food that feeds your life.”