The restaurant industry’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been, in a word, impressive. Tough decisions have been made, new business strategies rolled out, closings and re-openings and some re-closing—all often on a day’s notice. Restaurateurs and multi-unit operators have shown that agility, and the ability to adapt quickly across a large operation, is a competitive differentiator if not a survival skill.
But beyond the launch of curbside service, limited menu options, or new sanitization procedures, what has changed about the work that’s actually happening in stores every day?
By analyzing the usage of Zenput across 50,000-plus locations in more than 40 countries, we have a unique opportunity to see at scale what type of work happens across locations, at what frequency, and how operators have responded during the coronavirus pandemic. We took a close look at quick-service and fast-casual brands in particular and found the following:
- Quick-serves are completing 280 percent-plus more “safety” work per week compared to pre-COVID-19 levels
- Quick-service staff are tracking 37 percent more work/activity overall per week compared to pre-COVID highs
- Larger chains (70-plus locations) are more reliant on technology to coordinate response relative to smaller/independent chains
Similar to other industry reports, we saw a 14 percent drop in “closures” in March and April—the decrease in the number of locations using the app at all during that time
Increase in Safety Work at Quick-Service Stores
An increase in “safety” work may not come as a surprise, but the 280 percent increase is meaningful because it highlights the level of action that these organizations are taking, and the importance of enforcing their new safety procedures operation-wide.
The nearly 4x increase underscores the extent to which multi-unit operators have responded and taken responsibility for customer and employee safety. Previously, “safety” typically focused on food safety and customer experience—a food safety audit checklist or makeline temperature check are common examples. However, the increase in safety work is also due to the broadened scope of the effort now being taken on at the store level, including more sanitization procedures, maintaining social distancing protocols, and completing health checks or screenings to check employee’s temperature before a shift and ask questions about recent interactions.
The increase in safety work also signals that multi-unit operators are more actively assigning and enforcing the completion of this work as opposed to just assuming that it will get done. While washing hands or cleaning counters may have been a normal part of the day to day, VPs of operations and other leaders are increasingly assigning “safety” and other types of tasks to help store staff know what to do, how, and when, and to give leaders better visibility into whether or not it was done.
37 Percent Increase in All Store-Level Work Pre-COVID
In Zenput, store managers and staff complete checklists and answer questions such as “were the front door handles sanitized” at certain times of the day. In March and April, such activity in stores that remained open dropped 19 percent as the first wave of closures hit the industry. However that activity rebounded 69 percent from the lows of March and April—an increase of 37 percent from the highs before the coronavirus outbreak.
The increase in total work being completed and tracked in stores is a combination of employees being asked to do more work more regularly, as well as operators’ desire to oversee it more effectively, particularly by larger organizations with more locations.
Larger Chains More Reliant on Technology to Quickly Coordinate COVID-19 Response
The more locations run by one operation, the more difficult it is to change course or roll out new procedures as a single unit and ensure compliance against them. Zenput’s platform data shows that users from larger organizations (70-plus locations) use the platform twice as often as smaller firms, and that their usage doubled with the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic while smaller teams increased their usage too but at a lesser rate.