Pictured: The Balzac’s Coffee Roasters mobile app
The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the restaurant industry is well documented. While takeout and delivery has allowed many to weather the storm and on-site dining has now resumed (in a limited capacity) in many jurisdictions, the virus does remain in most communities.
The need to follow public health guidelines means there are restrictions on operations and added costs that restaurateurs have to manage. On top of this, we’re experiencing a recessionary environment that is likely to limit the discretionary spending capacity of restaurant customers. It’s a profoundly uncertain and challenging time.
Having acknowledged the challenges we all face, I do want to pivot to a more optimistic tone. Looking beyond the pandemic, I’d like to outline some of the innovations that have helped the foodservice industry cope with this environment that I believe positions it well for recovery. These innovations have created lasting impacts on how restaurants are best able to serve customer demand, today and tomorrow. Let’s dive into a few initiatives that I think are here to stay.
Takeout & delivery are not going away
While takeout and delivery had long been a staple of many QSR segments, with the pandemic making it the only game in town, a broad cross-section of restaurants have made these services available to their customers. According to Think With Google, Canadians searching for takeout increased over 100% and delivery searches increased 130% in comparison to the previous 30 days between March and April of 2020.
As restaurant restrictions are ease, how will customers feel about dining out again? Datassential reports that people generally feel comfortable visiting restaurants, with 61% of respondents feeling that QSRs are the safest to attend, for example.
But what about the other 39%? Continuing to offer a range of dining options, such as contactless takeout and delivery, is important to serve all of your customers. They’ll feel more comfortable visiting your establishment and limit person-to-person interaction to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Pictured: Fresh Restaurants mobile app
Emphasis on digital ordering
What ordering channels has your restaurant been offering during the pandemic? A study by Sense360 reports that customers prefer to order from restaurants’ own ordering channels as opposed to a third-party marketplace due to “fewer fees” for both the consumer and restaurant. A study by Datassential says that 18% of those surveyed will order using a restaurant’s website or mobile app more now than they would have prior to the pandemic, highlighting the importance of digital ordering.
Digital ordering also comes with the benefit of contactless payments. For example, our mobile apps and web ordering come equipped with digital payments when customers order ahead for pick up or delivery. All customers have to do is load their preferred payment method, such as a major credit card, PayPal and ApplePay. It’s clear that customers are utilizing contactless payments, as 48% of those surveyed by Datassential have used contactless payments during the pandemic.
The habits that customers pick up now will likely persist post-COVID-19. If your customers get used to ordering from your own branded ordering platform, they will continue to remain loyal as time goes on.
Pictured: Moxie’s web ordering
Do it yourself, with a little help
During COVID-19, we’ve become accustomed to staying home to help stop the spread of COVID-19. This means cooking at home more than some of us are used to.
According to a study by Global Web Index, on average between Gen Z to Baby Boomers, 25% are more likely to order food and grocery products online for delivery or in-store pickup. To fill this customer need, many restaurants have added grocery packs and meal kits to their menus, such as Moxie’s on their web ordering (at select locations).
Restaurants that offer meal kits and grocery packs give customers the opportunity to try cooking something new. Datassential found that 73% of survey respondents wanted to order DIY “comfort meals” and 68% wanted a “build your own pizza kit” from restaurants.
This trend combines the best of both worlds: curated meals by restaurants and your own cooking experimentation. Datassential reports that 25% of restaurateurs added meal kits to their menus, 16% added grocery packs, and more than half plan on keeping both around after the pandemic.
Looking forward, beyond the pandemic
Times of uncertainty cause us to reflect and adapt to changing circumstances. The innovations born out of this uncertainty can create new opportunities that we hadn’t considered before. We also may gain new insights that will help us plan for the future.
For restaurants, the innovations brought about by necessity at the onset of the pandemic promise to be an enduring legacy of a difficult time and will serve restaurants and their customers well in a post-COVID world.
Will you order from a restaurant tonight? Maybe through their online ordering platform? What about adding a meal kit to your cart too? It’s important to support your local restaurants during this time, as they need our help more than ever. And the next year or so will give us a greater glimpse into what innovations are truly here to stay.