When you’ve spent years building up a business, with long days, sleepless nights, and your mind forever racing thinking of ways to grow and optimize, the idea of starting again from scratch can bring up strong feelings of resistance. But when things suddenly change, as they have with the current Covid-19 situation, you have to put those feelings aside and take positive action to transition to a model that suits the times.
Lockdown or no lockdown, people need to be fed.
With revenue for many shared kitchen operators and tenants wiped out by mass cancellations and closures, we’ve had a lot of requests for advice on transitioning to a different model.
We’ve seen some truly inspiring stories of swift action taken, where shared kitchen owners and tenants quickly pivoted to set up grocery stores, offer meal-kits, and deliver meals to healthcare workers among many other initiatives.
Two common themes are food businesses transitioning to online ordering for delivery or curbside pickup, and others turning to an ecommerce model. So we’ve endeavored to collect all the best information and give you some helpful tips to change up your game.
Transition to Food Delivery or Ecommerce
Food businesses across the country and the world have been forced to jump into a delivery-only model out of necessity as Covid-19 lockdown forces people to stay at home. Artisan producers, bakers, and caterers are also struggling with events and farmer’s markets not taking place, so many are looking to online channels and setting up ecommerce stores to sell their products.
The important thing is to think about the best way your particular business can pivot. How can you use existing resources to offer something relevant to the situation? A good example is distillers producing hand sanitizer during Covid-19 as they already have much of the equipment and access to ingredients needed to easily make the switch.
Whatever you decide to do, the first step is to activate communication channels with your customers to let them know what’s going on. Update your website and social media profiles, and whether you use email, social media, or good old fashioned direct mail to let them know, make sure you open up two-way communications so information can flow both ways.
Let’s take a look at the fundamentals you must put into place to make your transition a success.
Create a Streamlined Delivery Menu
Your delivery menu needs to be focused and full of favorites. Offer high margin dishes that your most loyal customers love. Build your menu around what your best customers repeatedly order and optimize it for maximum efficiency. You’ve got to watch the margins because the delivery costs will eat into your profit.
Think about what will transport well and how you can modify your most popular dishes so that the customers have the best possible experience at the other end. Separate hot elements from cold, for example, and use appropriate packaging to keep the food at its best in transit.
Other considerations are driver insurance, rigorous hygiene guidelines, and offering contactless deliveries. These are all things to bear in mind to give the customer peace of mind and overcome any barriers stopping them from placing an order.
There are two options with delivery. Go it alone, or use a third-party service. If you can offer your own delivery service, you can protect your margins but you have to deal with logistics. Going with a third-party is super convenient but comes with its own cons. More on that below.
Hiring your own drivers is a way to boost the local economy. And keeping things in-house also allows you to keep control of your guest relationships and data for future use in marketing. Very handy for quickly getting back to normal once the lockdown is over.
If you can come together as a whole and utilize any vehicles your tenants have or staff that are looking for work, that’s a great way to maintain control and give the local economy a boost.
Be mindful of the extra costs. You may have to charge a delivery fee but consider offering free delivery for a minimum order amount. Or a special offer of free delivery on second or thirds orders..
Whatever you decide, you need to act fast and get your online ordering and up and running as quickly as possible. You can take orders online, by phone, email, or even text message. But you better make sure you’ve got a system in place to keep on top of it in one place.
With restaurants closed up and down the country, tech companies that supply POS, reservations, marketing, and other software platforms, have quickly launched their own ordering platforms. The good news is a lot of them are offering subscriptions for free, or at a discount – for now. So it’s a good time to take advantage of these offers and get yourself set up with online ordering.