We all know consumers’ habits were changing long before 2020, but the pandemic certainly accelerated the timeline for deploying new technology when looking at the restaurant industry as a whole.
For 2021, Chipotle estimates that over 70% of its new restaurants will have mobile pickup lanes, up from 60% this year. For QSR brands, digital transformation is already paying off. QSRs like Taco Bell, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and other large brands are seeing drive-thru sales increase to as much as 90% of their overall business. With so much growth in drive-thru and off-premise ordering due to COVID-19, independent operators of takeout and dine-in only restaurants are increasingly turning to online ordering to boost contactless sales.
Before COVID-19, Kismet Bistro in Newport News, Virginia, only received 5% of its sales as takeout orders. Since late March, the bistro has been offering curbside pickup to recover from the 60% decline in sales it initially saw from the pandemic.
Across the United States, many other independent restaurants are in the same boat. A survey by the James Beard Foundation revealed that 80% of independent restaurants were unsure that offering delivery and takeout would allow them to survive.
Traditional ways of getting delivery and takeout, like calling ahead or going into the restaurant to place a to-go order, fail to completely capture all of a restaurant’s target market. With phone orders, customers will not be able to select their meals and add-ons until talking to a live person – making the ordering process more complicated than it needs to be in this digital age. Plus, your staff wastes precious time on the phone handling last-minute modifications and questions that an online ordering app or web page would typically handle.
Here’s what you need to know to be ready for the next wave of digital transformation:
Consumers are Less Brand Loyal
85% of consumers surveyed by Shopkick, a rewards shopping app, no longer care about brand names when shopping for groceries. This reflects the utilitarian mindset of consumers during COVID-19, and it means your restaurant can adapt by making the ordering, payment and food delivery process as simple, convenient and safe as possible for your customers.
Reconsider Your LTOs
Over the past few years, many Limited Time Offers consisted of fun, Instagram-worthy food items like Taco Bell’s Nacho Fries. The QSR even debuted a Nachos Party Pack that was ideal for sharing during the Super Bowl and other get-togethers. With social distancing still in effect, QSRs are focusing on more practical, family-oriented items for their LTOs.
KFC recently launched a $30 fill up to complement its $20 and $5 fill up offerings, showing the emphasis QSRs are now placing on feeding the entire family. Changing your LTO messaging is important too, since it reminds consumers that you understand their difficult situation, especially with many having to teach their children, work, and provide dinner all at home. The $30 fill up, for instance, has enough food for a family of four, and KFC states on its website that it is “plenty of food for tonight and tomorrow” so customers do not have to make as many trips outside of their home.
Implement Online Ordering
Setting up online ordering is easier than ever – download our step-by-step guide to establishing an online presence to give your customers the convenience, speed and safety they have come to expect this year.
If you have a cloud-based point of sale system, ask your provider if there is a native online ordering solution available that integrates directly with your POS software.
Build Your Online Footprint
As you’ll read in our online ordering guide, hungry customers are increasingly looking online for their next favorite restaurant. Even after states reopen dining rooms with social distancing protocols in place, many of your potential customers may still be wary of eating in public places. To capture more business after setting up online ordering, follow these tips:
- Include your address to help customers find you through localized searches
- Make sure location hours reflect the specific start and end times for online orders and delivery
- Create a shorter, easy-to-read menu for online orders
- Include order buttons so customers can order directly from your site
- Use third-party delivery services to help your customers find you in multiple places online
Get Social Media-Savvy
Social media does more than just promote your business to a mass audience; it entices repeat customers to explore your offerings and encourages new customers to give you a try. Our guide to building an online presence contains many helpful tips for going social, including the following:
- Create posts encouraging guests to tag your restaurant after they receive their order
- Post daily specials and popular menu items
- Be as helpful as possible by answering questions through social media
To learn more about setting up your restaurant for a new normal, check out the blog posts below: