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This is an editorial article. Whilst some restaurants referenced throughout are Square Sellers, others are not.
For most eateries in Australia, COVID-19’s impact on restaurants came quickly and meant that they would no longer be able to accommodate dine-in customers. With limited prep time, some establishments shut down completely, others worked on starting an online store, and still, others turned their dining rooms and bars into staging areas for expanding delivery and curbside pickup. The reduced service hours also meant a greater supply of inventory that could go to waste.
A resourceful group of several restaurateurs came up with a bright idea: sell their surplus goods to customers who were having a difficult time finding essential products at their local grocery stores. Be it fresh meat, produce, or even highly coveted paper products, eating establishments have the products that consumers want, and many stores offer these goods for takeaway and delivery.
The transition puts restaurants in a new position in the supply chain—many of them have made the transformation from restaurateur to food delivery grocer overnight. This positions restaurants as both an expanded resource for their customers and a support structure for their suppliers.
With Australian restaurants spending around 31.2 percent on food and 30.6 percent on beverages, suppliers have been heavily affected by both the closure and scaling back of restaurant operations nationwide.
As businesses are adapting their product offerings, they may end up having to endure their new takeaway and delivery business models longer than originally anticipated. According to a recent article in ABC News, many consumers are practising more social distancing, shopping less in physical stores, and venturing out to just pick up groceries and household items.
Here are some of the ways that traditional restaurants are dealing with the new normal by transitioning from dine-in only establishments to no contact delivery and curbside pickup businesses.
Making quick moves
With many consumers expecting activities like dining out to be affected for a while, even fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s in Australia started offering grocery staples during lockdown for coronavirus. Many local Macca’s allowed consumers to order from their pantry and purchase items like milk, bread, and eggs, along with the restaurant’s regular menu items, when they visited the drive-through.
This new sales approach isn’t limited to fast-food restaurants. In Carlton, Melbourne, Heart Attack and Vine launched an online grocery store offering just about everything you need (including house-made porchetta) to whip up an Italian meal at home. Sixpenny, a fine dining restaurant in NSW, Sydney, transforms into a grocer part of the weekends to offer weekly produce boxes for curbside pickup.
The always-filled tables of Attica, in Melbourne, now sit empty, but don’t worry. You didn’t miss your chance to enjoy these award-winning creations from Ben Shewry. Like every other business, Attica has also had to pivot and now offers Attic at Home — pre-set courses that are available for delivery. And why not jump on this trend, as Australians spend $1.590 each year on takeaway and delivery. With more people staying home, rather than going out, that trend will probably continue to rise. Especially when restaurants start calculating the cost of reopening, some small restaurants and businesses may find that food delivery is more profitable than opening at 50 percent capacity.
Supporting the at-home cooking trend
In a world where staying and cooking at home has become the norm, restaurants are thinking out of the box and supplying home cooks with the ingredients for takeaway and delivery that they need to make delicious meals at home. Ragazzi Wine and Spirits has created DIY Pasta Packs that can be found at a number of local Sydney grocers along with their hand-selected wine.
In a related twist, some restaurants are sharing recipes and meal kits with customers who would otherwise be enjoying dine-in meals at their establishments. Atlas’s Chef Charlie Carrington is offering The Atlas Masterclass each week. A semi-prepped ingredient box that contains restaurant quality meals is brought to your home with no contact delivery. The meal can be readied by even the most amateur of cooks. Customers can then tune in for a tutorial by the head chef as he walks them through a meal preparation that can be done in less than 30 minutes.
Filling a void in the supply chain
With the exception of extreme weather or natural disaster events, it’s rare that something mobilises consumers to rush to empty grocery store shelves. Most of us don’t know what it’s like to roam empty grocery aisles in search of life’s basic necessities.
When we added the scarcity of food and essentials to our list of concerns, COVID-19 created both hardships and opportunities for the world’s restaurants. From the single-location breakfast nook up to the global restaurant conglomerate, the chance to fulfil a new role as takeaway and delivery service in the supply chain opened up almost overnight.
To restaurants that want to leverage their supply chains by selling groceries for curbside pickup, creating meal kits, or providing customers options besides their traditional fare with other creative strategies, here are four tips to get started:
- Talk to your customers. What do they want or need? What would help make their lives easier and what tools do you have in your own toolkit that can help accommodate these needs (while supporting your own sales goals)?
- Get creative with it. This is a time when your establishment can get into lines of business that you would never have thought of otherwise—like selling no contact delivery paper products—but challenging times call for innovative ideas.
- Sell online. Develop meal kits for takeaway and delivery and post details about them (and how to order them, pick them up or have them delivered) on Instagram or Facebook, or include them in an email to customers. If you don’t have a takeaway software system, now is the time to invest. Plus, it’s one of the best ways for increasing restaurant sales.
- Market what you have. Things have changed, and they’ve changed quickly. Send your customers an email (and use whatever social media you use most) to let them know what you’re still serving, if you have takeaway and delivery options, and when or if there are other ways they can support your business and employees.
Even as the government lockdowns start to roll back, restaurants will still need to supplement their revenues to offset the impacts of the social distancing rules and possible limits to the number of tables they can serve at any given time. Eateries that have a restaurant point-of-sale that can handle an online store, dine-in, takeaway, and delivery are well-positioned to roll with the constant changes in the industry. Learn more about Square’s restaurant POS features.
By connecting their customers with the food items and essentials that they need, and by reducing the amount of human-to-human contact required for the transaction (i.e., by not having to visit a grocery store, individuals can help reduce the spread of COVID-19), restaurants are fulfilling a critical need in the food supply chain. Along the way, they’re also helping their suppliers stay in business and shoring up their own bottom lines.
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