As the number of coronavirus cases surge and the pandemic further tightens its grip, the threat to the US economy is being starkly felt. Among the biggest casualties of the current upended economy has been the restaurant industry as the once brimming dining rooms lay vacant and thousands of workers confront overnight unemployment.
The overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to be catastrophic for this sector. The National Restaurant Association revealed that since 1 March 2020, the industry has lost more than 3 million jobs and $25 billion in sales.
Small restaurants are vulnerable both during and in the aftermath of this crisis. According to the latest survey by MetLife and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one in four (24%) small businesses have shut down temporarily in response to COVID-19 and 43% believe they have less than six months until a permanent closure is unavoidable.
However, even the bigger restaurants, having long prestigious legacies aren’t secure. Take Arnaud’s Restaurant for instance. This 102-year-old New Orleans French fine-dining establishment had to stop dine-in services and lay off hundreds of employees in March. They are now offering delivery services with a condensed menu including discounted wines.
Indeed, delivery and take-out services have been the saving grace for most restaurants, helping them stay afloat during this pandemic. An analysis by New York Times of data from Earnest Research, which tracked credit card and debit card purchases of nearly six million people in the United States shows that while customer spending on fine-dining, fast-casual and fast-food dine-ins have plummeted, food delivery services have seen an increase of up to 50%.
A report published by Yelp showing which types of businesses have risen or fallen during the COVID-19 outbreak also reveals that takeout and delivery for categories like Pizza, Thai, and Fast Food have all increased by over 50%
One critical lesson that the restaurant industry has to learn from the current crisis is that having an online ordering system in place is no more about having an auxiliary sales channel but a vital necessity.
We help you identify all the advantages of having an online ordering system for your restaurant post the pandemic, as well as offer top tips when choosing a reliable online ordering platform.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, online ordering was touted as the fastest-growing segment within the restaurant industry, estimated to reach $200 billion by 2025. At present, online ordering is the only source of revenue for restaurants helping them prevent permanent closures. But even beyond, it will continue to serve its importance as businesses brace for long-term changes to the way they operate.
In addition to the important benefits of increasing sales and improving brand value, online ordering services will have even newer and unexpected advantages. Here are some of them.
With restaurants continuing to deliver food despite the present adversities, they are also at the frontline of service, especially the delivery staff, providing relief and refreshment to millions of customers. Speaking to National Post, Kerry Bowman, professor of bioethics and global health at the University of Toronto said that with food delivery apps meeting the needs of a lot of people can have positive psychological effects.
A similar analogy can be applied to a restaurant’s delivery services. The connection that restaurants develop with customers through online delivery during this crisis can continue on the other side of the pandemic as well. More on staying connected with customers during the pandemic here.
First mover advantage
Several restaurants across the country that did not have their in-house online delivery service or those that relied solely on third-party aggregators have made a swift decision to set-up an in-house delivery service. These institutions are going to have a major advantage as early adopters of the technology going forward, from capturing new markets to learning how to promote the online business.
As David Chang of Manhattan’s Momofuku Noodle Bar recently admitted to New York Times, “I thought that shift [from in-restaurant dining to online delivery] was going to happen over the next 10 -15 years and no one would have noticed because it would’ve happened gradually. This change is now going to happen instantaneously.
Seamless transition to newer technologies
The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently said that the post-coronavirus world is going to be more digital than ever before. “The future will be much more digital than in the past. This is going to provide a major impetus for the development of artificial intelligence and cyberspace activities,” he said.
As advanced restaurant technologies come into play, establishments who have adopted online delivery systems will have an upper hand and a better chance at a seamless transition. This because of their familiarity with digital infrastructure and know-how of marketing online services.
Expanding the customer base
During the COVID-19 outbreak, even the most traditional customer has been forced to seek online services. A study by Adobe Analytics in March showed that the digital economy has been growing faster than the economy as a whole in the US in March.
By providing online deliveries, restaurants can expand their customer base by reaching out to newer demographics who hadn’t migrated to using online services prior to the pandemic. “Companies need to pay extra special attention to their digital and eCommerce experiences right now. Consumers are less forgiving during a time like this, and the companies that meet and exceed their needs will build loyalty and lifetime value,” said John Copeland, vice president of marketing and customer insights, Adobe.
Companies have completely transformed the way they operate on a day-to-day basis. By working through the current crisis, restaurants are constantly learning valuable lessons in adapting new workplace models, especially on conducting business through digital mediums.
Experts have all but confirmed the emergence of technology as a bigger and stronger force and, with the experiences garnered from the ongoing situation, the restaurant industry has the opportunity to be at the forefront of this changing business environment.
The importance of online ordering systems for restaurants cannot be stressed enough and the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted its significance even further.
Choosing the right online ordering platform that works for your business can be a stressful task. There are several key factors to consider before narrowing down on one. We’ve outlined some of them to help you make a more informed decision.
Your restaurant’s needs
First and foremost, take stock of your business’s requirements. Some of the things to consider are— what volume of orders you can take on daily, what demographics do you cater to, do you need marketing support, what price point can you afford, etc.
It always helps to list out the platforms that your competitors are using. Once you have answers to all of these questions, you can start looking up the best online ordering platforms. Check out the list of questions to ask when choosing a restaurant online ordering software provider
A full-fledged, feature-rich software is what you need to assure a seamless transition to online ordering. Features like in-built marketing modules that help with important aspects of the business like discount coupons and loyalty schemes are central to any restaurant operations. You should also have access to real-time analytics through the platform which is indispensable in identifying opportunities, creating personalized customer services, and targeted marketing activities through data-driven decisions.
Flexibility and customization
A reliable online ordering platform should offer flexibility in areas like menu management and payment options. For instance, if you want to update any specials of the day or add/erase any items from the menu, you should be able to do so without technical hinges. An effective in-built order management system will also help modify orders, keep track of inventory, sales, and cash flow.
Customization of online ordering websites and mobile apps according to your brand identity is also important.
Multiple ordering channels
To engage customers on all mediums, you should be able to capture orders across platforms —website, mobile applications, and social media. The digital landscape is wide and varied and your customers will be more comfortable with one channel than another.
An online ordering platform that provides all the above features and also offers them at an affordable price has an edge over the others. A company that offers customized packages according to different restaurant’s needs and no hidden costs is even better. Look for services like a free trial period and cancel anytime.
There is no better time than now to invest in an online ordering system for your restaurant. Besides reaping the benefits at present, when delivery services are much in demand, and preparing for the future will ensure that your restaurant stays in business and continue to generate revenue.
At Restolabs, we appreciate the desire, vision, and pride that goes into empowering a struggling community. Given the current circumstances, as a team and a small part of the industry, Restolabs has decided to help the struggling community by providing them with the right support so they can quickly shift to takeout and delivery to continue operations.
With this inspiring thought, we have started an initiative to help independent restaurants prepare themselves for the changing scenario in the hospitality industry.
If you don’t have an online ordering system in place, we would be grateful to help you launch your own online ordering website within three days of signing up with Restolabs. Don’t worry about the subscription. There are no charges for the first two months.
To start set up immediately, you can check out our subscription offer here.