Keeping Your Restaurant Afloat During COVID-19

Medical experts across the spectrum agree that physical distancing measures will need to be kept in place well into 2021, and this spells trouble for the restaurant industry. In even the roomiest floor plan, guests at the same and neighboring tables will be within the forbidden 6-foot threshold. Therefore, restaurants will need to reduce capacity in order to stay within government guidelines.

With profit margins averaging just 2-6%, there is not much wiggle room for establishments to alter their floor plans and remain profitable. Therefore, restaurant owners are going to need to increase pickup and delivery efforts in order to try to at least break even. While offering phone-in pickup orders is pretty straightforward, today’s delivery paradigm is more complex and can do more harm than good to a restaurant without careful deployment.

Adding or Enhancing Delivery Service

Delivery can be a life-saver for a restaurant during times when public health orders prevent or discourage people from dining on premise. However, haphazard implementation of delivery service can irritate customers, sabotage efficiency and hurt the restaurant overall. Fortunately, many restaurant POS system manufacturers have stepped up with increased integration of delivery capabilities and even significant discounts on deployment.

DIY Delivery

The major drawback to using popular delivery services such as Uber Eats and DoorDash is that their service fees – sometimes in excess of 30% — can devour your profit margin. There are, however, some online ordering services such as UEAT and ChowNow do not charge a commission on each sale and can integrate with your POS. The drawback to these options is that their service stops as soon as the order and payment are processed. This leaves order fulfillment entirely on your shoulders.

While it may seem as though delivering food to customers should be straightforward, doing so requires that you take responsibility for sanitization from the kitchen all the way to the customer’s door. In addition, you’ll need to take into account liability concerns. You’ll need to explore the costs of properly insuring your delivery vehicles as well. In the end, the costs you incur in taking charge of delivery may be similar to those of dumping the whole thing on a third-party service.

Delivering Via a Third Party

If you don’t want to take on the minutiae of delivering yourself, it’s easy to get up and delivering through third-party services. In this case, they take responsibility for the order from your kitchen to the customers’ door. However, you’ll pay for the privilege by forking over a substantial commission on each order.

One thing you can do to offset that is to charge a correspondingly higher price for your delivery menu. Some restaurants mark up these items by 20% to cover these third-party commissions, but if the customer is paying that higher price in addition to a delivery fee, they may decide that it’s not worth ordering from you at all. Many delivery service providers are waiving delivery fees to encourage customers to patronize local restaurants, which helps keep customer costs down and could allow you to make up commission cost while keeping diners coming back for more.

Integrating Delivery With Your POS System

Restaurant cloud POS systems can offer a variety of features to make processing online takeout and delivery orders easier on your staff. Online orders can be sent directly to the POS system and consolidated onto one screen, which speeds up order fulfillment.

A powerful suite of reporting tools can help you maximize your profits from delivery while improving the customer experience. Some dishes just don’t travel well. This can lead to customer dissatisfaction if they receive soggy food. Your POS software should make it easy for you to create a separate delivery menu which includes only foods that travel well; you should also be able to price these items differently if you desire.

Many restaurant POS system companies are going the extra mile to make integrating delivery service as cost-effective as possible. For instance, Lightspeed is offering three free months of delivery integration to restaurateurs who don’t currently take advantage of the service.

Reassuring Your Customers

Regardless of whether they order takeout or delivery, your customers are going to want to know that you’re taking precautions to ensure their food arrives in a sanitary state. You’ll need to let them know that you’re religiously following guidelines set down by local, state and federal governmental agencies. The more detail you can give on your compliance efforts, the better your customers will feel about ordering from you.

Marketing Your New Operational Paradigm

Both regular and prospective customers are searching social media to determine their options for ordering takeout or delivery from nearby restaurants. This is your queue to saturate your social media feeds with how you’re adapting to today’s restaurant environment. Regulars will be thrilled to know that they can easily order their old standbys, and prospects will be happy to have somewhere else to turn if their favorite restaurant is no longer serving.

Email and SMS are inexpensive ways to keep regulars in the loop, but to bring in new customers, you’ll need to place some ads on social media. Location-based ads are a cost-effective way to alert only those customers who are within your delivery radius.

Since potential customers like to hear from those who have already taken the plunge, reposting user-generated content is a great way to spread the word that you’re up and running and making diners happy; just be sure to ask for permission before reposting.

While the outlook for the foodservice industry is undeniably bleak, bolstering off-premise dining options can allow you to continue operations through the COVID-19 pandemic and come out the other side in a stronger position.

This content is brought to you by Ana Maria De La Cruz.

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