As restaurants around the globe slowly move into a controlled re-opening, operators are rethinking their business strategy to weather both a challenging economic climate and countless unknowns. Mandates and requirements are evolving nearly daily by region and there are no clear indicators on how consumers will behave over time. Will the initial excitement of going back to their favorite restaurant wane under the weight of too many safety requirements? Will they stick to the "order-out" habits they established during stay-at-home orders? Only time will tell.
In my many conversations with restauranteurs from all corners of the world, I have been inspired by the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of our industry. We are seeing full-service restaurants opting to partner with ghost-kitchens to supplement their take-out business. Others are opening new revenue channels by offering their facility and staff for other brands. Some are creating meal-kits and expanding retail offers and new ways of conducting fully contactless interactions.
For every ten ideas, we can expect several will prove unsustainable, unprofitable or otherwise not in the best interest of the brand. So as quickly as restaurants spin up new offers, they need to have the same speed and agility to pivot quickly away from concepts and partnerships that are not delivering quick and/or material returns. Here are five considerations that should be top of mind for all operators:
Optimizing Delivery and the Customer ExperienceMany restaurants scrambled to spin up delivery-services during quarantine to keep the doors open and serve their communities. Likewise, many people who never before used delivery services jumped-in due to necessity. While this served the immediate need, a data-driven approach in how businesses engage and leverage third-party delivery service providers will be essential to long-term success.
Cutting Inventory Costs and WasteA more streamlined flow of customers and staff also necessitates rethinking a restaurant's menu and analyzing inventory performance. It will be especially important to understand which menu items can be adjusted (or removed) to optimize costs or handle unexpected supply chain issues. This information can be used to place more accurate orders with suppliers and identify what can be removed from an order to allow for a reduction of waste.
Embracing Contactless EverythingContactless continues to rise in importance worldwide. This includes rethinking standard menus to reduce their reuse or going entirely digital. Restaurants are adopting mobile order and pay with various degrees of sophistication, one of the simplest models being a QR code that surfaces an app-based or online menu and payment via mobile wallet. While contactless payment is already widely accepted internationally, the US remains behind the curve and will need to accelerate its adoption of EMV. Restaurants with tablet or kiosk-based payment systems are looking at everything from manual sanitation after each use, to applying a self-cleaning adhesive film to the touch screens.
Applying Data Science to Table ServiceWe are seeing the hard truth about running at reduced capacity – balancing safety, customer satisfaction and margin performance are challenging. Increasing the number of covers a restaurant can turn while balancing the staff required, will be more data science and technology than art, for the foreseeable future.
Being Open-Minded About and Mindful of Data SecurityAs the industry starts to rebound and reimagine the restaurant experience, we are likely to see a plethora of new technology providers and platforms borne out of specific regional conditions that have global application and relevance. Brands with an open API strategy and architecture can quickly embrace and integrate new technology that can move their business forward. However, all these new technology endpoints and an ever-increasing online transaction volume will make the industry an attractive target for hackers. Understanding restaurant point-of-sale (POS) security protocols and personally identifiable information (PII) protection will need to be at the forefront consideration for restaurants to protect customers and their brand.
The volume and variety of data will increase, from in-house operations to macro trends, supply chain and economic conditions. This is not novel for large enterprises, but this data-driven approach will hold for small to mid-size enterprises (SME's) and independents – especially as the industry establishes a new normal baseline for sales and customer behavior.
Looking to the future, a tightly integrated technology platform that enables this kind of data-driven intelligence into internal operations and enables the business to quickly implement and measure menu changes, delivery options, and staffing will be critical.
The restaurant industry is incredibly creative and resilient. There is no doubt we will see a plethora of new models and ideas emerge as brands navigate uncharted waters. But amongst the art that is food, data science will need to play an increasingly important role in keeping businesses moving forward profitably and serving their communities for years to come. Visit our COVID-19 recovery resource center to learn more.