May 05, 2020

Businesses get creative during COVID-19

Many restaurants prepare multi-serving meals or meal kits, like this lasagna, that feed entire families. It's another way of increasing average ticket prices on to-go orders.

Shelter-in-place orders have turned the restaurant and nightlife industry upside down. Over the past months, businesses were forced to adopt stricter cleaning and sanitation procedures, which then quickly changed to lower occupancy limits, to an eventual shutdown of dine-in service. In order to survive to reopen fully one day, restaurants are getting scrappy and coming up with unique ways to feed and engage their communities, create new revenue streams, and leverage technology.

Multi-serving meals and extra inventory

To increase average ticket prices on to-go orders, many restaurants are preparing multi-serving meals or meal kits to feed entire families. If you have extra inventory on hand or are still getting shipments of high-demand items (cleaning supplies, toilet paper!), consider selling them in bulk or wholesale to support the community.

  • Pies-n-Thighs in Brooklyn, N.Y., is offering fried chicken-and-sides family packs
  • Don’s Diner & Cocktail in Milwaukee, transformed into a grocery store — offering cartons of eggs, meat, cleaning supplies, and paper products

Increased revenue streams and loosened alcohol laws

Profit margins on alcohol are always going to be higher than on food. With many jurisdictions relaxing regulations to sell to-go alcohol, there is a huge opportunity to add more money to the bottom line.

Beyond just selling the bottles of wine or beer you carry, get creative and sell cocktail kits or bottles of spirits to increase your margins even more. Large-batch concoctions have also been popular, such as pitchers of sangria or margaritas.

  • Pat’s Cafe in San Francisco, offers brunch dishes plus mimosas to go.
  • Il Porcellino in Chicago, is serving Italian food to enjoy at home, plus kits to make Negronis and spritzes.

Repurposing technology and communicating with customers

Clear, concise communication with your customers during this time can be the difference between a steady flow of business and barely scraping by.

Many businesses are leveraging social media to spread the word about their current operations. Are you open for curbside pickup or offering contactless delivery? Keep the message direct and consistent, and then point consumers to where you’d like them to go.

On Yelp, you can update your COVID-19 banner to prominently display important information about your operations. We’ve also seen some restaurants repurpose Yelp Waitlist to manage takeout orders and better streamline busy phone lines taking inbound orders.

  • The Boiling Crab is using Waitlist for call-in and walk-in orders in Dallas, and across all their 20-plus locations. It customized the automated text messages sent by the app to include takeout-specific instructions detailing what the restaurants’ customers should expect at each step.

    When taking the order by phone, the staff also repeats those directions and reminds guests to maintain safe social distancing when they arrive onsite.
  • Texas Roadhouse in Fayetteville, N.C., is open for pickup and has temporarily repurposed its parking lot to function like a drive-thru/pickup area. Managers adapted Waitlist’s table seating function (that presents a floor map of tables in the dining room) to instead show spots in the parking lot outside to manage drive-up traffic. The result allows the restaurant to manage order pickups in a safe, organized, and efficient way. Customers can either call ahead or drive up and order, and they are then allocated a spot while they wait. Waitlist helps the team manage the queue.

No matter what stage you’re at in pivoting your business, or if you made the decision to close your doors, the most important thing to remember is communication. Consumers are looking for opportunities to help and engage with their local communities, and it’s paramount that you use that to your advantage right now. If you’re not able to stay open during this time, let your customers know you’re looking forward to seeing them on the other side of this, and point them to other ways they can support you right now. Take it one day at a time, and continue to push through. We’re all in this together.