How Small Local Restaurants can Transition to a Digital First Restaurant

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Businessman ordering meal delivery
Photo by: DragonImages | elements.envato.com

The news of mandatory shutdowns across the country caught many small local restaurants off guard and scrambling to figure out the most efficient way to continue offering their menu to their local customers. Almost overnight larger restaurant chains seamlessly transitioned to offering curbside pickup and/or delivery without taking much of a hit to their usual daily sales volume. 

In a May 5 press release NY-based burger giant Shake Shack announced an 8% increase in sales for the first quarter of their 2020 fiscal year. Randy Garutti, Shake Shack “Chief Executive Officer attributes this success to his team and staff’s ability to adapt to evolving operating models and business strategies. “By doubling down on our digital strategies and with increasing engagement through both our own, and third-party delivery channels, we have continued to see week-over-week improvement in sales in all regions, since the lowest point at the end of March.” 

Many other large restaurant chains attribute delivery as a service to their ability to report increases in their sales during the COVID-19 shutdowns. Platforms like Instacart, Postmates, and GrubHub increase delivery orders by 20%. During this time more than 40% of restaurant consumers expect to order online – and when they do, their average spend increases by 15%. 

How can small local restaurants transition to a digital first restaurant and join Goliath brands in becoming a restaurant of the future. 

Mobility. Start with your POS architecture. That means designing your POS to be a digital platform and not just a payment system. Integrating what NCR coins a platform-of-sale solution will easily allow your restaurant to switch the focus from needing to integrate applications into your POS to simply connecting APIs from one application to another. The complexity and installation cost associated with integrating most marketing and loyalty applications into existing POS systems is what keeps many small local restaurants from moving towards an effective digital strategy. Using API endpoints will keep the cost down and speed up implementation.

Marketplaces. Many small local restaurants were not able to take advantage of using the third-party delivery services due to the exuberate transaction, processing and delivery fees charged by delivery apps like GrubHub, Postmates and UberEats. Small local restaurants simply cannot survive if required to give away more than half of their revenue to take orders through these marketplaces. So how is it that larger restaurant chains are finding success when using them during this time? 

“By doubling down on their digital strategies and with increasing engagement through both their own, and third-party delivery channels” – Use the delivery app as a strategy to increase your customer-base and at the same time offer your own delivery service and/or curbside pickup through your website. As a small local restaurant you have the ability to do something most larger restaurants do not; get intimate with each one of your customers. Once you catch the new sale using the delivery app, start directing your repeat customers to your delivery service on your website. Be transparent about why you would prefer they order delivery through you. Offer them an exclusive perk that the delivery apps cannot. The truth of the matter is- in order to compete it’s important to be seen and delivery apps will do that for you and it’s important to consider what your customers want. They want to use their phone to order delivery and to pay when picking up orders – or in drive thru. 

On-premise transformation. Start thinking about a long-term business and marketing strategy. Socially distant, contactless, pickup and delivery is the “new normal”. What can you do to implement this into your brick and mortar locations? One of the major concerns right now is using disposable menus. Which may not be cost-effective for many small local restaurants. Beconstac helps by suggesting to convert menus into QR menus by simply uploading a PDF version of your menu to their website which then creates a QR code for your menu. 

The cool thing about this platform is that it allows you to create virtual menus using QR codes and post those menus anywhere, like on a window decal that is posted on the window of your restaurant. This helps you implement contactless ordering and pickup and gives your customers a safe way to continue to dine with you. 

Consumer engagement. Digital marketing that meets the customer where and when they are most likely engaged and ready to order is very important. Today’s new consumer expects convenience and relevant experiences based on their location and interest. They also want to be included and feel they play a part in the success of the small businesses in their community. Nodat is a marketing tech startup that has built a community marketing platform that allows small local retailers & restaurants to offer local consumers a way to get engaged and where and when they are ready to buy. 

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