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Coping with COVID-19: How Foodservice Operators Can Serve Up Sales In Crisis

COVID-19 (a.k.a., the coronavirus) may seem like a recipe for disaster for the foodservice industry, but operators are putting in extra servings of thought, time, and talent to help protect the safety of customers and employees.

Declared a national emergency in the United States, operators are faced with offsetting the halt in foot traffic as the pandemic forces foodservice to suspend dine-in services.

The market research firm Technomic found that for the week starting March 29, spending per 1,000 consumers was 21% lower than prior to the outbreak—a slight improvement of 3 percentage points from the previous week. The level of consumers shifting to drive-thru and delivery has been holding steady—an indication of the new norm of off-premises-only foodservice. Forty-five percent of consumers surveyed say they will order more food from the drive-thru; 38% plan to order more restaurant food for delivery.

What You Can Do

  • Optimize for off-premises: Make sure you're equipped to shift staff and resources to curbside pickup, takeout and contactless, free delivery. Offering the option to order through third-party delivery services—many have been waiving delivery fees—can also help drive sales.
  • Innovate Limited Time Offers: Consider innovative special offers to boost check averages, such as Outback Steakhouse’s $20 e-bonus card, good through end of the year, with purchase of a $50 gift card that can be used for delivery or curbside pickup. Or family meal deals that make quarantine easier by feeding a whole family on a tight budget. Thirty-three percent of operators surveyed have pivoted their LTOs to value offers.1
  • Promote precautions:  Set up clear shields between staff and customers, as seen in Dunkin’ stores, and make sure staff wear face masks. Visible precautions like these reassure takeout and drive-thru traffic that every precaution is being taken to ensure complete safety. Prompt, thorough hand-washing with antibacterial soap. For safety best practices, review the U.S. Food & Drug Administration guidelines.
  • Be transparent: Provide prompt updates to employees and be forthcoming with information that impacts the business. The trust of your employees is just as important as the trust of your customers.
  • Modify the menu: Emphasize items that travel well and eliminate less popular options. A focus on high-margin menu items that are the easiest to produce and sell could help feed the bottom line. McDonald’s has limited its menu to its most popular items to “simplify operations for our crew, and ensure the best possible experience for our customers,” according to Bill Garrett, the chain’s senior vice president of operations.
  • Share to show you care:  Support school meal programs and local food pantries to demonstrate your goodwill and commitment to the community. Burger King offered free kids meals from March 23 through April 6 with any purchase on the chain’s app for takeout or drive-thru.
  • Ask for help: Explore loans, subsidies and grants from federal, state and local governments, and reach out to charitable organizations, such as The James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Relief Fund. Refer out-of-work restaurant staff to sources of support, such as the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund.
  • Be present: Show your leadership by being the face of your operation and a reassuring presence. Also, make every effort to be transparent with updates about the impact of the crisis on your business and your efforts to mitigate it.

At Mondelēz International Foodservice, we’re committed to the highest standards of food safety and the well-being of foodservice workers and consumers worldwide. Learn about the many ways we are doing our part and making a difference. Reach out to us below for more information on how we can help your business persevere and protect consumers during the coronavirus outbreak.

1 Technomic, Quarterly LTO Review Q1 2020, p. 7

Topics: National, Labor, Foodservice Industry, Customer Experience, Menu Strategy, Product Quality & Safety, Social Responsibility, Sales & Profitability