The tide may be turning, but it can still be a struggle for operators to keep their head above water. Despite a surge of government funding for restaurant relief, rising vaccination rates and receding restrictions, 39% of restaurants—about 2 out of every 5—couldn’t cover their June rents, according to survey data from the lead generation platform Alignable.1
While that percentage fell 10 points from the previous month,1 it still underscores the toll the pandemic continues to take on the restaurant industry. (Alignable considers the labor shortage a factor in the ongoing struggle to make rent.) Alignable’s data also highlights the perception by many within the industry that government largesse is a double-edged sword: 71% of surveyed operators expressed support for the decision by 25 states to withhold the $300 extra per week the federal government made available to people collecting unemployment benefits.1
As these and other symptoms of the COVID-19 business climate persist, technology innovation remains mission critical. Even as the post-pandemic foodservice landscape begins to emerge, tech trends that were set in motion pre-pandemic continue to accelerate.
El Pollo Loco Goes Crazy for Drone Delivery
El Pollo Loco is stepping up to the plate to make the dream of drone delivery a reality for its customers. Hopes are high that “door-to-backyard drone delivery” will take off, with the quick service Mexican chicken chain having already announced plans to launch the pilot program at up to 10 of its restaurants in Southern California.2 Provided test results, market demand and FAA regulations prove favorable, the brand will expand drone delivery nationally.
“We want to offer drone food deliveries that are fast, convenient and safe,” Vice President of Digital Andy Rebhun explains. “The insights gleaned during this test-and-learn pilot will play a crucial role in helping us shape this exciting new service ahead of its rollout.”2
A key potential benefit: Drone delivery could spin chains away from third-party delivery fees while keeping labor costs low. El Pollo Loco, for example, estimates that drones could reduce its delivery costs by up to 30%.2
Coffee Traffic Grinds to a Halt, Digital Brews Pot of Profit
While El Pollo Loco looks to drones to lift sales, coffee shops also are turning to tech to perk up business. The shift from the office commute to remote work made the once-hot away-from-home coffee business go cold. Traffic at U.S. coffee shops dropped 22% in 2020, according to Euromonitor International.3
The falloff compelled coffee shop owners to step up investments in drive-thru, mobile ordering and pickup. As a result, sales growth for the segment exceeded that of the restaurants overall, contracting 16% compared with 21% industrywide.3
The shift to a mobile-driven customer experience also helped boost home consumption. Starbucks’ loyalty app accounted for approximately half of the brand’s revenue.3 Dunkin’ developed a heady brew of incentives and engagement with its own loyalty app, and Panera launched its own in-app coffee subscription concept. Given the perks and convenience of in-app ordering, expect mobile to continue to caffeinate sales—even as traffic drips back to coffee shops.
Mondelēz International Foodservice offers a unique combination of beloved brand ingredients and culinary creativity to take sales higher—on-premises and off. Want to explore new delivery-friendly dishes and desserts? Considering creating a new signature menu booster to help drive traffic back onsite? Reach out below to learn how our acclaimed chefs can optimize your menu as the industry navigates a tricky transitional period into the post-pandemic era of foodservice.
1 Romeo, Peter, “39% of restaurants couldn’t pay their June rents, survey finds,” Restaurant Business, June 17, 2021
2 Guszkowski, Joe, “El Pollo Loco is testing drone delivery,” Restaurant Business, June 17, 2021
3 Schaefer, Michael, “Smartphones, contactless service drive coffee shops’ post-COVID evolution,” Nation’s Restaurant News, June 17, 2021