In Datassential’s recent 1,000-customer survey, a whopping 54 percent of people said they expected to decrease their visits to sit-down restaurants. On the flip side, 69 percent said they’d elect to eat at home, where they can oversee the sanitation process more closely.
So far, it’s been pretty steep. Per Black Box, consumers decreased their share of food spend at restaurants by 2.8 percent nationally and by 5.7 percent in Seattle during the first week in March.
One thing to keep in mind there is that those numbers will likely slide in the coming weeks. People are going to tire of a., cooking at home, and b., having to go to the grocery store to refill pantries. Firstly, as recommendations continue to lower the amount of people who should gather (10 or fewer is the most recent) heading to the grocer becomes a more risky proposition in customers’ minds than it once was.
Ordering delivery, though? There are far fewer parties involved, even if there is some mystery. Carryout/take-out aligns with that notion, but takes care of the second point. And it might just be a better fit, overall, for older consumers. If you follow ArrowStream’s data, catering to 55-and-above diners might end up being a critical initiative for full-service brands to steady the COVID-19 turbulence. Older generations have a reputation for brand loyalty millennials don’t. So, find a way to capitalize and tap into that sentiment, wherever possible.
As Liz Moskow explored in this piece, the truth remains that many restaurants are better equipped to feed people than other available options. That includes braving the crowds at the grocery store.
Restaurants jump through all sorts of loops, from Good Manufacturing Practices to HAACP plans to Serve-Safe, robust training programs, and so on, to ensure food safety.
Sharing that point with guests is vital right now. As is understanding that winning with take-out is not as easy as just flipping one light off and turning on another. Because if that patron ends up saying, “Well, this was far worse than when I dine in,” they probably won’t come back.
Of course, there needs to be some give and take, but restaurants that curate menus to meet this demand will have a leg up. Emphasize food that travels well. Some might even consider a carryout-out focused menu during the coronavirus crisis. A potential differentiated option is something people can cook at home, with instructions included. Like a meal kit from their favorite restaurant that they don’t have to subscribe to.
You’ve seen certain brands, like O’Charley’s, even roll out family-centric, more affordable bundles designed not just to travel, but to also ease economic worries. Bundles in general are a great place to start. Have options that feed entire families so people aren’t left ordering a la carte and running their bills up.
There are stories of fine-dining landmarks, like Seattle’s Canlis, redesigning entire business models. Canlis re-opened as a bagel shop, drive-thru burger joint, and family meal delivery service (bottle of wine included). As the landmark, which has closed only three times in nearly 70 years—the first when JFK was assassinated—said on Instagram, “Fine dining is not what Seattle needs right now.” The brand adjusted operations so it could dish out 1,000 burgers, 400–500 bagels and 200 to-go dinners per day. That to replace the 150–200 reservations Canlis normally accepted.
In flipping over, it added two fryers (donated from a supply company), a commercial mixer, and expediter Melissa Johnson started cooking bagels out of a shopping container in the restaurant garden. And Canlis deployed servers as delivery people.