Ecommerce and marketing platform BentoBox recently released its first “Restaurant Delivery Consumer Trend Report,” something it plans to do quarterly throughout the year.
The Q1 survey found nearly one in two diners cited a desire to support local eateries as a factor in continuing delivery and takeout habits. This trend was even more prominent among heavy delivery/takeout consumers (ordering five times-plus per week, 61 percent), the most likely to continue ordering to support local restaurants.
Eighty-four percent of respondents, from a list of more than 12,000 U.S. consumers polled, said they’re currently ordering delivery/takeout an average of two times per week. Twenty-six percent said they’re doing three or more times.
And also vividly, nearly one in two (48 percent) said they would order directly from restaurants “if it’s easy.”
In an earlier study from the National Restaurant Association, nearly two-thirds of current delivery customers noted they prefer to order directly from the restaurant.
Of course, there are multiple factors at work, from price to increased awareness to brand versus app familiarity.
But one thing that does seem certain is there’s been a shift in preference dynamics. Pre-virus, there was a prevailing sense aggregator customers were product, not brand loyal. They wanted a burger, for instance, more than they wanted to eat at Mac’s.
Yet once dine-in left the equation, consumers flocked to comfortable options and sought restaurants they missed or trusted. And they began, to Skipper’s point, to look for their go-tos in places they hadn’t before. The only spots they could—delivery and takeout.
It was up to Mac's to make sure, for one, it was available in these channels. And secondly, to tighten operations so an off-premises flood wouldn’t overwhelm the brand and lead to poor service.
The flood definitely came. To-go and delivery sales skyrocketed 520 percent. We’re talking going from $60,000 per month as a company to $350,000 “on a slow month,” Skipper says.
Before, Skipper had to make one of the toughest calls of his career. The company laid off about 450 people. Skipper says it was the right move because it allowed people to go after unemployment benefits. It also kept Mac’s from burning through cash.
However, the chain’s to-go business surged so quickly it was able to return 100 people out of the gate.
Mac’s forecasted if it could do 60 percent of prior business it would survive, or break even. “But we were doing 80 percent of our original volume in to-go in the beginning,” Skipper says. “It was like nothing we had ever seen. And our peers were saying, 'how are you doing this?' Again, I just have to go back to the established brand. People trusted the brand.”
Mac’s invested in better to-go packaging and ensured seals were put on bags at the restaurant, in case something went awry along the delivery path. It also put different employees on to conduct quality checks on orders as they went out.
Like many chains, Mac’s then crafted family packages and even launched a “Take a Pound, Freeze a Pound” promotion that coincided with grocery stores starting to feel the impact of limited products on their shelves.
Guests ordered pounds of meat at a time. This allowed people to bridge grocery trips during a stretch when leaving the house felt like walking into a hazard zone.
Skipper says Mac’s also recognized the importance of giving back to the same community that supported it. From local schools to Second Harvest Food Bank to the Isabella Santos Foundation for children with cancer, it launched the “Mac’s Give Back Program,” with out-of-pocket financial support, plus donations from local companies.