A new reality continues to reshape the foodservice landscape.
It’s not news that government officials across the country are ordering citizens to stay at home with the recent outbreaks of COVID-19. This instruction means something very different for many individuals. Some are simply adjusting to a work-from-home lifestyle, while others are left without jobs, or uncertain if their job will be waiting for them when this madness is over.
In the point-of-sale business, many of our customers will suffer from being forced to close shop, or face a lack of customers due to fear of contamination of COVID-19. Restaurants specifically are being faced with the challenge to upgrade or adopt new technology such as online ordering, delivery, or curbside pickup—or they are faced with the harsh reality that they may not survive.
Front-of-House Closures While Back-of-House Remains Open
On March 15, the governors of California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Washington, along with major cities such as New York City, began closing bars and restaurants with the exception of take-out and delivery services only. Since then, 12 other states have implemented stay-at-home orders, and even more have closed non-essential business. This includes any restaurant or bar that is not offering take-out or delivery services.
So, what does this mean for the food service industry?
While Americans are stock-piling groceries (specifically, toilet paper), restaurants are desperately trying to promote their delivery and take-out services as a safe alternative option to going out and buying groceries. By March 18, while daily restaurant connections on Yelp were down 54 percent overall, pizzerias were up by 44 percent.
Pickup and Delivery Practices Shifting to Accommodate Social Distancing
Right now, restaurants everywhere are being forced to essentially evolve into “ghost” kitchens. For those that are not familiar with this term, a “ghost kitchen” is a shared space for restaurants or food services businesses that do not have traditional store-fronts or dining rooms. These restaurant businesses are gaining popularity in major cities where space is limited, and citizens more frequently take to ordering food through delivery apps.
For restaurants looking to add their own online ordering service, it is important that they have the right technology to do so.
What does this mean?
When online ordering services integrate with the right technology, restaurants do not have to worry about missing an online order. A cloud-based technology, allowing orders are sent from the service, to the cloud, and then pulled by the printer—eliminating the need for a tablet, is ideal for restaurants that receives many of their takeout or delivery orders via online or mobile.
Is It Safe to Order Delivery or Takeout From Restaurants That Are Closing Their Front-Of-House Operations?
While it is being strongly encouraged—or even directed—to stay home and interact with as few people as possible, people are strongly working to keep their favorite restaurants in business for when the outbreak slows, and it’s safe to socialize again. And of course, we want people to be able to keep their jobs and support themselves and their families during this time of crisis.
While both delivery and take-out options will expose you to others and can put people at risk, there are safe ways to practice both of these.
In the case of food delivery, there is initially very little contact between the delivery driver and the customer, but to eliminate it even further, many restaurants and online ordering services are offering the option of “contactless delivery.” This requires the delivery driver to leave the order at the door and send the customer a notification either via text or through the app used that their order has arrived.
Here are what some of the top third-party delivery apps are doing to help restaurants and offer healthy and safe food deliveries:
Uber Eats—In addition to adding options for “Leave at Door” delivery, Uber Eats is also waiving delivery fees for all independently-owned restaurants using the app.
Postmates—Postmates is also offering contactless delivery, and also providing additional support for their Postmates fleet (delivery personnel), along with a Small Business Relief Pilot program.
DoorDash—DoorDash is supporting their Dashers and Caviar couriers by providing free gloves and hand sanitizer. They are also offering their restaurant partners commission relief and marketing support, allowing independent restaurants to pay zero commission for 30 days, plus much more.
Grubhub—Grubhub is working to support local restaurants through their Grubhub Community Relief Fund that allows customers to donate the change from every order, and will be matched by the company.
For those that prefer to pick up their food orders or live in areas where it is difficult to receive delivery, many restaurants are offering curbside pick-up options to further eliminate human contact. Sending staff members out to the car with the customer’s food order, and wearing gloves (fresh, clean ones) helps to keep both staff members and customers safe in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Local Community Relief and Responsibility
On March 26, it was estimated that 5 to 7 million jobs were lost in the restaurant industry alone. During this time, nonprofits, online ordering services, and even the government are trying to work together to support local restaurants.
Rethink Food NYC has launched a Restaurant Response Program and will select up to 30 restaurants for the program, and give those selected up to $40,000 to stay up and running. California is also postponing tax deadlines until July 15 for all California Restaurant Association members.
For those that heavily rely on take-out and delivery normally or enjoy going out to eat on a regular basis, it is our responsibility to support local businesses and restaurants, so that they can stay in business following the outbreak.
You can find out how to support organizations that are helping restaurant workers survive here.
Restaurants Engaging Directly with Customers Through Community Facebook Groups
In the meantime, it is important that local restaurants are communicating with their customers on how they are keeping their business and delivery and take-out orders safe, and what their customers can expect when this is all over.
Facebook groups have been a huge contributing factor to support local businesses and to increase communication. In these groups, members of the community can post which restaurants are staying open during this period, and how food orders can best be placed.
During this time, it’s important that we come together to support local businesses and educate ourselves on the impact that this pandemic will have on restaurants and their employees.
Brianna Moriarty is the Partner Development Manager at Star Micronics where she works with channel-partners to grow their business and develop new markets. Brianna has a background in marketing and uses this to help VARs and ISVs to establish a go-to-market strategy and create co-marketing campaigns. She enjoys following the latest social media marketing trends and creating content for retailers and SMBs. Star’s CloudPRNT technology, available with our mC-Print3 and TSP654II receipt printers, and SP742 kitchen printer, helps restaurants to easily accept and print online orders directly from the cloud. When online ordering services integrate with Star CloudPRNT printers, restaurants do not have to worry about missing an online order. Learn more at https://www.starmicronics.com/pages/CloudPRNT.