The COVID-19 pandemic has forced restaurants nationwide to reevaluate their operational strategies.
Like most brands, Frisch’s Big Boy Restaurants, which is comprised of more than 100 company-owned and franchised units across Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, has utilized a takeout/delivery/drive-thru model.
But the company decided to take matters a step further by leaning into the community-first mission its held since it was founded in 1947.
In light of many consumers struggling to find supplies at grocery stores, Frisch’s is using its own supply chain to sell essential products in addition to food:
- Soft-shell tortillas
- 5-pound bag of sugar
- Single-serve cereal (Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs)
- Produce (celery stalks, tomatoes, broccoli, red onions)
- 20-ounce Frisch’s Big Boy ketchup
- 20-ounce French’s Classic yellow mustard
- 4-pound container of Frisch’s Big Boy tuna salad
- 2-liter bottles of select Coca-Cola products
- 20-ounce bottles of Dasani Purified Water and Coca-Cola products
- Single rolls of bathroom tissue, limit four per order
Vaughn refers to the items as Frisch’s Big Boy’s Market. The company has its own trucks and commissary to continue backfilling supplies.
“Our brand has been heavily involved in the community since Dave Frisch founded us,” says CEO Jason Vaughn. “[We’ve] always been heavily involved in the community, so we try to lead with what’s a good business model and how do we help our community. And we were looking, watching, reading just the run on the supermarkets, and we were looking at what opportunity do we have here, yes as a business, but mostly, our customer base. We have seniors, we have moms and dads that have students at home. What could we possibly do to help that environment?”
The items are available through takeout, delivery, and drive-thru. Frisch’s partners with the four major third-party delivery companies, DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats, and Postmates. The items are placed in a strong, sealable bag, a policy that Frisch’s instituted more than a year ago. The menu may vary by location and the offer may be for a limited time.
“We saw it as a service,” Vaughn says. “We don’t have huge mark-up. We’re not going to make a ton of money off this, but we saw it as a way to serve people that have helped us out over the years and just kind of a way to be there for them.”
The deal comes as many consumers are opting to purchase food at a grocery store as opposed to restaurants. According to data from Black Box, consumers decreased their share of food spend at restaurants by 2.8 percent nationally during the first week of March.
With social distancing recommendations in effect across the country, Vaughn says restaurants are better suited to operate under those guidelines as opposed to a grocery store, where hundreds may gather at once.
“We feel like we’re not completely frictionless in our experience, but if they do order those—what I call the grocery list, the pantry, list—and order through third party, obviously that’s a frictionless experience, or if they come through our drive-thru and get something from the pantry, it’s certainly minimal interaction if someone wants to keep the social distancing,” Vaughn says. “It’s just a person handing—that is gloved—out through the window, so there’s minimal contact. It might be counterintuitive to what’s going on, but I think with these avenues it gives people some vote of confidence that they have some level of safety. … Worst-case scenario you’re going to engage one person versus how many people are you going to pass down the aisles at a grocery store.”
California-based Ike’s Love & Sandwiches, which has more than 55 locations, is offering a similar deal in which its offering a free roll of toilet paper when a consumer purchases a sandwich. This promotion is for in-store pickup orders to-go only, and while supplies last. It’s not available for delivery.
Regarding sanitation, Vaughn says all Frisch’s locations are following COVID-19 protocols, and everyone has been retrained on proper hand-washing procedures. Third parties have also audited the brand’s supply chain process and its food safety.
Vaughn says every cliché is appropriate right now—it’s a tough environment, but morale is good among workers.
“We’re giving it our best effort,” Vaughn says. “We’re trying to think differently from a strategic standpoint at how we help. I want [consumers] to know that Frisch’s has always showed up in their communities for 70 years, and we give it our best effort to do what’s right by them and how we help them. It’s no more, no less than that. If someone doesn’t ever come back to our restaurant, they just needed milk or toilet paper, that’s OK. Just know that we serve the community to the best of our ability and thought about them.”