3 Simple Things Restaurants Must Do Yesterday to Survive The Apocalypse

Chris Rumpf

Founder and CEO, 15+ Years of Restaurant Technology Innovation

3 Simple Things Restaurant Must Do Yesterday To Survive The Apocalypse

Over the last week, we talked to each and every one of our customers by phone. In almost every case, restaurants and their staff are hurting, yes, but some less than others. Depending on how they were reacting to the circumstances, we were able to quickly put customers into buckets:

  1. The Do Nothings
  2. The Do Somethings
  3. The Do Awesomes

 

These buckets are about the same size, with around one-third of the folks we spoke to doing nothing, or shuttering their business completely; another one-third doing some things, but without a true plan or strategy; and the last one-third moving as quickly as they could, embracing new technology and processes, and changing the entirety of their business in real-time in order to survive.

This last group, The Do Awesomes, are all taking key actions and are showing tangible sales that provide the best opportunity for long-term survivability. These are the three key things:

1. Awesome Signage

This might seem obvious, but the ratio of restaurants who are lamenting slow carry-out business to restaurants who have terrible/poor/ugly/hard-to-read or non-existent signage is about one-to-one. The way in which society is deciding on food choices today is a paradigm shift from yesterday – a change that has been coming slowly, but with the global shutdown afoot, has been expedited. The shift to hyper-local choices means that the more visibility you have at the roadside, the more business you’ll have curbside.

I’m sad to admit this, but when I was a kid, I liked to sell Kool-aid on the road in front of my house. In those days, I didn’t understand the phrase, “Location, Location, Location,” which is to say: I lived on a cul-de-sac, and traffic was a minimum. I thought of myself as a smart, enterprising young man, so I rode my bike, training wheels and all, around the neighborhood and posted some signage. The problem? I used a 4” x 6” postcard piece of paper and attached it to lampposts. As you can imagine, business never picked up at the Kool-aid-de-Chris stand because no drivers could actually read the signs I spent all afternoon hanging up.

Do Awesomes know that when planning signage, the first equation to tackle is the sizing of the letters, and wouldn’t you know it, the internet wins again, with a letter sizing calculator: https://www.thesignchef.com/letter-sizing-calculator

Use the “By Traveling Size” calculator to determine how large your text needs to be, and then have your design created from there.

Speaking of design, we’re offering free graphic design for physical signage through April 15th, 2020. Just 30 minutes with our experts and we’ll get you something sexy within 48 hours.

2. Awesome Marketing

Signage isn’t the only marketing tool that’s important. Keeping up with social media, Yelp, your website, and local search are all critical tools for marketing a restaurant both in normal times and during a global epidemic. Brandify, a digital marketing agency, reported in November 2019 that almost 80% of consumers use Google Maps for local searches of restaurants and that around 50% use Yelp or Facebook as well. Further, while the majority of those searches occur while the patron is at home, almost 35% of their survey respondents reported that they search via Google Maps while driving to find their next food fix.

There are patrons searching right now for your restaurant, but going to a competitor, or going to the grocery store instead. As a general rule, social media should be tended to daily, preferably with video content. All avenues should be updated with true business hours, and special information regarding your response to the pandemic. Potential customers need to be reassured that your business is open, and they’re safe at your side.

Many of these avenues may be uncomfortable for a restaurant operator, but it’s more important now than ever, and once this crisis is behind us your customers aren’t going to just go back to the way it was – the shift to local search will continue.

That’s why through April 15th, 2020, we’re offering free time with our kick-butt social media and search people. Please accept our gift by scheduling 30 minutes with our experts to get your digital presence in-line with the reality of today.

3. Awesome Processes

Good marketing doesn’t mean a damn if the experience doesn’t exceed the expectation set from the marketing process. This is true at any time, but even more critical during a time of crisis simply because the processes your business must implement are new for both the business and the customer. Curbside carry-out is one thing for 10 orders per evening, but it’s something else entirely when it’s 200 orders.

The process you create depends on a number of things – the size of your parking lot, your square footage in the building, and if you’re delivering or not, among others. There’s no good silver bullet, but there are a number of great examples to get your inspiration moving:

  • One of our customers is doing more business than they’ve ever done in the history of the restaurant this week with only carry-out. They’ve implemented online ordering (and offered a discount for ordering online versus by phone), have positioned one staff member in the parking lot to direct incoming vehicles to specifically numbered parking spaces, which are then relayed inside for quick delivery to the curbside. While the customers wait in their cars, there is a band playing in the parking lot to entertain guests and staff as the food is transacted. Now, this is an experience and a streamlined process!
  • A local coffee shop we visited this week has numbered parking spots and will accept orders from your car window at a safe distance. Then, another staff member runs the purchased goods to your vehicle, always knowing where to go based on the cone in front of the parking space which matches the kitchen ticket.
  • We also saw a restaurant that built a make-shift drive-thru. If your pick-up food is ready as your vehicle hits the front of the line, it is immediately handed over, otherwise, your vehicle is directed to a numbered waiting space.
  • Another restaurant without a parking lot drew spaces on the sidewalk leading to the door and carry-out window, to help people waiting for pickup continue to social distance themselves. In each box are hand-drawn words of encouragement, and a guitarist is playing to the line from a safe distance.

 

Creating an experience inside a smooth process will keep your customers coming back during this difficult time. Signage, marketing, and process are the things, crafted together, that The Do Awesomes are perfecting. If you’re looking for some guidance on your own process, all you have to do is schedule free time with our experts. Give us 30 minutes and we’ll have you back on track.