What Are Online Ordering Considerations During COVID-19?

This edition of MRM's "Ask the Expert” features advice from EZ-Chow Inc. Please send questions to Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine Executive Editor Barbara Castiglia at bcastiglia@modernrestaurantmanagement.com.

Right now, restaurant operators are doing anything and everything they can think of to earn revenue and they’re asking us a lot of questions in terms of technology challenges and opportunities. For restaurant operators that already have a technology stack in place to handle today’s ever-changing landscape, the opportunities are vast. For those that don’t, the challenge lies in the best ways to adopt and adapt. Regardless of where operators are in their operational journey, there are always ways to make improvements, and this is where a shift to more technology-based solutions can help.

The number one thing operators can do right now is think of themselves as outside the traditional space.

Here are a few ways operators can lean into their platforms to enhance operations while making it easier for consumers to gain access to the services they need.

  1. The number one thing operators can do right now is think of themselves as outside the traditional space. Once this mindset shift is made, the question then becomes ‘How can I best provide e-commerce solutions for my community?’ In this new model, operators should be thinking of ways they can become their localized Amazon and build new revenue streams. It is now an operating environment where traditional sales channels and offerings are being replaced by unconventional and non-traditional opportunities. For operators, this means finding the gaps within your communities and then looking for ways you can fill them.
  2. Operators have done a great service by offering and selling grocery items through their establishments. If you’re selling grocery or paper items via your restaurant, make sure you make those items available through your online ordering channel. This way, consumers have an easy order process for those items, and operators can have access to data insights that will help them see and navigate order preferences while keeping stock of their supply chain ordering needs.
  3. If you don’t know what you want to accomplish, determine that first. If your decision is to close during the pandemic, be true to that and think through your strategy for re-emergence. What will your brand look like? What do your goals and priorities look like? And, how will you work and operate under this new model? These are all important questions to ask and answer for yourself, your teams and your brand. Once you have answered those questions, think through the technology stack that can get you to where you want to be.
  4. Pull your strategic partners into the fold early and often. If you have an idea for a new software or technology solution for your brand, call your technology partners early on in the process. Don’t leave it to the last minute as this could derail any idea you may have. It’s not about baby steps; rather, it’s about the journey to your final destination. Start with little wins that can be achieved one day at a time and take each step one at a time. If you need help, do not be afraid to ask for it and don’t wait until you’re in crisis. It will be much more effective if your strategic partners are pulled. This will give everyone as much lead time as possible for your strategic ideas to be developed and implemented.

A lot of changes have happened quickly for restaurant operators and it hasn’t always been easy knowing the best way to respond. However, there will be light at the end of the tunnel for operators who have the ability to reflect on the bigger picture, re-imagine their brand path and then take the steps to get there. It can be difficult to find the time to get there, especially with so many day-to-day decisions still needing to be made; but it is possible to re-emerge stronger and more aligned with what your brand is supposed to be and support.