Posted on Friday, 27th March, 2020
- Act now to establish or ramp up your delivery and takeaway offer.
- Limit your menu to popular and profitable items.
- Increase your footprint by partnering with several delivery aggregators.
- Get active on social media to keep your customers informed.
- There are no right or wrong answers: try things and refine as you go.
With the federal government announcing late in the evening on Sunday 22 March that all non-essential businesses were to shut down, the likes of pubs, restaurants, clubs and cafés were plunged into uncharted territory.
It is forcing an enormous change to our way of life, with social gatherings and sit-down dining suspended for an indefinite period of time. The ruling has already led to significant job losses.
However, unlike workplaces forced to close entirely under the Draconian measures, there is a silver lining for some hospitality businesses with restaurants and cafés allowed to produce meals for delivery and takeaway.
Jamie Kolovos is the owner of Boss Burger Co, a chain of premium burger restaurants operating across Victoria. The company derives extensive sales from delivery so is relatively well placed to forge ahead in the current environment.
Kolovos shares some ideas that will help other businesses navigate the food delivery maze.
Q. If a business is considering delivery, what do they need to know?
A. Simply, the sooner you can act, the better. While it’s very raw at the moment, you’ve got an opportunity to move nice and quickly.
Make contact with Deliveroo or one of the others, get on the phone, they’ll get you up and running within a couple of days or so.
My advice is to limit your menu to the most popular items. Try and package them up with tea or coffee and deliver it with, say, some smashed avocado on toast for $20. Maybe add in a sauce on the side and charge a little more. Basically, get creative but focus on what normally works for you.
Just put yourself out there and hopefully you’ll come out of it okay.
Q. Do you recommend restaurants and cafés use more than one delivery service?
A. I think you should because the bigger your footprint, the better the chance you have of somebody finding you. That’s important right now.
There’s no real difference in the aggregators, I believe. Generally speaking, they’re much of a muchness. For the record, they all offer contact-free delivery, which has been in place for about three weeks as they could see what was happening in the UK and the US.
Q. Is this the time to be worrying about delivery service commissions?
A. While the delivery platform takes a commission off you, you’ve got to be willing to sacrifice a little to gain a little.
Very few cafés and restaurants would be able to mark up their prices to cover the entire commission that they take from you but if you’re willing to wear a bit, you probably stand to make a bit more because hopefully you will attract repeat customers over time.
A bit of revenue right now is better than no revenue at all.
Q. How are you managing your staff situation?
A. You can try to retain as many staff as possible by finding alternative jobs for them, whether that’s delivery or washing dishes… you can give them the options.
If you’re doing takeaway there has to be some point of contact for customer service; someone has to place your order and someone has to package your order. So there’s a spot for some staff but perhaps not all of them, unfortunately.
Would I use front-of-house staff to run deliveries? You could, but it’s a matter of whether or not they would want to do that particular job. I’d be more inclined to stick with the riders available via the aggregators and possibly train up and use front-of-house staff in the kitchen.
The reality is slower sales due to the virus make it very difficult to keep rostering staff. It will eventually lead to job losses. It’s inevitable.
Q. What’s the best way to communicate with customers in this new environment?
A. Flood your social media, put a notice in your front window, tell anyone who will listen, hey, we’ve got a delivery service available so jump online and order away please!
Letterbox drops take some time to get designed and printed but if you’ve got the spare money, give it a go.
Just having spoken to a few people, I think social media is probably the most powerful platform at the moment. It’s fast, effective and it’s in your face.
Q. Any thoughts on the performance of direct e-commerce versus the delivery platforms?
A. Getting an e-commerce solution up and running from scratch is a big ask. At Boss Burgers we give people the choice to order through our website or via the aggregators, but we’re finding people are going straight to the aggregators because their brands are so strong. They are very hard to compete with.
The likes of Uber are in your face, all over radio, TV and social media. People automatically default to them, whether they go online using their computer or the app on their phone.
More often than not, customers will use the aggregator because of the choice they get. The exception is if they know specifically what they want.
Q. Will you make any physical changes to your restaurants?
A. With takeaway, people are still allowed to come in and order their food, or they can call ahead. So if you’re offering takeaway you might just have to create the space to allow separation between customers.
Apart from that, you’ve really just got to shuffle around a few things on your benches. Allocate sections for delivery and sections for people to come along and pick up their takeaway meal.
Q. Any last words of advice?
A. If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past week, it’s the value of just putting yourself out there and having a go, whether it’s working on your delivery offer or your takeaway offer. Have a crack and go down swinging!