How Three Restaurants Thrived During Uncertain Times

7/7/20 8:00 AM

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Just a few months ago, no restaurant owner could have imagined we’d be here, having been dealt a swift, heavy blow by COVID-19. Not only have operations been severely limited because of COVID-19 restrictions, but in some ways, they changed completely. 

At first, consumer behavior was wildly unpredictable and no one knew what was going to happen. Eventually, some patterns began emerging, which fortunate restaurant owners picked up on and quickly adjusted their strategies to match. Not only did these restaurants survive the worst of the pandemic, they were actually able to come out ahead and increase sales. 

We spoke with three different restaurants—Hometown Pizza, Giovanni’s, and JB Alberto’s—to see how they beat the odds and remained profitable even through unprecedented times like COVID-19.

 

Expanded Restaurant Delivery and Fulfillment Services

 

What they did:

fresh-pizzaWhen disaster struck, these restaurant owners were agile. Rather than focusing only on how to cut costs, they looked for opportunities to expand other services to meet the needs of their customers. 

“We increased our delivery area and hired more drivers to accommodate the growth in the delivery business,” said Rick Smith, owner of Hometown Pizza. 

Giovanni’s restaurants had a customer-focused strategy. They knew their customers wanted to feel safe, so they offered services though which they could address that need. 

“Our customers feel safer when they can remain in their vehicle,” said Brent Cordial, VP of Operations for Giovanni’s. “Curbside pick-up and drive-through services help them do that.”

Why it worked:

It’s no secret that off-premises dining is in high demand right now. In fact, according to a recent Datassential report, 92% of restaurant traffic is now off-premises. Even in the safest locations, many customers are still wary of dining in. These restaurant owners were quick to predict this, and optimized their delivery and pickup services to fulfill customers’ needs for safe alternatives—such as curbside pickup—to keep them coming back. 

Tips for success:

Many customers live outside of standard delivery zones, so like Hometown Pizza, consider increasing your delivery area to increase your customer base. If you're a restaurant owner that does not currently use delivery, third-party services such as Doordash can get you started without the burden of managing your own in-house delivery team. Implementing safe options like no contact delivery lets customers know it's safe doing business with you. Promote your delivery and curbside services to spread the word to your community. 

Lastly, optimize your delivery success by integrating a powerful restaurant management system that allows you to track orders and delivery drivers closely no matter how busy the rush.

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Optimized Online Ordering

 

What they did:

Since customers have been stuck at home, online orders have been increasing. With 110 restaurants across six states, Giovanni's seized an opportunity to deploy the HungerRush online ordering platform stores that were still using legacy systems.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the deployment as more stores are clamoring for online ordering capability,” said Brent Cordial. 

Hometown Pizza also took this opportunity to promote their loyalty program, stating that “the number of HungerRush loyalty program members has doubled since the beginning as more customers have adopted online ordering.”

Why it worked:

When dining in was no longer an option and grocery shelves were mostly empty, customers turned to online ordering to get their meals. Thanks to the convenience and ease of ordering online, this service is still in high demand for many customers, even now as restaurants are reopening their dining rooms and grocery store stocking levels are returning to normal. It provides a safe, easy option for consumers who may be wary of venturing out into public.

Tips for success:

Leverage a mobile app to enhance your online ordering experience, and integrate your loyalty program with your system. This can drive higher sales and encourage repeat orders. 

Take a look at your top sellers. You may want to offer a limited online ordering menu with just those items so that you can optimize your inventory and maximize profits.

 

Implemented New Safety Policies

 

What they did:

safety-firstEfforts to improve safety amid COVID-19 were widespread, and many restaurants amped up their standards to meet and exceed those set by local governments. 

“We stayed on top of ever-changing guidelines throughout our six-state footprint. Guidelines and protocols are different,” said Brent Cordial at Giovanni’s. Now all of our cleaning products are labeled to show the proper concentration, and we have cleaning schedules posted above the systems to state what products are to be used where. All stores have elected to keep buffets closed, some have limited dine-in now, but most are not even doing that. Almost every store is up in volume. They are providing food safely, so they don’t feel like there is a big push to change what is working.” 

JB Alberto’s restaurant focused heavily on increasing safety within their delivery operations, going as far as keeping their drivers from entering the store. 

“We rented a party tent near the back door to hold the drivers to keep them out of the restaurant. We also added a handwashing sink for them to use when coming and going,” stated owner Tony Troiano. 

Hometown Pizza experienced operational challenges when they were mandated to reduce their occupancy by half, but have managed to still find success, stating “our dining room is open at the 50% occupancy level, and still has been full every night.”

Why it worked:

For both consumers and restaurant employees, the top priority is safety. The proper measures must be taken in order to earn the trust of customers and staff. These restaurant owners went above and beyond to ensure everyone feels comfortable leaving their homes.

Tips for success:

Your greatest resource is your customers, so ask for their opinions if you’re able. Send out a customer survey to see what health measures are most important to them, and then implement those into your restaurant. 

Switch to disposable, single-use items like menus, dinnerware, and condiments to minimize cross-contamination. Bonus points if these are sustainably sourced. 

Promote your new safety regulations via signage, social media, and email marketing to let customers know that it’s safe to return and help them feel more confident about the safety measures you are taking.

 

Leveraged an Integrated Restaurant Management System

 

What they did:

It was easy to feel out of control with all the uncertainty, but instead of panicking, these restaurants remained level-headed and focused on what they could control. They utilized an integrated restaurant management system, which allowed them to stay informed of how the pandemic situation was affecting their business and view a comprehensive picture of their data. 

“Monitoring every day has stabilized now, but it was hectic for a while,” stated Giovanni’s. 

“At one time, we were using five third party providers,” said Tony at JB Alberto’s. “We’ve eliminated them all in favor of the HungerRush RMS.” An integrated system like HungerRush allowed JB Alberto’s to view all of their customer data across all channels so that they could gain accuracy and greater control. They could then make changes and have them reflected across all their systems, as well as better communicate with customers. 

“We were able to communicate with our customers very quickly as we adjusted store hours, provided them with special offers, and encouraged them to order online,” they added.

Why it worked:

The owners of Giovanni’s, JB Alberto’s, and Hometown Pizza found success by leveraging an integrated restaurant management system that allowed them to collect and manage all their data in one place. Before this, monitoring operations was difficult and there wasn’t much visibility or organization of data. With it, these restaurants were able to effectively communicate with their entire customer base to let them know what changes had been made and what they should expect moving forward. 

Restaurants that use a restaurant management system are able to view sales and employee data across all platforms and locations, helping them not only communicate better, but make more informed business decisions. This is crucial, as successful restaurants must constantly monitor and adapt their strategies as the COVID-19 situation evolves.

Tips for success:

It’s critical that you have the data you need to make smarter business decisions. It’s also critical that these business decisions are aligned with CDC guidelines for how restaurants should operate.

A restaurant management system will be integral as the restaurant industry redefines itself. When choosing this technology, make sure you rely on industry experts that know and understand exactly what it’s like to be in your shoes. Look for technology providers like HungerRush that are committed to developing the tools that help you adapt to changing circumstances so that you can stay on top. From the front-of-house to back-of-house, delivery, loyalty, and more, HungerRush provides the tech you need to navigate COVID-19 and beyond. Interested in learning more? Talk to the experts at HungerRush and request a demo today! 

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Toby Vyvjala

Written by Toby Vyvjala

Digital Marketing

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