Archive for the “Restaurant Industry” Category

Keep it Human: Communicating During COVID-19

Communication with guests is always important, but during times of change, transition or challenge, it’s paramount. With so many businesses having to totally rethink their standard approach due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the Paytronix team has compiled a list of communication best practices.

Exercise empathy

This is a scary time for everyone – including your guests. Make sure they know you’re a brand they can trust by being transparent about your operational changes, safety precautions, and closures or new operating hours.

Just about every brand out there is sending messages conveying what they’re doing to mitigate the virus’ spread, so ask yourself what information you really need to share. For example, everyone is washing their hands more now, so focus instead on what your brand is doing differently that will foster a sense of comfort and trust in your guests. That can be as simple as telling guests you’re closing down in the interest of their health as HuHot Mongolian Grill did.

As a rule of thumb show an awareness of the struggle many people are going through, welcome feedback from your guests, even if it means asking for it, and above all, stay true to your brand.

Keep your guests informed 

If you’ve shut down operations, make sure your guests know about it, and be sure to explain why. Consider adding a footer to your emails or a banner on your website to keep them updated about closures and plans to reopen.

If you’re still open, remind your guests of your hours, which locations are in operation, and how they can place an order. Prioritize online ordering with hyperlinks or banners on your site. Make sure they are in a bold, obvious place, and consider giving discounts or double rewards points for takeout and delivery orders.

Be sure to let guests know about any additional services you’ve added to minimize contact, like contactless delivery or curbside pick-up. If you have a dynamic concept, consider how you can continue to provide value in nontraditional ways. Host, a company that offers bartenders for hire, has pivoted to sending regular “Drink of the Week” cocktail recipes to its subscribers via email. They’re still providing a service while tailoring their approach to fit within social distancing guidelines. 

Practice and promote social responsibility 

Guests want to support businesses they consider socially responsible – a trend demonstrated through the rise of farm-to-table restaurants. At a time when many are struggling, guests will appreciate – and remember – the brands that supported their employees, communities, and guests when it mattered most.

Charitable donations are also a great way to support the community while simultaneously promoting your own brand, without appearing tone-deaf. For example, New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees announced he would donate $5 million through partnerships with restaurants like Jimmy John’s and Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day to children on meal programs, seniors and families in need.

That said, be careful not to appear you’re taking advantage of the crisis. If you’re going to offer a discount, don’t make the coupon code “COVID” or “coronavirus.” Keep in mind that your guests are struggling too – provide comfort, service, or distraction from the daily anxiety, but don’t pretend it’s not happening.

Suspend or tweak untimely campaigns

Email and marketing campaigns are often set to recur or are planned in advance. Don’t forget to review the campaigns you had scheduled to avoid awkward messages, like visit challenges, missed visit campaigns, and We-Miss-You reengagements. These messages can be postponed until they are appropriate to send.

Campaigns that will still be relevant – like birthday rewards – can be adapted by including accommodations for guests who cannot redeem them now. Let them know you’ve remembered them and are working on ways to provide their reward at the appropriate time.

Extend reward expirations and reevaluate tier structures

It’s important that guests don’t feel penalized for not visiting during the pandemic. Communicate to guests that their points and rewards won’t expire during the shutdown.

Dunkin’ Brands did this with a simple email to its guests, assuring them that yes, their free drink rewards will be available later, while maintaining a supportive and friendly tone: “We’ve got your back.”

For programs that reward guests in tiers based on their annual spending, consider adjusting tier definitions, extending status or giving guests a boost to make up for lost time.

Spotlight Series: Brands Spreading Positivity During Difficult Times

Throughout this crisis, brands are searching for a way to maintain their strong customer relationships. A number have lessons to teach us all as they work to foster a deep emotional connection with their community. Here, twice a week, we’ll spotlight specific brands that are spreading positivity.

Thursday, March 26, 2020 Spotlight: The Pasta Bowl

The Pasta Bowl, a chain of neighborhood pasta shops, has maintained its fun and friendly tone throughout its customer communications. Still, it is serious about addressing the current environment. Take this snippet from a recent communication:

“Lots to be frustrated about these days. Lots to disagree and argue about too, it seems. We can all agree on one thing, though: we ALL wish none of this was going on.”

To address this undeniable truth, The Pasta Bowl has taken a different approach to uplifting its customers by collecting its stores’ playlists and sharing them through Spotify and Apple Music. Sometimes sitting down and throwing on some tunes can help people relax, or maybe even validating their feelings by listening to lyrics that resonate with them. Maybe a few will break out and dance! 

To learn what other creative brands are doing to build customer relationships during this time, connect with us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and check out our site for more COVID-19 related resources.

The Apple Music Playlist

Go Wide and Go Home: Best Practices from the Paytronix Community

As we all try to adjust to the new reality of doing business, the Paytronix community is coming together to share best practices for customer outreach in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. We hope you find some ideas here that will help you in your day-to-day marketing operations.

Extend Your Outreach

Right now, use your loyalty resources to connect with both existing and potential customers, regardless of whether they are loyalty program members. Let them all know if you are open and to what extent. Are you open only for takeout or do you offer ordering and delivery? How about curbside pickup?

While your loyalty program has always been a great communications channel for reaching your best customers, consider taking your campaigns into new channels.

Primanti Bros. Restaurant and Bar, the 87-year-old, Pittsburgh-based creator of sandwiches topped with French fries, took a one-off reward usually only available to loyalty members, such as two sandwiches for $10, and promoted it on all available channels – loyalty, e-club, and social media – to reach the widest possible audience.

 

Know Your Delivery Customer

Catering may be on hold for now, but individuals and families that are stuck at home want an alternative to their dwindling pantry fare. It’s important to know who these customers are so that you can segment and target them with relevant offers.

For instance, come up with an offer of sandwiches and soda for families stuck at home and another offer, like six-packs to go, for the millennials and Gen Xers who are confined to apartments.

Or take your $10-off-$40 promotion to the delivery channel, as California Pizza Kitchen is doing in this Facebook post.

Give Customers Delivery Options

Some brands are generating up to 30% of their current revenue through the third-party delivery services. The associated charges can make this an expensive proposition, but some services are negotiating reduced fees during the current crisis. If your brand has its own free-delivery service, make sure your customers know about it.

If you have a strong delivery business, think about how you can promote it beyond your core loyalty program.

Captain D’s, the nation’s leading fast-casual seafood restaurant, took two key actions that proved effective. First, it promoted its delivery campaign strongly on social media. Second, it sent “shout-out” emails to explain operational changes, such as shorter hours and stepped-up sanitation measures, while also promoting takeout and delivery. Captain D’s can actually attribute a jump in online ordering to these promotions.

Captain D’s also gives customers the option to choose how their order is delivered. Many brands now offer alternatives, such as contactless delivery, drive-through, carryout, and curbside pickup.

Listen to Your Customers

Finally, be open to customer feedback. If customers are calling and asking about redemption dates, it’s important to reassure them that their rewards will be honored. In fact, many brands are reviewing redemption dates and extending them from 90 to 120 days.

If your customers are responding to your Facebook promotions, thank them for ordering with you and for their continued support of your brand. Tell them that you look forward to seeing them again.

Through all of this, it’s about building strong customer relationships that can be beneficial today and grow in the future

Where Ordering and Delivery Meet the Pocketbook

Last week saw some major movement in the third-party delivery world. First, the New York Times pointed out how much delivery truly costs the consumer, noting in a headline that delivery charges can often nearly double the cost of the order itself. Then DoorDash, the industry leader with at least a third of the delivery market, announced that it plans to IPO. DoorDash last raised money at a staggering $13 billion valuation, which is equivalent to the market cap of Domino’s Pizza, the seventh-largest restaurant chain.

The contrast between these two headlines strike at the debate about whether third-party marketplaces are a disruptive trend or simply a passing fad for niche opportunities. At Paytronix, we are always focused on what is best for our restaurant clients. We think this issue comes down to a basic question: How does third-party delivery impact brand value?

When our clients turn to third-party aggregators for delivery, it’s often because they are testing a service model outside of their four walls at a very low cost. Conversely, in-house fulfillment has fixed costs for recruiting and training, and during the early stages, it’s not obvious that enough orders will come in to cover it all.

Delivery’s Cost to the Consumer

An article in the New York Times suggests that what’s truly happening here is that the costs are shifting to the consumer, which is just making meals more expensive. “Up to 91% More Expensive: How Delivery Apps Eat Up Your Budget” found that orders placed with the top four delivery companies– Grubhub, DoorDash, Postmates, and Uber Eats – came with a markup of between 7% and 91%. On top of that, there were some truly crazy charges, such as a $3 “small order” fee from Uber Eats.

Some brands hike their menu prices for delivery orders, while others list higher prices within the app to compensate for increased delivery costs. Yet consumers may be willing to pay these incremental costs to enjoy the benefits of ordering and eating without ever having to leave their couch.

Delivery’s Cost to the Brand

Restaurants need to ask themselves how delivery impacts their individual brand. It’s no small question in light of a massive shift that is shaking the restaurant world to its very core. The guest experience used to be defined by how people felt when they visited a restaurant. Owners mostly focused on choosing a good location, how the restaurant looks, what smells greet people when they come in, and of course, how the food tastes. While those things are still important, a change in how consumers operate is emerging.

The ability to order from home is, in most cases, a positive. But restaurants need to consider pricing as it applies to the total costs for their guests. If people feel that they’re being gouged or not receiving value, it can negatively affect the brand.

Mobile phones enable consumers to create their own interaction point. Whether it be via Google, Yelp, third-party delivery apps, or a branded app, the interaction ends up driving their decisions, bringing in factors like speed and convenience. Meanwhile, the emergence of subscriptions has the potential to completely remake the market. Panera Bread recently received a lot of attention for its $8.99 monthly coffee subscription, and DoorDash is offering unlimited deliveries for $9.99 a month with its DashPass.

These changes in consumer expectations drive changes in how restaurants evaluate everything from where they’re located to how people receive and eat their food. The ultimate costs for meals also need to be taken into consideration, since studies show that consumers are more likely to blame issues on the brand than the delivery company.

As for the DoorDash IPO, investors are clearly betting that the company will be a chief beneficiary of this evolution in how consumers choose to interact with restaurants. The demand for ordering items and having them delivered isn’t decreasing anytime soon, which is why we here at Paytronix invested in our own Order & Delivery solution. We also work with all the major delivery brands to ensure that our clients’ guests have consistently favorable experiences.

Because no matter how consumers receive their food, they still expect a great brand experience.