The past few months have been incredibly challenging for the hospitality sector, as thriving restaurants, bars and cafes were forced to close their doors to dine-in patrons.
When restrictions were enforced, many of these small businesses demonstrated extraordinary levels of creativity and resilience by introducing or ramping up their online ordering and home delivery offerings. This resilience and persistence has been an integral factor in the survival of many hospitality businesses around Australia.
But, as restrictions begin to ease to various levels in each state, businesses are now looking to a new set of challenges. With limits on dine-in patrons, simply opening the doors and hoping for the best can do more harm than good.
Careful consideration needs to be given to staffing and stock, for instance, to ensure margins are maximised. Through careful consideration and planning, businesses can start to rebuild steady profits during the transition back to ‘business as usual’.
Give the customers what they want
The way that customers interact with their favourite restaurants and cafes has changed dramatically over the last couple of months, particularly with a major shift to online ordering. In fact, Kounta data reveals that the average order value for online ordering channels has doubled since January.
While there are many Australians itching for a nice meal in a local restaurant, or a drink in their favourite bar, there are just as many who remain cautious of crowds and public spaces, and are hesitant to dine out. This means that takeaway, home delivery and a diversified product offering, including retail food and drink, will remain hugely popular, and should constitute a key part of a venue’s offering.
Home delivered, hand delivered
Customers have had little option but to embrace new home delivery options during the pandemic and, after almost three months, this behaviour has become habitual. And they’ve loved it! Home delivery isn’t just about cheap convenience anymore – customers have been able to experience some of the country’s finest offerings, such as meals from Sydney’s hatted Porteño restaurant, in the comfort of their own homes.
And it’s not just customers that benefit; there’s a huge appeal for restaurants too, as Kounta data reveals that the national average for delivery orders is well over $50. Implemented efficiently, home delivery is a smart revenue stream that compliments the in-venue offering, and no doubt smooths out the day-to-day variability in demand.
Take Newtown’s Rising Sun Workshop, for example. Rising Sun Workshop re-employed its casual kitchen, bar and floor staff to work fulfilling takeaway orders as delivery drivers, keeping its staff on the books. It’s a win-win – giving customers the convenience of being able to enjoy a premium experience at home, while allowing venues to preserve their brand experience right to the doorstep, increase order values and maintain turnover of inventory.
For those who are considering re-opening, it will be vital to ensure that demand is managed and costs are controlled in an effective way. Bookings, seating arrangements and set menus will help minimise unpredictability, manage customer expectations and ensure efficient staffing that enables venues to maintain an exceptional standard of service. Limiting seating times to one or two options also helps to effectively control floor staffing rosters.
And finally, businesses should be sure to take into consideration the additional time service staff will require to thoroughly clean and sanitise tables, and should consider putting measures in place to avoid crowds gathering in groups outside the venue. It’s also important for operators to do their research and ensure they’re compliant with newly introduced regulations (such as contact tracing), which vary from state to state.
Power up with tech
In the coming weeks and months, venues will start re-opening, and new venues will begin to open where older ones used to be. But perhaps the biggest shift will be in the technology that is put in place. The true value of adaptable and connected cloud-based tech has never been as clear as the past few months, where so many businesses have had to pivot overnight to survive.
In the future, operators will be using platforms like Kounta to not just survive, but thrive – connecting all the tools they use in their business for centralised order and inventory management, smart analytics and ultimate efficiency. So, consider getting in early to ensure all your tech is up to scratch before the rush begins once again, or consumer behaviour makes yet another shift.
The hospitality industry has been known to work at a fast pace. But if there’s anything the past couple of months have proven, it’s that the industry is incredibly skilled at adapting to challenges thrown it’s way. This next phase of reopening will be where the true learnings happen – learnings that will shape the future of hospitality for potentially decades to come, and will set the winners apart.
Nick Cloete is the Founder and CEO of Kounta, Australia’s leading cloud-based POS and hospitality software platform.