These are turbulent and scary times for restaurant operators across the board. Online orders went from 10% to 100% of your business in just a matter of days.
Your in-store order channel completely disappeared. And we're at war with germs, scared to touch anything or anyone.
The only piece of good news is … well, people still need to eat (yes, even during a pandemic) to survive—and survive we must as an industry and a country!
But the pre-COVID rules of the road have changed drastically. The guest, now ordering solely through your online channels, needs an optimized menu for the current environment. And most importantly, restaurant brands need to remember that guests are suffering too (whether financially, emotionally, or other ways); and they’re looking to you to acknowledge their pain and adapt quickly. If you can comfort their fears with cozy, affordable food, we'll all feel just a little bit better.
6 Ways to Ensure Your Online Menu is COVID-Friendly:
1. Serve Up Your Highest-Margin, Top Selling Menu Items
Start by taking a good hard look at your P-Mix data to identify your high-margin and best selling items; then determine which ones have the best staying power— they travel well and stay fresh longest. Other considerations to pare your menu down for online success:
- Pick menu items that are easiest to produce and sell; and if using delivery select items that travel well. While we all love french fries, they aren’t always the best item for delivery.
- Be on the lookout for cheaper ingredients that could drive margins up. As an example, the cost of cheese decreased significantly in the past month.
- Be prepared to make some hard decisions: there may be a favorite menu item that’s lower margin and doesn’t travel well, now is the time to streamline your menu. McDonald’s recently discontinued all-day breakfast because it's low-margin and cannibalizes their customer base.
- PRO TIP: Do not upload and automate your entire menu; if you automate the whole menu, you automate the mess! The last thing you want to do is frustrate your online guests by making them scroll through thousands of items and options. Short, simple and straightforward is the best approach for your online menu today.
2. Bundle & Super-Size Everything
More families are back together and wanting to order for large groups. Buyers are looking for the most food to feed the most people—plus, we're all in a “get more” hoarder-like mentality. The first thing a guest should see as soon as they hit your online menu is either a “Family Pack” or Meal for 2 or more. Other tips:
- Make Group and Bulk ordering as easy and visible as possible.
- Offer Medium, Large, and XL portion sizes for sides; remove options for small items and portions.
- Don’t skimp on portion sizes. One way to drive repeat orders is by providing a lot of food.
- Bundling will lower your labor costs. In most cases, you’re already working with a lean team, so bundle your menu items; or create new bundles. Don't sell single items unless they're high-margin.
- Uber Eats just announced 30% off orders of $50 or more.
Family bundles from Subway, Boston Market, and Atlanta Bread
3. Round out the Meal Experience
While you want to keep your menu short and sweet, do not overlook up-sell potential by offering items that round out the meal experience: apps, entrees, sides, beverages, and desserts for your online menu.
- Side dishes are often high margin, travel well, and stay well for days in the refrigerator (i.e., potato/macaroni salad, beans, mashed potatoes, granola and yogurt).
- Pre-packaged sides, desserts, and CPG items like chips and bottled beverages are great additions to your menu. They travel well and have a long shelf life. SaladWorks offers a nice variety of to-go sandwiches, snacks, soups, desserts, and more.
- If you include more of anything on your menu right now, it should be easy-to-transport sides and pre-packed items so look for opportunities to add new and different items.
4. Promote & then Promote Some More
People are stressed and hurting. Your business is hurting. Consumers are more finicky and fickle than ever. So you need to work harder and smarter to earn their business. This means offering promotions in all different shapes and sizes. Whether it’s $5 off a family meal; or a coupon in your to-go bags—you MUST offer some kind of deal right now or even your most loyal guests will disappear.
- Coupons. Add 'old school' paper coupons to your bags or offer digital coupons to drive repeat orders. Even better, include a note from your founder thanking the guest for choosing them during this difficult time. I’ve picked up 4 meals this week and not one gave me any incentive to return. And so I have not returned. Great couponing examples by Church's Chicken and Rapid Fired Pizza.
- Every Day a Holiday. Easter and Passover are coming up and chains like Boston Market are all over it. But there's no need to wait, you can make every day a holiday! Create your own holiday like TacoTuesday and Wingstop's National Ranch Day. Or, get creative like MOD Pizza did with April Fool's Sweepstakes.
- COVID-scarce products. Consider offering hand sanitizer, gloves, or toilet paper with orders. It’s been done by many local restaurants, but it’s still a winning idea. Get inspired here.
- Gift Cards. offer gift cards via all your channels to stay top of mind and encourage gifting. Toast is running a Rally for Restaurants gift card program to support local restaurants.
5. Ensure a Simple Online Experience
I know this is harder said than done, but look at your online menu experience and make sure the guest can quickly—and with few clicks—get to the basket and checkout. If you have multiple screens, options, and steps, you risk losing them. As part of your overall experience, clearly indicate your available channel options: curb-side, drive-thru, pop-up tents, and delivery partners.
- Hide your current online menu (you can default back to it later) and replace it with your new, streamlined COVID menu to make ordering fast and easy.
- Don’t overcomplicate flavor profiles . Avoid “ build it yourself” and replace with suggested items, combos, and prepared bowls.
- Talk to your tech vendor or web agency about streamlining the experience with the least amount of clicks.
- Track online experiences. Be sure you're tracking all your online ordering pages, using Google Analytics, to see where you can improve the guest experience and uncover issues.
6. Be Agile, Transparent, and Creative
Now is the time to try keep an open mind, pivot to stay afloat, and embrace your creative spirit. And most importantly, don’t give up! Stay positive and adaptable, considering new menu items or combinations that will produce the highest margin, travel best, and drive repeat business. Communicate and over communicate to your guests, like Dog Haus is doing. Get #CoronaCreativity inspiration. Some other tips:
- Publicize your charitable efforts: Tell guests how you’re supporting local and national relief efforts on your website. Luke's Lobster helps frontline workers.
- Explore affordable updates to your packaging, since that’s now your only in person brand experience. Consider stickers; better branded bags, updated containers, and freezing your food.
- Consider the “impulse buy." Is there a new item you can offer at checkout, think of yourself as a grocery store—a chocolate bar, chewing gum, paper products? Consider the grocerant approach.
- Stand out however you can. Don’t be afraid to try guerilla marketing. Post signs on the front of your restaurant, flyers in the mail, and QR codes on your doors for curb-side pickup.
We sincerely hope these tips will help your business stay open and attractive to online guests during this very stressful time. Trust me, we're all learning how to adjust to this new reality together and it's not easy. RTN is publishing great COVID resources, called "Open for Business" and grants are available through organizations like NRAEF's employee relief fund. And here are good state-specific COVID resources.
At Qu we’re remaining hopeful and committed to doing whatever we can do to help our restaurant family members. When COVID first hit, we reached out to our customers offering financial assistance, marketing support, extra IT resources, and a quick-start online ordering solution free of charge. We’re continuing to trudge, side-by-(virtual)-side with our customers through this crisis.
Although the world has changed in unforeseen and drastic ways, we remain focused to our mission—to help the industry move forward together, by providing modern, integrated and digital-forward solutions. And through all the incredible change we’ve experienced the past month, there’s one thing we do know for sure.
The restaurant and hospitality industry is the strongest, toughest, most resilient and formidable industry around. We stick together. We help each other. We do what we can. And right now, all we can do as tech providers is be better at what we do. To work across competitive lines to truly put the operators first. And do the right thing. Here’s to all of us hustling and slogging through right now.
Let’s collectively raise our virtual glasses to each other and march on.