The initial idea for Sociavore came to us because of issues we had with our family’s own restaurant website. We found our website hard to keep up-to-date and maintain (anyone who has to manage a WordPress website knows what I’m talking about).
More recently, we’ve focused Sociavore on the idea of a restaurant’s website being a large and meaningful driver of new and incremental revenue as the guest experience becomes more “digital” to meet and exceed guest expectations.
We’re happy we did because we’re now entering uncharted territories. COVID-19 is keeping our guests out of our dining room. We’re now hanging our entire restaurant on our “digital” guest experience on our website.
Our full-service restaurant skews older, a demographic that’s at greater risk with COVID-19. Our dining room over the last couple of weeks has been getting emptier and emptier. We’re OK with that. We want our guests to remain healthy and happy. We look forward to serving them once it’s safe to do so.
But we have staff, fixed overhead, and bills – people and other businesses depend on us. According to OpenTable, as of March 13th, Ontario reservations y/y are down 45% and dropping rapidly. Cities like New York City are already at a 60% y/y decline in reservations.
Instead of watching revenue drop further, we are taking this as an opportunity to make adjustments.
We’re located in a suburban neighbourhood, surrounded by school closures and work-from-home policies. We’re aiming to serve the neighbourhood better as we all do our part to flatten the curve.
Sociavore has always been about helping restaurants, like ours, deliver the perfect digital guest experience. We know that this is becoming increasingly more important. In today’s climate it is essential.
Here’s a few things we’re going to do…
Double-down on the website and online profile basics
Our guests are now making their purchase decisions based on what they see online (online channels). They are looking at our website, Google My Business profile, Apple Maps, Instagram, Facebook and (maybe) Twitter. We’re ensuring our locations, hours of operations, phone number and menus are accurate and accessible. If guests can’t find this information quickly, or if they see large inconsistencies – they will pass on our restaurant.
Takeout and curbside pickup ordered online (or called-in)
We see an opportunity to create a takeout menu with family platter options. We’ll post the menu across all of our online channels and link them to our website. Guests will be able to place and pay for orders through our Sociavore-powered website or call them in directly. We will be offering curbside pickup, by taking advantage of our restaurant’s parking lot.
We’re also playing with the idea of spinning up our own localized delivery. To accomplish this, we’ll be picking up a mobile Square reader for our phones to allow customers to pay at their door.
Promoting digital gift cards
Our guests have been asking us for ways to support us. We will be encouraging them to buy digital gift cards so that we can bring in some revenue now and they can enjoy a meal later when things have settled down. Sociavore has a digital gift cards feature which lets people purchase and email gift cards as well as sell physical gift cards that we can mail out or have guests pick-up.
Using the right links for third-party delivery and adjust prices
We don’t do third-party delivery apps at our current restaurant, but we’ll be depending on it for our upcoming restaurant opening.
That said, third-party delivery apps are a viable sales replacement but one you need to think about carefully. If third-party used to represent ~15% of your sales before and was priced the same as your dining prices, when it becomes 80% of your sales, you lose most if not all of your profitability.
Adjust your prices and change your menu for third-party apps. Build in a profit above and beyond the ~25-30% the third-party apps take. Keep in mind, telling our existing guests to go to a third-party app means we lose the direct relationship. They will be marketed by competing restaurants in these apps.
Some providers like DoorDash provide a unique link that can be integrated on the restaurant’s website. This link decreases the restaurant’s fees for delivery orders placed from your website. Provide that link to your guests on your online channels.
GrubHub is waiving their fees for independent operators in the United States. Uber Eats is also waiving fees for independent restaurants in Canada and the United States. Reach out to your account managers for your third-party apps and request the same thing. With enough pressure, we think they will bend.
We are focused on helping independent restaurants rise, especially during these challenging times.
If all else fails…
Feel free to message us directly at [email protected] if you have any questions or comments.
Wishing you all the best,
Thusenth & Amina