As restaurants cautiously begin to reopen in pockets of the U.S. and abroad, the restaurant industry remains far from full capacity. Over the past several months we have seen customers modify their business models to accommodate restrictions and consumer preferences. While many restaurants pivoted quickly to off-premises dining only, the model is not a fit for every brand. This gave rise to a variety of creative solutions including expansion to curated meal kits and market baskets. Some restaurants even opened their pantry to become pop-up general stores.

Forging New Connections

With millions of people working remotely, lunchtime, once a time of socialization, has been reduced to redundant trips to the refrigerator. Many organizations offer on-site catering and cafeteria amenities as a convenience to employees, but with work from home requirements employees are forging for themselves. 

Recognizing this shift, Freshii, a fast-casual franchise with hundreds of locations globally, created a corporate partnership that enables companies to offer meal kits and market baskets at a discount to their employees. The concept now branded Freshii WFH (Work From Home), is an offshoot of their COVID response program, which focused on local hospitals and provided meals to front-line doctors and nurses in a safe and timely fashion. Freshii has since extended the program to include the private sector, offering meal combos ordered through their app or major aggregators (UberEats, Skip the Dishes, etc.), and grocery boxes delivered directly to home offices. 

“The current situation has made everyone in the industry rethink their approach to business,” said Tanvir Bhangoo, VP of Technology, Freshii. “The meal kits give companies the opportunity to offer a healthy and convenient option to their employees, and keeps our inventory moving. It’s been well received, truly a win-win for everyone involved.”

Reviving The Supply Chain

Now more than ever, it is important for restaurants to maintain a healthy connection with their supply chain. If restaurants aren’t ordering as much food to serve in house, suppliers end up with a backlog of perishable goods. To prevent this from happening, and hedge against a potential shortage when demand starts to climb, the food that would have been prepared at a restaurant kitchen is being sold directly to the consumer in some creative ways.

Prairie, a local restaurant in the San Francisco area, took that approach. Tables that had been used exclusively for dining were transformed to hold dozens of bulk products ranging, literally, from soup to nuts. Prairie also offered fresh produce and baked goods daily and stocked its dining room with high-quality meats. Customers can simply pre-order online and pick up their goods. 

Suppliers, like everyone, have been hit by the current crisis and perhaps have too much of some inventory and not enough of others. Strategies like those employed by Prairie keeps the supply chain moving, costs constant, and food waste limited. 

Expanding a traditional restaurant model to include new innovations requires focus and attention on daily business metrics. It’s important for operators to monitor revenue, cost, and inventory daily so that it can remain agile and iterate on new concepts. And, in a time when every customer interaction is vital, accurate and complete customer data across all channels will be essential to cultivating loyalty and repeat business. As restaurants chart a path forward, understanding customer perception, preference, and sentiment to changes in service and/or menu will also be vital to long-term stability. 

For more information, visit Oracle’s COVID-19 resource center.

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