Many restaurants serving customers with delivery during lockdown restrictions are looking to grow that side of their business into the future.
By Zagat Editorial as told to Zagat Stories
While restaurants nationwide have turned to delivery as a way to stay open and serve their communities during lockdown, many are finding new successes that can help them grow into the era of cautious re-opening.
Creative Director, LIME, Miami
We faced a lot of the same challenges that a lot of restaurants did, where delivery just wasn’t such a big part of our business. Cinco de Mayo is our single biggest earnings day. We were gearing up for a whole big countdown to Cinco. We just started thinking, “How can we give this experience at home?” We came up with a make-your-own-taco kit. We call it a Fiesta Kit.That ended up being a really big seller. Plus we include recipes, because it’s so much food, so they can make it the next day at home. Last year, we started this educational campaign about how Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day, like so many people think. Last year we did a video—it’s pretty funny, showing Cinco de Mayo in Miami, with our block parties, which are crazy. And then we show in Mexico, with everybody just walking around, because it’s not a holiday that’s actually celebrated in Mexico. So one of the things we’re hoping to do is celebrate Cinco de Mayo again on the actual Mexican Independence Day of September 19th.
But on this year’s Cinco de Mayo, we never expected the amount of people that ordered delivery and takeout. We could not have prepared for it, to be honest. We equaled sales of fully operating restaurants that day from last year, which is insane. So we’re amping up. We’re putting money, resources, and time into making our whole delivery system better. We are definitely going to keep finding ways to make our food and service and experience come through in delivery.
Co-founder/CEO, Mixt, San Francisco
Salads, as a whole, are fantastic for traveling, because you’re not looking to receive something that’s piping hot like you want your pizza or even your pasta dish to be. Not only that, you can hold them over for a couple days. Overall, we’ve seen a big shift for a lot of people that were probably a little more hesitant to do online ordering or delivery.
We don’t have any basis to make an estimate right now if and when people will come back and start sitting in restaurants. From what I’ve seen among restaurants that weren’t set up for takeout before, there’s been two routes. Some of them shut down and say, “Look, I know it’s not going to make sense for me to open under any limited circumstance. I’m not going to be able to justify it, so I’m just going to stay closed until it does.” On the flip side, you’ve had a lot of other businesses that have said, “Okay, I’m going to get creative.” Fine-dining food doesn’t travel well, and especially when you’re paying a lot of money you have pretty high expectations. It’s hard, especially for sit-down, higher-end restaurants. And yet lots of fine-dining Michelin-star restaurants are doing these dinner packages for families. I saw Noma in Copenhagen just switched to do burgers.
Owner, SuzyQue’s BBQ, West Orange, NJ
We always had a strong delivery business. Now it’s probably at least doubled, maybe tripled. Dealing with that volume—to know what to buy in advance is hard. We have these soufflé cups that we put our sauces in. We ran out of the cups. We ran out of to-go bags. I ran to five stores begging people to give me bags. It was insane. We wanted to keep the menu the same because we wanted people to understand that we are here, we are staying strong, we are there for them, and they can get what they want. Now the biggest challenge is you can’t get the meat. For a week or so, I had to scramble to get ribs. And for me, not having ribs is like Pizza Hut not having pizza. Those are the kind of things we just aren’t used to. You’re getting your staff to understand that you are still serving customers—it’s what I like to call the new B.C. versus the new A.C., “Before Corona” versus “After Corona.” It’s a different world. It’s the new normal for now.