There’s little denying the devastating, widespread impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. restaurant and food service industry.
By March 22, 2020, some 38 states across the country had responded to the global crisis by implementing stay-at-home orders, and forcing restaurants to limit their operations to take-out and delivery only. For many restaurants and similar types of businesses, such restrictions came as a major blow.
Despite initial projections of $899 billion in sales by the end of 2020, the National Food Service Industry wrote to the White House in March 2020 warning of a $225 billion decline in sales, a decline that would have a direct effect on the livelihood of the 15.6 million workers employed in the industry.
Even major national chains were affected. The likes of McDonald’s and Starbucks were all forced to make temporary closures, while the Union Square Hospitality Group, often widely praised for their exemplary employee standards, laid off thousands of employees.
For others, however, the switch to an online ordering and delivery model presented an opportunity to stay afloat in unchartered waters. According to recent research from Datassential, some 57 percent of consumers were happy to order from restaurants if they operated a drive-thru service, while 47 percent would willingly use a delivery service and 46 percent would use a takeout/carry out service. Stories are rife in the popular press of businesses that have used this kind of data to their advantage and successfully adapted their business to a new way of working.
Months later, as lockdown restrictions lift and return, COVID-19 remains a real danger. So, while many businesses in other sectors work to find new ways of operating in a socially-distanced manner, those in the restaurant industry already have a tried-and-tested solution.
Yet, even though switching to this particular “new normal” may overcome one challenge, it presents many more of its own.
Introducing a new menu
It’s a fact, often overlooked, that not every item on your in-house menu is entirely suitable for takeout or delivery. Dishes that need to be served uber-fresh may not be at their best after a 20-30 minute journey across town, while others simply may not be practical to serve them up in any other way than in-house.
That’s one reason to consider adapting your menu for a new way of operating. Another reason is that you may find that the majority of your menu items are ignored by your customers.
In the United Kingdom, food delivery startup Deliveroo said that 80 to 90 percent of orders are concentrated on less than half of the menu items, and there’s no reason why this wouldn’t be the same in other countries, too.
Of course, adjusting your menu to a post-lockdown world means taking a clear look at what’s working and what isn’t. This is one way QuickBooks® Online Advanced can help.
With custom reports, restaurant owners don’t need to wait until the end of the month, or even the end of the week, to monitor sales. Sales reports can be generated and emailed to key stakeholders as, and when, required. With time very much of the essence, this helps to make fast, informed decisions about your delivery and takeout menu, eliminating waste and maximizing revenue in the process.
Accounting software can also prove invaluable in managing inventory so that you can improve efficiency, identifying those ingredients that simply aren’t suitable for your new way of working and making smart decisions when it comes to re-ordering.
Setting up online ordering
While there is nothing inherently wrong with telephone ordering, it’s far from the most efficient system available. During busy periods, answering the phone becomes a full-time job all by itself, taking staff away from food preparation and other essential duties. As a result, it doesn’t take much to infuriate more customers than you successfully serve.
It’s for this reason that an efficient online ordering system has become so essential, especially during the current climate. There are countless apps, Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, and bespoke tools to help restaurants accept online orders, but setting one up is often only half the battle.
You also need to ensure that software integrates with your point of sale (POS) software, and that your POS, itself, works in conjunction with other tools, such as your accounting and inventory management software. This ensures that online orders are properly tracked, invoices and receipts are properly generated, and inventory is properly handled.
For example, should your famous sweet potato fries suddenly experience a surge in popularity during a single shift, your inventory management system can alert you that you need to reorder your supplies to avoid being out of stock.
Integrating your online ordering app with QuickBooks Online Advanced will allow you to track every dollar generated through online ordering, helping to ensure a seamless transition from your previous model and keep tabs on your best-selling items, again improving your decision-making processes.
A unique challenge posed to mid-sized chain brands is deciding which branches to keep open, while focusing on online ordering and delivery.
One of the advantages of QuickBooks Online Advanced is that it makes it easy to track data from multiple locations, and access all of that data in one dashboard. This can help you identify which branches are the most in-demand and which aren’t doing so well. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to minimize costs by temporarily closing down underperforming branches, perhaps relocating staff to those locations that need the most on-site help.
A shift in overhead costs
It isn’t just the cost of running more locations than necessary that will impact your bottom line. A shift to online ordering and delivery means a shift in day-to-day overhead, too.
For example, fewer in-house customers means less use of electricity to power lighting, background music, and other elements that are essential to the customer experience. However, you’re likely to spend more on suitable containers for take-away and deliveries, not to mention the cost of hiring delivery staff. Meanwhile, that revamped menu discussed earlier will also bring changes to your outgoing costs, all of which need to be effectively managed if your business is to successfully adapt to the “new normal.”
QuickBooks Online Advanced provides a number of helpful features to support this change:
- Time-tracking payroll features enable you to get a better handle on your staffing costs, while the ability to automatically categorize your expenses and view them from one central location makes it easy to control costs.
- Elsewhere, QuickBooks Online Advanced users benefit from effortless integration, with more than 600 different apps designed to do everything from managing inventory to scheduling your workforce.
Combined, such features provide you with all the information you need to work out exactly how adapting to a new way of working is affecting your costs and managing those costs effectively.
QuickBooks Online Advanced: The key to successful decisions
Though few of us could have predicted the widespread impact of COVID-19 on the restaurant industry, the businesses that have been able to adapt, survive, and even thrive in the current climate, are those that have been able to react fast and make critical business decisions quickly.
QuickBooks Online Advanced empowers business owners to make those key decisions by providing in-depth data about all aspects of their enterprise, at a time and in a format that suits them.
Custom daily or weekly reports can help restaurant owners with everything from changing up menus and managing staffing issues, to navigating the myriad of other challenges that come with implementing an online ordering system in a way that is not only sustainable during the current environment, but also successful in the long run.