As COVID-19 continues to spread across the country, many states are enacting mandates and regulations that limit how restaurants can operate. Several states and such as Florida, California, New York, and Washington have been ordered to close down all bars and dine-in restaurants, with the exception of takeout & delivery. And in adherence to the advice from both the White House & Center For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), many people seeking to practice social distancing are looking for alternative ways to enjoy their favorite restaurant foods. But is getting food delivered really safe?
Is ordering takeout the most ethical approach? Will either of those be enough to help keep your restaurant from taking a huge hit? As there is no guarantee that either takeout or delivery will be the ultimate key or perfect solution to your business’ survival, here are a few things to consider as to why they may be important to implement right away.
With the threat of catching coronavirus through both airborne exposure and tainted surfaces, there is an increasing demand for “contactless” options when it comes to delivery. With third-party sites such as GrubHub & Postmates offering consumers the option to request no-contact delivery arrangements, this set-up could prove beneficial in lowering the risk of viral transmission. According to an article from Eater, “when you go to check out on Postmates under ‘Dropoff Options,’ customers can now choose between one of three dropdown options: ‘Deliver to my door,’ ‘Meet me outside,’ or ‘Leave order at my door.’ Grubhub is also encouraging consumers to personalize their ordering instructions to leave specifics as to how they want their driver to deliver the food. “It’s impersonal, and perhaps seems extreme, but a food delivery could be left in front of the door,” says Dr. Stephen Morse, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University. “And a tip left similarly for the delivery person, much as we do with other packages, so there’s no need for face-to-face contact. There may be transmission through inanimate objects, which we can try to minimize with good hand hygiene.” And while most of the major third-party apps are waiving commission fees, having your own in-house delivery system in place or at the very least set employees assigned to carry out delivery orders can help keep outside companies from cutting into your margins. Urge your customers to order takeout and delivery directly through your site or app, in order to capitalize on maximum profit. Similar to larger franchises like StarBucks, Chipotle, Domino's, you can create your own custom app and online ordering system sing OrderEm as your one-stop shop.
When it comes to claims of Covid-19 actually being transferable through actual food itself, there is very little research to support that. According to Dr. Thomas Tsai, an infectious disease expert and assistant professor at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Global Health Institute, “early evidence suggests that the virus is inactivated by heat. So I think cooked foods minimize the risk of any transmission from the food itself.” However he does advocate for proper hand hygiene prior to handling the food and the container (and bags) they come in and subsequently sanitizing the areas they come in contact with. “It’s not a bad idea to wash your hands before you look through containers and potentially to wipe down some of the exterior surfaces. That’s erring on the side of caution. But I think in this time of uncertainty, it’s the prudent thing to do.” Additionally, it’s imperative that all food cooked, prepared, and transported from your restaurant still fall in line with regular food safety guidelines so as to lessen consumer fears.
In times like these it can be hard to go about life as usual and with the threat of contracting global disease through even the most mundane human contact, tensions can be alarmingly high. It’s important that there be grace on both sides when it comes to delivery drivers and takeout workers to ensure and assure their job stability, peace of mind, and most importantly their safety. Encourage your customers to pay online and come pick-up their food either inside or by utilizing the curbside option. Incentivize them with discounts or add-ons for coming in in an effort to ease some tension as well. Also, try to persuade those customers who do want to utilize delivery to be gracious when tipping their driver and in their expectations. If possible, remind customers that they can and should tip their driver via online, in app, or over the phone when they place their order. (And to avoid leaving cash tips as mishandling can aid in the spread of germs and contagions.) “If you order, treat couriers kindly and convey your ethical concerns to companies,” Carissa Veliz says, practical ethicist at the University of Oxford. “Ask if workers’ jobs are being made as safe as possible, and whether they can take sick leave.
Another way to push your customers to show gratitude is by recommending that they leave high and good ratings to the drivers (especially since a large portion of their livelihood is dependent upon positive ratings). As Arielle Pardes wrote for Wired: “Workers with higher ratings get preference on orders, which means they get to work more. And many platforms have a threshold of how low ratings can get before a courier is bumped off the service altogether.”Things are shifting and changing at warp speed, the last thing either party needs is hostility and impatience during these trying times. From a business standpoint, be sure to have proper policies in place when it comes to paid sick leave and paid time off for those workers who may test positive or have symptoms due to potential exposure.
Offering online ordering is critical for your restaurant’s survival during Coronavirus pandemic and beyond. Convenience is key when it comes to customer service and providing a seamless, easy-to-use system will create a better experience for customers, which can result in both an increase in sales and peace of mind for customers.
Here are some of the advantages businesswise of online ordering:
It streamlines the ordering process easier for your customers.
It’s convenient and safe.
You can utilize free and cheap marketing by promoting the option to customers via social media.
You can gather customer data.
It can be optimized for web, mobile, and in-app ordering.
It provides efficient customer and order management.
It will reduce staff (which is crucial for public safety during a pandemic).
It can help ensure order accuracy.
It can help increase customer loyalty.
While having a functional online ordering website will provide a partial solve, you need to make sure your offerings are findable across different social channels. Promoting your online ordering on each of the major platforms will generate more hits to your website. And by creating coupons and incentivizing customers to partake in your online ordering, that will be a surefire way to generate orders and keep business running during these uncertain times.