How are restaurants, pubs & bars adapting to the coronavirus outbreak?
Published 19 March 2020
On Sunday our partners at THINK Hospitality Group pulled together an article with advice for hospitality operators to help them through these unprecedentedly tough times. Just since Sunday the situation has changed substantially for our sector across the world. Italy is still in lock down, France has gone into lock down, part of the USA has banned restaurants and bars from opening, in Denmark there is now a ban of gatherings of ten or more, Spain has just closed all of its hotels and here in the UK the government has advised the public to socially distance, discouraging visits to bars and restaurants.
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We have seen incredible responses by operators to these challenges to try and maintain as much of their business as possible, keep their team employed and support communities. In the article below we feature a number of these businesses that are not just leading the way but shining lights of hope for our sector right now. Steal whatever inspiration you can get out of this, and help us in turn share ideas that work for our sector!
Takeaway & delivery
The most obvious opportunity for most has been to turn to delivery - in many shapes and forms. McDonalds is perhaps the biggest player to have announced a major move to drive-through and takeaway only, closing its in store seating - something that many other QSR & to-go brands have also done.
For businesses that are usually full service, or experience focused, this is less natural. Those brands that do will need to be extra creative to get the message out and to cut through the white noise of communication. A plethora of brands are doing just that.
· This morning we saw iconic London Indian brand Dishoom launch their menu on delivery platforms, with a little teaser about getting one of their legendary bacon and egg naans (for those that haven’t tried it, really must!)
· Helsinki Michelin starred chef Sasu Laukkonen has switched his intimate twenty seat restaurant, Ora, into a sushi production facility for takeaway over the coming weeks
· London’s Lupin Restaurant founders Lucy Pedder and Natasha Cooke have set-up and branded their own delivery service called ‘Women on Wheels’ offering customers ‘healthy delicious sunshine food’ delivered by ‘girls whizzing around the city on mopeds.’
· Chef Damian Wawrzyniak, who runs House of Feasts restaurant outside Peterborough in the UK started early seeing the way trade was going and last week increased production of a Pierogi, Sourdough bread, duck leg, which he is offering as takeaway & through delivery within 5 miles, alongside a special menu. He is avoiding using platforms and encouraging guests to order via his website or Facebook page.
· Danish brand Sticks’n’Sushi are offering a ‘Unity’ menu, with their best priced family meal for pick-up.
- 25Hours Hotels, a hotel chain mostly based in German speaking countries, has opened the majority of their restaurants for take-away
- Whisper Sister, a speakeasy bar in Tallinn, Estonia has pre-batched Negronis and Old Fashioned cocktails for take-away.
- We have followed a similar lead at our venture, I am Doner, offering drive through at our Harrogate store and removing the seats from all other stores, to go strictly takeaway only.
· NYC two-site restaurant group Mala Project have released a ‘Quarantine Food’ offer, to ‘spice up New Yorkers’ pantries.’ These include boxes of noodles and special dishes in jars at $12 each, which can be put on noodles, rice, eggs, pancakes, stir-fried veggies and dumplings. They will offered through delivery. They even created a website specially for it: https://malatome.com/
· In Denmark, Michelin recognised Brace went viral yesterday as the chef, Nicola Fanetti was personally delivering meals to guests’ homes.
· UK based pub company Oakman Inns have managed to activate takeaway of its menu quickly and is quickly looking to offer delivery, with a focus on offering families a solution for Mothers Day at home, which is this Sunday in the UK.
· Another independent that quickly adapted was Coffeology in Hammersmith, London who installed a new counter at their door, to trade right at the street edge.
· Industry disruptor Brewdog were fast to react and introduced the Brewdog drive-thru, offering food and beer, ordered through the app and brought to your car on arrival at the bar.
We understand that the delivery and takeaway aggregators are working hard to onboard new businesses as quickly as they can onto their platforms, just this morning we spoke to an executive at Just Eat who confirmed they have been inundated with requests, as you’d expect.
Our technology partner in I am Doner, Vita Mojo yesterday announced it was working hard to extend its order and collect to include steps to support client delivery.
For those looking for a free, quick easy direct online platform in the UK, we have previously worked with Gloria Food, who offers a good entry level system which can be implemented quickly. Most countries will have similar services, so look them up.
The learning here is that restaurants, pubs and bars of all sizes and levels are adapting to takeaway and delivery – all the way to Michelin starred fine dining restaurants. But also that in the rush to extend their business models, the winners make sure that they don’t just become another brand that delivers – they ensure that this is communicated to their loyal guests in a way that makes them noticed.
GIFT VOUCHERS & MERCHANDISE
One of the first reactions of many faced with closure was to encourage guests to buy gift vouchers – it has spread rapidly. While some great stories of generous guests buying big vouchers have appeared and in the US this seems to be working, in Europe the majority we spoke to have had limited success with this, as not to excite you too quickly - presumably as guests tighten their own spending and worry about the future of these businesses.
· Internationally renowned bar entrepreneur, Ryan Chetiyawardana who goes by Mr Lyan, was quick to respond encouraging gift vouchers for his venues online. One of his venues, Lyan Cub is promoting a special voucher that includes a set food and drinks for two, plus an extra round of drinks and cheese course.
· New York restaurant publicists Steven Hall and Helen Patrikis quickly set about creating the Dining Bond Initiative, seeking to bring in immediate cash in exchange for future restaurant purchases. Diners can buy gift certificates sold at a 25% discount ($100 worth of food for a $75 bond) to be redeemed in a participating restaurant in the future, depending on how individual restaurants decide to honour the bonds. The program is open to all restaurants.
· London’s Harts Group, who own Quo Vadis, El Pastor, Casa Pastor and Barrafina distributed a newsletter to its database offering guests a £1,000 voucher that will be worth £1250.
· Modern Indian restaurant group Kricket, who operate three venues, of which all are temporarily closed due to the outbreak, offered guests purchasing their vouchers 20% extra than the cash value they pay – and will be valid until the end of the year.
If you are keen to give this a go, there are plenty of providers out there, but one of our partners RSVP has quickly worked to turn their integrated gift voucher system into a SAAS product over last couple of days to help restaurants quickly get up and running to sell gift vouchers online. https://insider.rsvp-popup.com/news/2020/vouchers-rsvp/
SUPPORTING HOSPITALITY TEAMS
It is with absolute misery that many executives have to make the decision to make lay-offs right now. While some countries have announced schemes to support individuals in this predicament, such as Denmark, France & Ireland, others have not yet done so – here in the UK we hope to hear this policy from our chancellor later today. In addition, there are a number of welcome initiatives being developed by industry and entrepreneurs.
· Only A Pavement Away, the charity that supports homeless and vulnerable people into jobs in hospitality has announced a pay gap fund that ensures its members don't fall back into destitution. You can support the scheme here: https://onlyapavementaway.co.uk/donate
- James Brown and the team at TipJar have launched a Hospitality Workers Emergency Fund to support those in need with Hospitality Action, where 100% of donations will go directly to the hospitality workers that need them. You can donate here: https://www.wearetipjar.com/emergency-fund/
- Hospitality icon Danny Meyer, who was among the first New York restaurateurs to shout his restaurants announced that he’s creating a relief fund for Union Square Hospitality Group team members, seeding the effort by contributing his entire salary and a meaningful executive pay cut. Alongside this he announced that all gift voucher sales for the next week will go directly to this fund.
At a time of crisis leaders are made and reputations destroyed. How leaders and companies communicate will often be the deciding factor in the lasting reputation. We have seen some incredible proactive communication that we can learn from.
· Peter Borg-Neal, Chief Executive at Oakman Inns publicly shared his video to the team, where he was calm, reassuring and most of all set out a clear plan that the team could trust in. In a multi-site business, video is a great way of communicating as it is more personal and easier to trust than a letter.
· Pret Chief Executive, Pano Christou, has been at the forefront of communication from the company, regularly communicating and personally signing, even including his direct email. For a business of this size, this feels impressive and helps by giving customers someone to trust in.
· Upon closing their restaurants, Will Beckett and Huw Gott, founders of Hawksmoor publicly shared a letter via their social media channels, which was written with absolute grace and decorum that detailed the challenge and their response, showed them to be genuine and in touch.
· New owners of the East of England institution Zaks, Chris Carr & Ian Hacon, who are a few months into running the company, again to took to video to reassure customers, taking the front foot.
At this time it’s important to remember that while this is a terrible time for our economy and the hospitality sector, it is primarily a public health emergency and as such there are a group of people who are at the coal face of this, healthcare professionals – who are putting in even more hours and risking their lives. Several brands are supporting them during this time.
· McDonalds are offering all health, emergency and council workers free hot & cold drinks in much of the world.
· Kane in Bucharest is transforming itself from restaurant to community kitchen serving hospitality workers and those whose jobs don’t allow them to be at home during this time, while giving chefs from other restaurants an opportunity to support.
- Belgian creative restaurant chain Balls & Glory has come out with a campaign “Donate A Ball” where people can pledge 8 EUR on their website and the company doubles it taking 1 per portion to the health workers
· Indian street food brand, Mowgli is feeding NHS workers for free ahead of its temporary closure, in the UK.
· Dominos are hosting Free Pizza Friday this week for all NHS staff in the UK.
- In New York, chef Markus Samuelsson’s team voluntarily prepared 150 meals to Harlem’s Bethel Gospel Assembly Food Pantry.
· Pret are offering all frontline NHS staff free tea and coffee, and 50% off other items in store, in the UK.
· Brewdog are using their stills to produce to alcohol gels, which they are offering to free to those in need. Many other brewers and distillers are taking similar actions.
- Feya Cafe in London giving complementary tea, coffee or meal for NHS and also donating surplus food to food banks
- We’ve seen Siigur Restaurant Group in Estonia also donate their left over produce to food banks. Something that Adrian Cummins of the Restaurant Association of Ireland has encouraged, as well as to homeless charities and meals on wheels operators.
OTHER USEFUL ADVICE
· Kate Nicholls and the team at UK Hospitality are doing an incredible job representing our sector here (as I am sure your national associations and trade bodies are elsewhere). They are updating their advice here: https://www.ukhospitality.org.uk/page/coronavirus
· Mark McCulloch from Supersonic is putting out some great content about how to market yourself during this time. You can follow him here: http://instagram.com/supersonic_inc
· Find out earlier article that still has lots of pertinent advice: https://www.thinkhospitality.co.uk/post/how-can-restaurants-bars-survive-covid-19-pandemic
· Follow James Hacon, our Chief Executive on Twitter & Linkedin who is posting and tweeting regularly with updates on the situation and great practice. https://twitter.com/jameshacon https://www.linkedin.com/in/jameshacon/
This article has been created by our team of partners, associates and consultants at THINK Hospitality Group.
If you are doing something you are proud of and think would help others, let us know by emailing email@example.com – and we’ll keep sharing.