December 21st, 2020

How Restaurants Succeed During a Pandemic

Posted in Restaurants, Technology

Learning How 3 Restaurants Have Grown During COVID

How Restaurants Succeed During a Pandemic

There’s no doubt we’ll all take many lessons from 2020, one of which needs to be how restaurants succeed during a pandemic.

This week, we’re highlighting three restaurants that have found ways to not only survive, but even grow during COVID. Let’s see what lessons we can learn from their successes.

Wingstop

Restaurant successes during a pandemic

Image courtesy of wingstop.com

With an over 25% increase in sales in quarter 3 and consistent gains over the year, Dallas, TX based Wingstop has shirked pandemic expectations. Not only are sales up, but they also launched 43 new stores over the year.

One thing that has helped Wingstop stay profitable is their willingness to adapt and innovate. When expected shortages and price increases threatened chicken wing supplies, the company began experimenting with bone-in chicken thighs to much success.

They’ve also tested the idea of launching ghost kitchens if necessary and have continually invested in technology. This has led to the digital share of Wingstop’s sales to rise 62% this year. The company’s executive leadership credits a combination of culture, technology, and old-fashioned product quality for their current stability.

Domino’s Pizza

Restaurants winning the pandemic

Image courtesy of Dominos.com

Domino’s Pizza reported a 17.5% increase in U.S. same-store sales in the third quarter, which was is strongest sales performance in decades. New product launches and innovation played a strong role in Domino’s success. Specifically, the popularity of the Cheeseburger and Chicken Taco pizzas, plus the redesigned chicken wings.

Additionally, their previous investment in ordering technology has paid off dividends during the pandemic. Where many companies had to pivot in order to launch non-traditional methods of ordering, Domino’s already had these pieces in place. Specifically, the “car-side” delivery option has proven extremely popular.

All of this, however, has to be balanced against the higher costs incurred during the pandemic. While sales are up, so are costs, including safety and sanitation, food costs due to supply chain issues, and employee related costs due to increased sick days. Not to mention, mandated early closing times in high infection rate areas. But none of this overshadows the successes of the model put in place.

Fazoli’s

Pandemic restaurant trends

Image courtesy of Fazolis.com

Fazoli’s has shown an incredible trajectory of growth all year, closing quarter 3 with a 14 percent sales increase, 10 percent increase in traffic, and 217 percent increase in online ordering year-over-year. Against the background of the pandemic, these numbers are nearly unbelievable.

CEO Charles Howard credits this success to serving “craveable Italian dishes at an incredible value” with focuses on service and convenience. With that, some credit does go to the introduction of their virtual wing concept, Wingville.

Since the full company launch in October, Wingville has raked in $350,000 at 56 company locations, and franchisees who are offering Wingville experienced nearly $100,000 in sales in November alone.

Common Threads

common-thread

There are a few common threads one can observe from the success of these companies during such trying times.

Portability is Key

With off-premise dining becoming the primary function of restaurants, and the likelihood that it will remain popular, having a product that can maintain quality during delivery is important. Foods like wings, pizza, and pastas are excellently suited to this.

If your food isn’t inherently suited to take-out, it would be worth looking into how the process can be improved or offering a limited menu for off-premise dining.

Familiarity

Pizza, Italian foods, and chicken wings are all popular, ubiquitous items. For a diner, this means there’s low risk for disappointment.

Value

These companies are all providing good quantities of food for a relatively low cost. When this can be done while maintaining food quality and flavor, it’s a win for all sides.

Technology

Finally, all three companies have put a heavy focus on developing technology or partnering with digital leaders to get their foods in the hands of customers. The ability to access and order food easily through multiple platforms ensures customers don’t have moments of hesitation or frustration.

Congrats to Those Making it Happen

We salute you. And we hope that more of our friends and partners can leverage these assets to ensure the stability of their own businesses. We’re all in this together, after all.

Any tips on how to increase sales during a pandemic? Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

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November 16th, 2020

2021 COVID Food Trends

Posted in Food Trends, Healthy

Food Trends to Expect as We Head into 2021

It may seem crazy to start anticipating 2021 COVID food trends, but there’s already plenty of information available on what food life may look like.

As we know, this year has led to the rise of comfort food. The stress of the world around us partnered with stay-at-home orders, food distribution issues, and hoarding led to many consumers wanting to curl up with their favorite food. This nostalgic touch of normal has helped us stay grounded in tough times.

But those same comforts and limitations have led to unwanted side effects on health. Depression, weight gain, and nutrient deficiencies have all been on the rise as we’ve lost time in the sun and access to healthy hobbies. Therefore, it’s no surprise that consumers are looking towards health and wellness in 2021.

2021 COVID Food Trends

Healthy Snacking

2021 COVID Food Trends

Snacking is up across the board. As people work from home and find more flexibility in their daily schedule, they’re also finding more time to snack. 26% of U.S. consumers snack multiple times a day, and another third snack at least once daily; 38% say they replace meals with snacks (usually lunch) at least occasionally.

As consumers work to get back to their “pre-COVID weight,” a strong draw will be to find healthier snacks. Outside of the retail setting, this means bite-size restaurant eats made with vegetables, lean meats, or whole/ancient grains. Even if weight loss is a focus, it can’t take the place of exciting flavor (like bold sauces!).

Plant-Based

Food Trends 2021

Plant-based foods are no fad. They are here to stay and they can provide an excellent health-focused option. Home preparation of plant-based proteins like dry beans and lentils, tofu, and homemade veggie burgers are helping people discover that good nutrition can be delicious. This can translate directly to restaurants, where that exposure will lead to plant-based menu choices.

An important fact to keep in mind on this note, however, is that more than ever consumers are reading nutrition labels. Those labels need to reflect recognizable ingredients. Consumers are actively steering away from ingredient labels that sound like science experiments.

Restaurants can capitalize on this with flavor-forward plant-based options tying into nostalgic favorites. Plant-based buffalo chicken or meatless marinara are excellent options. Both provide immense flavor boosts without blowing out the caloric limit.

Functional Foods

Functional Foods Trends 2021

Coronavirus has done a great job of opening consumers’ eyes to the power of foods and their functions. 2021 will undoubtedly showcase foods that offer a functional benefit, like immune and energy boosts.

This is a great opportunity to enhance dishes by packing them with protein, vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc, among others. And with family mealtime becoming a norm once again, creating dishes that benefit the whole family will be an added bonus.

Opportunity is Knocking…

Will you answer? Now is the time to start planning your menus and products for 2021. Using these characteristics aligned with bold, craveable flavors, you can ensure your place with the diner of next year.

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September 21st, 2020

Winter Dining with COVID – How Restaurants are Planning & Adapting

Posted in Consumer Trends, Restaurants

Restaurants are Getting Creative with Winter Dining Solutions

Winter Dining Solutions

As challenges continue to mount, restaurants now must look at planning for survival during a COVID winter.

Outdoor dining and take-out options have certainly helped slow the bleed for restaurants nationally, but traffic is still low. While some areas have introduced 50% indoor dining capacity rules, there are still areas (New York City, for example) where indoor dining is not permitted. Therefore, outdoor dining and take-out services remain the main, reliable sources of regular sales.

But, with a looming winter that could bring ice storms and snowfalls to outpace previous years on record (see Farmers’ Almanac Extended Forecast), restaurants are looking for creative solutions to keep guests comfortable, even when outside.

How Restaurants are Adapting to a COVID Winter

Infrastructure

Outdoor Dining COVID

The most obvious, and most expensive, changes happening are around infrastructure. Many restaurants are investing in outdoor awnings, standalone coverings, and/or private pods like igloos for outdoor seating.

Along with this comes the addition of outdoor heaters, both gas and electric, that will be arranged for the overall area and at individual tables. Additionally, many restaurants are adding shops or markets to their now semi-vacant indoor space to promote the purchase of house-made items. This includes not only pre-packaged foods but even raw ingredients in some cases.

Some restaurants have gone as far as investing in indoor air ionization systems to ensure the air inside is safe and virus free. While this might seem like an attractive solution for many, the price tag can be quite prohibitive ($10k+).

Luckily, the National Restaurant Association is currently lobbying congress for tax credits for businesses adding infrastructure enhancements to battle COVID transmission. This, however, may not see any results before winter begins, so best to not put all your eggs in that basket.

Seating Solutions

Winter Dining Solutions

Along with the infrastructure enhancements, many businesses are looking at the physical seating space for opportunities to add warmth. One popular idea has been to replace outdoor metal chairs and tables with items made from warmer materials, like wood and cloth.

To compliment these additions, there have been investments in restaurant branded blankets and shawls that can be used during service, then either purchased by the customer or laundered before next use.

Finally, to combat wind in outdoor areas, the addition of plants is an option. Adding greenery and shrubbery to an outdoor dining space can not only make it more inviting and create privacy between diners, it can also block some level of wind and precipitation.

Menu Solutions

Winter Food Solutions COVID

Another way to make customers feel warmer when dining in cold weather is to simply provide warmer food. Many restaurants are making dramatic menu changes to include foods that provide warmth, like stews, soups, curries, and chilies.

The other benefit of outfitting a menu with these items is that they are quick to execute. This means the customers time in contact with the cold is reduced.  This is an intentional move to ensure the diner doesn’t have to wait in the cold for too long before their cozy meal is delivered.

Finally, some more ambitious restaurants are carving out other paths to bring in sales including grocery delivery and event-based to go kits, like anniversary picnic baskets and date-night meal kits.

Let’s Bundle Up & Eat!

As restaurants continue to adapt to COVID, there’s no doubt innovative dining solutions will continue to increase. One thing is for sure, it’s going to take a series of small solutions, rather than a single big one, to keep restaurants cooking this winter.

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