June 6, 2020

Empowering restaurants to thrive in the new normal

Updates

Welcome to the isolation economy

Since the past decade or so, the sharing economy has flourished. From Uber to Airbnb, the sharing economy was built on the premise that multiple people could share unused or under-utilized assets. The sharing economy was designed by companies attempting to change how we live and incentivizing us to share our assets. Today we are on the cusp of a new trend that has been catalyzed by the deadly coronavirus. We are entering the isolation economy. Here social change is defining how products & services will be built to enable our lifestyle transformation.

One of the key impacted social changes has been dining out. Due to the lockdown, all restaurants have shut down their stores. The small slice of the industry that is open during the lockdown — those still offering home delivery — are also taking a hit as customers prefer to cook at home fearing contamination. In this new normal, restaurants are finding a way to adapt and survive.

The new normal for restaurants

At Hashtag Loyalty, we quickly understood things were not going to get back to normal for a long time and the reality for our business and the industry we serve was changing rapidly. We initially reacted by deploying Save Local, a platform where customers could purchase gift cards of their favorite businesses, thereby giving these businesses the much-needed cash flow to pay important expenses and guaranteeing customer footfall for once they are ready to serve.

As we went back to the drawing board, we spoke to our customers & their customers to understand how this new normal will shape up. A few of the insights we gathered were as follows:

Health is a priority

As the lockdown lessens in the coming weeks, we’ll be opening the doors to a new world. This world should look quite different for restaurants. In a world with a highly contagious virus — one which has already infected over 2.5 million people globally — everyone wants to know how safe the restaurant they’re eating at is. Anurag Katriar, the President of the NRAI (National Restaurant Association of India) says in an article in The Ken, “Hygiene will change after the Covid-19 pandemic the way security changed after the 9/11 terror attacks. Your marketing message in the post-COVID era will be less about your chicken and more about hygiene.” Currently, most restauranteurs are waiting to understand government & health industry guidelines around best practices for safe dining. Until then technology innovations are already helping restaurants prepare for the new normal, with solutions that help us move from a contagious environment to a low-touch & safe environment along with safety practices such as masks, sanitation checks, digital menus & payments, e-bills, queue management, and lower workforces.

“Hygiene will change after the Covid-19 pandemic the way security changed after the 9/11 terror attacks. Your marketing message in the post-COVID era will be less about your chicken and more about hygiene.”

Delivery is no longer a luxury but a necessity

In this new normal, all businesses will have to revert to delivery to survive as we learn how to limit the spread of the virus through social distancing, medical treatments, and eventually a vaccine. With this new reality comes another caveat, businesses pay a significant commission to delivery aggregators. A typical business had a 70:30 revenue mix of dine-in & delivery. The commissions paid to food aggregators were offset by customer footfall. But now these commissions are no longer sustainable, so is the monopoly that these apps have on customer data. As revenues in most cases are down by at least 96%, businesses have to revert to delivery or re-visit their fundamentals with delivery aggregators.

Importance of (emotional) loyalty

In the past decade, the concept of customer loyalty has been transferred to aggregators and linked to plum discounts on these platforms. Loyalty was bought, rather than invoked. Restaurants that truly survive and thrive in the new normal will have to invoke emotional loyalty that is driven by a true affinity to the product & service that is at disposal rather than discounts or bargains. Some of the best examples of building emotional loyalty can be found in traditional small businesses. For many years, successful small businesses made it a point to get to know their best customers personally and often reward them with special services and attention. This is now essential for every business — when customer footfall will be lower than ever, it will be essential to deliver increased value to profitable customers turning them into loyal customers; and that loyal customers become even more profitable over time.

Restaurants have been a part of our social fabric since medieval times and they’ve served right through two world wars. While we will all need to understand how to adapt to this new reality, restaurants are here to stay.

During this period of reset as we like to refer to it at Hashtag Loyalty, every business owner is faced with a new set of jobs to be done:

• How do I survive or earn revenue?
• How do I protect my customers & staff?
• How do I bring back my customers?

Introducing Thrive

Keeping this new normal in mind, Hashtag Loyalty has launched Thrive, an all-in-one restaurant ordering suite that not only will allow businesses to survive the harsh reality of the pandemic but also thrive in it. With Thrive, businesses will be able to:

• Reduce dependency on aggregators by setting up their own delivery infrastructure in minutes.

• Reduce contact & improve turnaround times by replacing physical menus with digital ordering in their stores.

• Own their customer data, to understand insights and personalize their marketing efforts to invoke emotional loyalty and keep their customers coming back to the store.

Thrive has been conceptualized after a thorough understanding of the new reality and our technology & domain expertise while building Hashtag Loyalty for the past 6 years. The offering covers every part of your business from enabling a customer transaction to bringing back them to your store. The key product features are:

  1. Digital menus
    Beautifully designed menus available for delivery or pickups and table ordering.
  2. Digital payments
    Collect customer payments directly and avoid handling of cash.
  3. Delivery fleet integrations
    We’ve got you covered if you don’t have your own fleet with direct integrations with delivery service providers.
  4. Loyalty & feedback Retain existing customers with your loyalty program. Collect customer feedback to improve your product & service.
  5. Customer insights & data Understand who your users are, their spending patterns, their preferences to gain a competitive edge.
  6. Marketing CRM Complete set of engagement tools to bring back your customers to increase repeat sales.

Why should you choose to Thrive?

Loyalty & CRM integration

The digital ordering solution comes with Hashtag Loyalty’s CRM & loyalty modules. Activate customer loyalty program for your customers, understand customer insights & data, and engage with customers via campaigns, auto campaigns to bring them back to your store.

Free yourself from aggregators

One of the lessons that the pandemic has taught restaurants is that they’re heavily dependent on food aggregators. This is not a sustainable business practice. Food aggregators feed into almost a third of your revenues which makes it difficult to earn profits. Take this time to build your own infrastructure and be less dependent on aggregator apps.

Ownership of customer data

You own your customer data. Utilize this data to increase repeat orders, and improve revenues. With food aggregator apps, no customer data is shared with you. Hence you are unable to access your existing customers to grow your business.

POS integrations

Hashtag Loyalty is integrated with all the major POS players in the market. A complete integrated product allows you to seamlessly manage your orders without having to access another dashboard.

The math for India’s $50 billion restaurant industry has changed due to the pandemic. It’s time restaurants took control of their own destiny. We at Hashtag Loyalty are here to transform your restaurant to survive & thrive in this new normal.

Get in touch with me at karanc@hashtagloyalty.com to know more about Thrive.

References for quotes, data, images, or any other relevant information:
https://the-ken.com/story/new-math-for-restaurants/
https://the-ken.com/story/when-in-a-pandemic-sell-hygiene/
https://www.forbes.com/sites/kmehta/2020/03/23/welcome-
to-the-isolation-economy-goodbye-sharing-economy/#4b

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https://unsplash.com/

Written by

Karan Chechani

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