Roaring 2020’s: revival of the restaurant

When pub and restaurant groups were forced to shut again across the Christmas period, their average drop in sales was up to almost 73% for the year. Couple that with the recent announcement that these will be the last places reopening after lockdown 3.0 ends and it means they’ve got roughly another six months of rent to find. Add on the fact they need to pay staff and suppliers back from the ‘will we, won’t we’ stop start over the festive season and you can see how much work there is to be done.

While some have found a way to keep going over the last 10 months by jumping on online platforms like Just Eat and Deliveroo, the commission means they’re still bleeding bread and experts say it will take until 2024 to level out losses. 2020 also saw a record number of new restaurants open up, meaning it’s going to be more competitive than ever when things reopen. We looked at what some restaurants are doing to minimise long term impact.

Watch this space

Dishoom has taken to recently opening new delivery-only kitchen sites, with its latest and eighth out in leafy Cambridge.

While there’s the initial set up fee, it means the restaurant is able to service home deliveries without having to rely on a third party, provide 50 more jobs, and reach people they couldn’t before.

Others like Wagamama have also been opening ‘dark kitchens, places specifically created for take away food orders only, and we think it’s only a matter of time before others look to extend out of the big smoke and in this way too.

Dig in on digital

It’s no longer optional but rather expected that a restaurant will have some form of digi-comms, and tech in restaurants is not exactly new. However, the way restaurants use it to connect with customers will be the difference in how successful they are at keeping customers close in the interim.

Places like Pizza Express for example have experimented with games on their apps for a while, but Taco Bell hit the mark better in October by unveiling their Taco Gifter service in line with National Taco Day. Customers were able to send chosen friend or family members a taco for collection, along with a fun GIF and personalised message. The restaurant also included special gift wrap with each order.

It allowed customers to connect with one another on a day that would typical have them celebrating in person, reminding them that Taco Bell is more than just a place for food.

Taco Bell

Make a meal of it

Although the memory of eating out is waning for most of us, D-I-Y kits have provided a good segue for restaurants to reach customers who have taken to more home cooking in lockdown. And it’s not just for the likes of Hame, Adam Handling’s gourmet ‘meal-away’, it’s also been adopted by places like Pizza Pilgrim and LEON.

As a customer you’re spared the guilt that can come with ordering take-away and it’s a sure-fire way for restaurants to remind people of just how delicious the real deal is. In other words, it whets the tastebuds just enough so that when lockdown ends customers will be eager to visit the actual restaurant. Win-win.


The easiest choice

Although these examples sound like short term fixes, they really focus on the long game. And that’s what’s going to bring back the punters.

As Marketing Professor Mark Ritson once said when recalling a story from a CEO who’d been observing Formula 1 races, “They’re won in the chicanes and corners … it’s when the driving is toughest that you need to have the guts to put your foot down”.  You only have to look at who survived the 2008 Financial crash to see it worked then too.

So while their doors may be closed for a little longer, we think the worst thing restaurants could do now is keep the metaphorical lights off too. After all, as Winston Churchill once said, ‘Never waste a crisis.’

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