COVID-19 Tips: New Ways to Pivot Your Restaurant

Explore the different ways your restaurant can pivot and thrive during this global crisis. Sharing with you a comprehensive guide on business remodeling in the time of COVID-19.


Early this year, we witnessed nations across the globe as they started to impose lockdowns one after another. It’s no surprise that restaurants, and the F&B industry as a whole, are taking a hard hit as we continue to face the effects of COVID-19.


Pre-pandemic, dining-in was a big part of people’s lives. Filipinos love to try new concepts, to celebrate the end of a workweek, and to simply catch-up with friends over food and drinks. But with the fluctuating lockdown levels and unresolved risks of COVID-19, it might take awhile before restaurants are allowed to operate dine-in at full-capacity again and even longer for customers to feel safe enough to dine-in..


If the customers can’t come to you, how can you go to them?

How can you continue to offer a full culinary experience to customers while safely staying at home?


In this guide, we’ll review a few different ways to answer these two important questions.


5 Ways to Pivot Your Restaurant During COVID-19

1. Online Ordering

If your customers can order directly from you, you have the opportunity to allow them to pick up or you can deliver directly to them. If  you cut out the 3rd party delivery system you can capture more of the profit. 


Setting up online ordering sounds daunting, but there are a few options out there that make it easier than  you think.  There are quite a few digital ordering systems out there that are customizable, affordable, and easy to work around with. Here are just some of the platforms to explore:

  • Prosperna
  • Shopify
  • WooCommerce
  • Beep


2. Delivery Service

Even before COVID-19 made its way to the Philippines, food delivery service was a booming business. Now, the demand catapulted when people were forced to stay indoors and could no longer eat out in restaurants.


Despite lockdown rules easing up in recent weeks, the risk of COVID-19 is still very much real. If you haven’t already set-up your restaurant’s online delivery service, now is the ideal time to do it. Rather than surviving on 25% to 50% dine-in capacity, allocate a portion of your resources to reach the customers where they are—at home.


How to Set-Up Your Delivery Service 

There are several ways you can do this:

  • Set-up an ordering system on your website and use a pick-up service like GrabDelivery, Lalamove or Mr. Speedy.
  • Sign-up as a merchant on food delivery apps like GrabFood and Foodpanda.
  • Start your own delivery service. It may be easier than you think to find the motorbike drivers you need and organize direct delivery so you aren’t losing a portion of your margin to 3rd party services.


3. Curbside Pick-ups

Another way to keep customers safe and reduce contact is to offer curbside pick-up to customers. Some customers aren’t comfortable with the additional touch of a delivery person. This option restricts contact to restaurant employees only.  


How does this work? Ordering works much like other online food delivery services. Customers order via phone call, sms, or online, then pick-up their orders from a designated parking spot without having to leave their cars.


How to Set-Up Your Curbside Pick-Up System

STEP 1: Develop an online or other digital ordering system.

STEP 2: Find a designated area for your curbside orders—ideally, in your parking lot or the curbside in front of your store.

STEP 3: Plan how your customers will claim their orders. Name and order number are the most common way to confirm orders.

STEP 4: Train your employees to fulfill curbside orders safely. Make sure they’re all geared-up and maintaining protocols while doing this.


4. Menu Engineering

You are well aware that your menu offerings now need to be packaged up and will likely be eating at least 30 minutes or more after the food leaves your restaurant.  It’s a big shift and can present a challenge when trying to deliver the same quality food and experience to your customers.  


It’s not just a matter of figuring out how to deconstruct and package your menu items.  You may have to change your menu a bit and think outside the take-away box.  There’s a lot to consider, food quality, packaging, supply chain and ingredient availability.    


Here are some great ideas to consider:


Do-it-yourself kits:  Sometimes the best way to keep the food fresh and hot is to let the customer do a bit of the work at home.  


One example is Yushoken’s idea to offer a do-it-yourself takeout box.  The popular ramen chain used to have a no takeout policy to guarantee excellent quality for every bowl. But when customers could no longer come to them, they decided to sell ready-to-cook ramen kits, including their famous pork broth. This way, craving customers still get a taste of their favorite ramen, but in the safety of their own homes.


Deconstruct it:  Maybe your ingredients can all be prepared but they turn to a jumbled mess when mixed together for too long.  A popular Mexican restaurant, A’Toda Madre, is sending their tacos deconstructed.  The tortillas, the meats and all the toppings come with the order, and the customer builds the tacos themselves.  Easy for the customer and tastier too.  


5. Cloud Kitchen

While the concept existed before the pandemic, it’s not until this year that cloud kitchens started to get a significant notice. What is a cloud kitchen, anyway? Also called virtual or ghost kitchens, these are spaces solely intended for restaurants to prepare food delivery. They offer no dine-in or pick-up and can represent many brands in one kitchen. Sometimes a company uses one cloud kitchen to service the delivery side of their multiple brands . Some kitchens are service brands created specifically to be serviced from the cloud (Kraver’s Canteen).


There are many advantages of operating in a cloud kitchen. But the biggest benefit of all is lower overhead costs. Since cloud kitchens don’t depend on high-volume foot traffic to operate, they can be in industrial parks and non-consumer friendly areas where rental fees are much more affordable. The kitchens can share ingredients, packaging and labor to operate more efficiently and buy in bigger quantities.  If your business won’t survive while waiting around for dine-in to be back to 100% and customers to be filling your restaurant, you could consider taking your brand to a cloud kitchen and going 100% delivery.  


Cloud Kitchens in the Philippines

If you’re interested to pivot into this business model, here’s a list of some of the cloud kitchens here in the Philippines to take a look at:

  • CloudEats
  • Space Belly
  • Kraver’s Canteen


How to Figure Out the Next Best Step

Your menu, your location and your clientele are all specific to your restaurant, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to shifting your business model. The wisest way to figure out the next step is to make a data-driven decision using an analytics platform like Mosaic Solutions. 


We can’t control what lies ahead, but we can get accurate view on the now to help us optimize for later. As we always say, our hope your business to not merely survive, but rather, to thrive. So don’t think of pivoting as a stop-gap until things get back to normal. Think of it as a valuable step to grow your business and strengthen its resilience.