Guest opinion piece by E Menu Now
Just as it was starting to feel like we were heading towards the tail end of the pandemic, food businesses are now faced with a new foe… the so-called ‘ping-demic’!
By this we of course mean the astronomical increase in the number of people in the UK being told they need to self isolate by the NHS Track & Trace app, which has resulted in a desperate shortage of hospitality staff, just as businesses were able to reopen fully.
Even pub giants Greene King were forced to close 33 locations last week due to staff shortages, so how on earth are small and independent food businesses expected to tackle, and more importantly survive, this latest issue?
As an online order & pay solution, we spend the majority of our time speaking to hospitality businesses of all kinds, hearing about their biggest pain points, concerns and challenges. We’ve learned a lot from business owners over the past 2 weeks as the ping-demic has taken hold, so we wanted to take the opportunity to share some of the ways that our clients have been utilising the benefits of their digital menus to overcome their headaches, keep their staff and customers safe, and of course their businesses open!
Resolving Staff Shortages.
You only have to take a quick scroll through social media to notice how many food businesses are currently being forced to close due to staff shortages. Whether it’s restaurants or mobile caterers, the primary concern within the industry at present is undoubtedly trying to find enough staff to even open, and start making back some of the revenue that was lost over the past 18 months.
With the Track & Trace app having sent out 350,000 ‘pings’ in the first week of July alone, it currently seems impossible to know from one day to another how many members of staff you’re going to have, and how that’s going to affect your service. Not being able to open, or being forced to cancel the events that you finally have booked in is simply not an option for mobile caterers right now.
We’ve found that businesses need a means of automating aspects of their service that can be called upon at the drop of a hat, whenever they need it to make up for a shortfall in staff. This is something that our clients have been achieving by offering remote order from table, click & collect and, perhaps most effectively for mobile caterers, pre-ordering services.
Take The Bowler Meatballs for example, a mobile meatball truck that services streets, festivals, parties and weddings all over the country. They’ve been utilising the preorder feature of their EMenu to minimise potential revenue loss, and also reduce the impact of potential staff shortages, by ensuring orders are paid in advance, and knowing exactly how many orders to expect per hour when they arrive at any event. This way, they are able to be as prepared as possible for their service, and guarantee that they will see a return from the events they’re attending despite any unexpected changes in staffing.
Providing A Hygienic Alternative To Physical Menus.
Earlier in the year, it was reported that 48% of surveyed Brits said they would actively avoid touching physical menus when hospitality venues reopened from April, and for mobile caterers, even having customers gathered around your menu board or coming within close proximity to your food to ask you questions about dishes is not ideal! Physical menus could be gone for good, particularly thanks to the current ‘ping-demic’ and the need to minimise touchpoints between staff and customers.
We’re sure you’ve experienced groups of customers shoulder to shoulder trying to read your menu board, or leaning over your serving station asking what things are. Hectic at the best of times. But as customer expectations now reflect a massive increase in hygiene awareness across venues of all kinds, and with food businesses needing to do everything they can to minimise the likelihood of another national lockdown, providing a more hygienic alternative is now actually determining the overall success of businesses.
Providing an online digital menu has been the way forward for our clients, including El Cabron, a pop-up kitchen serving out of the Bristol & Bath Rum Distillery. Not only has their online menu given them peace of mind by cutting down contact with customers and physical menus, it also means that diners can browse and order via their own mobile device, an option which 59% of consumers would now prefer since the pandemic began.
Giving The People What They Want.
Everyone loves an online order, and no, we’re not referring to the Amazon addictions that we all developed over the various lockdowns (it’s okay, you can admit it). We’re referring to the 69% of consumers who have said they actually expect online ordering to be available from food businesses for the foreseeable future. Online menus were on the rise before the pandemic, and have now become an essential contributor to creating a safe environment for your staff and customers. Safe customers = happy customers. Happy customers = more revenue!
With the majority of people still opting to wear masks and take distancing precautions, it’s obvious that your customers are certainly still going to be more aware of their proximity to your staff members, as well as other people while waiting in queues to order. We recently looked to resolve this issue with one of our newest clients, Taiga Burger, a dark kitchen serving Asian inspired burgers for click & collect and delivery. By providing an app-less preordering and click & collect service, Taiga Burger are able to ensure minimal gathering/queueing, safer conditions for staff as they don’t need to take orders manually, and an overall more secure model for their business.
Around 75% of consumers have specified that ordering online now makes them feel safer. So, giving them the ability to order from their phones straight away, with minimal contact with your staff members, is a sure way of kicking off their experience in a positive light. Pair this with the fact that minimising contact with your staff will help to reduce the number of them being kept off of work by the ping-demic, and your chances of keeping your business open and serving will be much higher.
Keeping It Contactless.
We all know cash has been dying out for quite some time now. The number of consumers wishing to avoid touching physical money or typing on card machines when paying for a food or drink bill sat at around 42% at the beginning of the pandemic, and has undoubtedly risen significantly thanks to the various spikes in cases over the past year and a half.
This was one benefit of an online system for vegan BBQ specialists Gnarbecue, who run extremely popular pop-ups in both BoxPark Croydon and various busy venues around London. High customer turnovers and volumes are fantastic, but also come with increased hygiene risks since the pandemic began, so giving customers the ability to pay remotely through an online order & pay system once again provides another level of safety for customers and staff alike.
A massive 71% of consumers now say they would now rather pay their bill remotely. Even having to wait to touch their card to a reader being held by a member of staff is going to shadow the experience of some of your customers, who of course want to leave feeling as safe and considered as possible. This is why contactless payments have proven so beneficial to many of our clients since hospitality businesses were able to reopen, and has shown to be one of the most useful ways to help keep businesses open.
Our clients have been utilising the above benefits of their EMenus to help minimise the risks to their business throughout the pandemic. Keeping your staff healthy and your customers happy is of the utmost importance right now, and technology has a massive part to play in creating the safe environment that the industry needs. It seems like the ‘pinge-demic’ is (hopefully) the final hurdle for hospitality, so we hope the above will help to keep you open and serving customers throughout!