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The dine-in revolution

Australians are known for their ingenuity in the face of adversity. It's part of what makes us who we are. So, when the doors started closing on our favourite dining destinations, the switch to home delivery happened almost overnight.

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Written by Richard Cornish
5 April 2020
Food writer and author, senior contributor of Bidfood's appetiser. magazine

Clever chefs and owners turned on the head of a pin to go from a la carte to home delivery faster than you can say, “do you want fries with that?” Research by NPD Group showed that while dining in at restaurants and cafés plummeted in February, sales in delivery, pick up and drive-thru skyrocketed by 10%. That was February. A month down the track and some establishments have been more successful in home delivery than others. Others, sadly, are struggling. We have noticed that those who have had the best success in changing gears from dining to delivery have a few things in common.

Shout it out!

Those businesses that can communicate their offer to existing customers and bring new customers to their new offer are coping well. The younger customers are the ones who are ordering delivery and takeaway from previously dine-in restaurants. This means social media is even more important to let the world know what you are doing. Uploading great photography of your dishes to Instagram is essential. Use your smartphone or try an app like Flume that allows you to upload hi-res images to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets, simultaneously. Make sure you let the world know about your heroic transformation by telling your story. "We used to serve seafood a la carte – now we have the best take away fish and chips on the coast!" type of storytelling. Newspapers, TV, and radio are hungry for stories about businesses who are trying something new to keep going. So don't forget some old fashioned PR – which may involve sending a sample to the local studio/newsroom. While customers over 50 are not jumping on the delivery bandwagon as fast as younger ones, don't forget to reach out to them by firing up the email database and telling them what the new offer is. Make sure you include a call to action in all communications, such as 'To order- click here' or 'for tasty takeaway dial 888 8888 and we'll have your order ready for pick up in 20 minutes.' Things have changed for everyone – so spell out to your customers what you want them to do.

Deliver you!

Delivering food to customers has proved a costly hurdle, especially when the original 'disrupter' delivery companies can charge up to 35% commission. This leaves little margin for the hospo business. A new wave of delivery platforms offering much more reasonable costings has sprung up. These include Sydney hospo tech company Kounta, that has partnered up with Brisbane online ordering start-up Bopple and delivery company Drive Yello. They are offering an affordable and easy to use a home delivery system called Kounta Delivery. In this partnership, venues are charged around 5% transaction fee and a flat $13.50 for the delivery. Businesses can also do the delivery themselves and work out their own delivery fee.

Then there is a hospo staff company called Our Boys And Girls that has rapidly transformed into a food delivery service for restaurants. Also, look for other platforms, including Skip. This is a smartphone app that lets customers pre-order and pay for food, coffee and drinks at your favourite Australian cafés and charge the business 10% commission.

What’s for dinner?

Nailing the offer is essential for success. We've also seen some great examples of businesses thinking outside the square. Almost overnight, the Heritage Wine Bar in Perth transformed into the Heritage Wine Bar Providore. They have embraced comfort food, offering ready to roast five-spice pork belly, roast pancetta chicken stuffed with pork and sage, to beef Wellington. These are sold with sides of silky mash and roast heirloom vegetables. Add to this ‘Stir Crazy’ wine packs from the cellar and you have the perfect night in. Chicco Palms in Brooklyn Park in Adelaide has pivoted to home delivery using existing staff. The Californian-style pizza house is known for its range of signature cocktails. Cleverly they are now also delivering  DIY cocktail and DIY pizza 'Iso Kits' so customers can shake and bake cocktails and pizza in their own homes.  

A good point of reference for businesses wanting information on delivering alcohol is from peak body, Restaurant and Catering Australia, who have released an informative factsheet.

Eat it later!

The other side of the hospitality business' response to COVID19 has seen them turn their a la carte kitchens into production kitchens making re-heatable home meals. The preparation of food that is not served hot and that may be chilled or frozen to be eaten later needs to be taken seriously as it offers different health challenges. Lydia Buchtman, from the Australian Food Safety Information Council, advises, "This needs a different approach and advice from a food safety specialist/auditor to check if the chilling or freezing process is (to be) correct and it meets labelling requirements for date marking, storage instructions, nutrition panels and ingredient and allergy labelling." She says that local councils can help, but bear in mind, they will be very busy with COVID-19. She recommends Food Standards Australia and New Zealand as a good place for advice on this issue. 

With so much change happening so quickly, Bidfood will be continuing to provide useful information and ideas. Head to our Facebook page to keep up-to-date with industry news and our future article posts.

Stay safe. Stay strong. #inittogether

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