Phil's field notes

2022 is off to a bumpy start for restaurant delivery and the industry, so let’s talk about ideas for navigating the unexpected.

January is a tough season for restaurants. It’s a combination of cold weather and New Year’s Resolutions to eat healthy and spend less money. And, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing, and case counts are high. As a result, not everyone is comfortable eating at restaurants.

A few of my industry colleagues and I recently discussed the coming year. We feel optimistic in the long term, but we’re prepared for Q1 to be a little rough. Nevertheless, the way through is to focus on what’s important, so that’s what we’re going to do today.

People still want a quality restaurant delivery experience.

As we’ve discussed at length, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a massive increase in demand for restaurant delivery. But, nearly two years into the pandemic, I’m sticking to my theory that delivery is just part of life now. In fact, between cold weather and increased COVID-19 cases, it will become even more popular.

For your restaurant delivery service (RDS), that means you’re still on the hook to create an excellent delivery experience. First, you need to get a few crucial elements right, including:

  • Quick and easy online ordering options.
  • Timely delivery, with all packaged food intact and at the expected temperature.
  • Seamless communication between the restaurant, the driver, and the customer.

Now is not the time to rest on your laurels. Instead, you should always look for ways to improve the experience. It’s the key to long-term customer loyalty.

Hiring is still challenging. Better benefits and better pay are still the way to do it.

Labor shortages have been a hot topic since early 2020. We saw some progress last year, but many industries are experiencing a backslide and struggling to hire.

The solution is pretty straightforward: You need to find a way to stand out from other employers in the area. That means offering better pay and better benefits.

I wrote this article last year on how we hired 64 people in the middle of a labor shortage. You’re more than welcome to borrow any of the strategies we used. And we’re about to add another benefit for our employees: A 401k plan.

This particular benefit has been on my mind for a while. I’ll confess I hesitated to pursue it because I was afraid it would be too expensive. Now that I’ve discovered how affordable it is, I wish I had offered it sooner! It will be a great tool to incentivize retention: It’s only accessible to employees if they stick around.

I’d recommend talking to your payroll company first. They already have all the data you need for tax deductions and overall compliance. Otherwise, google “401k plans for small employers” and do your research. There are many options out there, so you can find the right one for you.

If you’re balking at the price, remember: Recruitment is expensive. IT BLEW MY MIND when I ran the numbers on the invisible costs of hiring, training, and turnover. Hiring and training just one person can cost you $800 or more. If you’re experiencing a lot of turnover, those numbers add up fast. In my opinion, it’s better to spend that money on good benefits, so your workers stay with you longer. Happy employees do better work, which leads to satisfied customers. Everyone wins.

Not sure what benefits to offer? Ask your employees. They’re the ones who can tell you what they want. You may find it’s pretty easy and affordable to give them what they ask for.

The success of your RDS relies on your health and wellbeing.

It’s no secret that I’m a big advocate of taking care of oneself. But, unfortunately, the past few years have taken a toll on all of us. The restaurant delivery industry is booming, and while that’s generally a good thing, it can also be stressful. If you’re running yourself ragged, you can’t perform at your best. And your RDS will take a hit.

I’m not insisting on a week-long yoga retreat, or a ten-day juice cleanse. I’m just asking you to attend to your basic needs. Make sure you’re eating right and getting a few veggies on your plate every day. Move your body a few times a week. Go outside for some fresh air. Aim for seven or eight hours of sleep per night. (As a new dad, I know this one’s tough!) Winter weather is prime time for all kinds of illnesses, not just COVID-19. You can weather a nasty cold a little better if you’re eating your Wheaties—and your kale.

Attend to your mental and emotional needs, too. Surround yourself with friends and family. Talk to people about what’s on your mind. Get the help you need. Even Superman had Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen to keep an eye on him. It’s okay to lean on others for support.

Here’s the way I see it. We might be in for a tough winter, but we got through the past two years, didn’t we? We can handle this. Stay focused on what’s important and what you do best. Everything else will fall into place.

As always, let me know what’s on your mind by leaving me a note in the comment section. Let’s talk.

Until next time,
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