Running a restaurant during the pandemic is proving to be a challenge. For many food startups that rely on daily patrons dining-in to show their support, adapting to carry out only is a necessity. GREY spoke with hospitality industry experts Melody Roberts and Lucas Liu to discuss how to grow your restaurant business without dine-in service.

What does 10X Mean in Business?

10X is a movement introduced by Grant Cardone in his book The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure. Grant Cardone is an international sales expert and motivational speaker with three multi-million dollar companies under his belt. He proposes that every entrepreneur should take whatever steps are necessary to grow their company by ten times. This means putting in ten times as much time and effort into your startup than the average person.

To get a grasp on how to apply the 10X Rule to the restaurant business, GREY brought in social media expert Shaily Hakimian as a moderator for a special panel with Lucas Liu and Melody Roberts.

How To 10X Your Restaurant Business Without Dine-In Service GREY discussion panel

Lucas Liu is a former restaurant owner in Chicago with a PhD in computer engineering. He is also the CEO and cofounder of InfiNet, a tech startup that is upgrading the hospitality industry with access to self checkout kiosks.

Melody Roberts is a leading expert in remote order fulfillment models and the V.P. of Experience Innovation at Panera. She is also the CEO and cofouner of LivLabs, a Polsky Incubator company aimed at combining self-care tools and easy-access services for convenient health management.

Adapting Restaurants to Technology

As the former head of Experience Innovation and Operations Research at McDonald’s, Melody Roberts changed the way customers order food forever. When she and her operations team were planning for the future in 2006, they knew that technology usage would rise and cashless payments would increase by 2020. Therefore they created a kiosk system where customers could walk into a location and order food through a touch screen without ever interacting with McDonald’s staff.

Customer ordering food from McDonald's kiosk
Customer ordering food from McDonald’s kiosk

Although they could not foresee the COVID-19 pandemic, everything they built has helped decrease face-to-face interactions in response to social distancing, which is crucial to preventing the spread of coronavirus. For small restaurant owners, this means that the most important way to keep your business afloat is to adapt to technology. Society is becoming increasingly reliant on technology and with no end to the COVID-19 pandemic in sight, adding kiosks is crucial.

The great thing about startups like InfiNet is that kiosks are more accessible now than ever before. Founded in 2019, InifiNet works with small restaurant owners to help them do what McDonald’s did with kiosks a decade ago. It just becomes a matter of implementing InfiNet’s system into your current restaurant’s work flow. While it is understandable that not every restaurant has the resources to implement kiosks, they can turn to mobile orders using sites like DoorDash and Grubhub. Grubhub can be used for delivery, but it is also a great tool for customer curbside pickup if delivery for your restaurant is not an option.

Changing the Order of Operations in Restaurant Pickups

The bottom line is that even before the pandemic, the hospitality industry was changing and now restaurants have to adapt to new ways to serve customers food without social interaction. During times like these, it’s important to stay on top of customer demand. According to Melody, when it comes to receiving food in a hurry, customers don’t want to notice the exchange. They just want to get in and get out.

Food startup entrepreneur in apron holding touchpad while making changes in menu of restaurant
Food startup entrepreneur in apron holding touchpad while making changes in menu of restaurant

This is the opposite of dining in. Most customers eat out because they want to take in the atmosphere and savor the experience. For takeout, if things go smoothly, then a customer won’t think twice about the experience. But if the process is too slow or if there is confusion about the order, then the experience is imprinted in their minds. Getting food to customers quickly and on-the-go is an art form and really a thankless job when you think about it.

In order to give customers the smoothest experience possible when adapting to the new order of operations in your restaurant, it’s important to communicate with them in clear and interactive ways. For instance, if a customer needs to drive up in their car and park in a certain spot to receive their food, then there should be a sign that informs them to do so. If they have to enter your restaurant, but keep their distance from others, then there should be markings on the ground telling them where to stand. Alternatively, you can have an employee on standby directing customers where to go. This is also true about the information you give before customers enter your restaurant. When they order food online, there should be an email or receipt that gives them clear instructions on what to do next.

Changing Delivery Methods

It’s true that big chain restaurants like Dominoes have effective tracking systems that allow customers to check the status of their order step-by-step and get hot food on time. By how can new food startups accomplish this as well? Melody and Lucas state that it all comes down to your team. The better trained they are, the better the order of operations is going to be. It may be harder for the most tenured members to get used to the new system, but because they have so much more experience in other aspects of the restaurant, they will adapt quicker.

Detail of food delivery at home
Detail of food delivery at home

When it comes to delivery, it is important to set a promise to your customers on how long it will take. Whether you tell them by email or phone. Once you make the promise, you are forced to adhere to it. Processing a delivery has two key parts: order routing/ assembly and meeting with customers.

Order Routing & Assembly

Mistakes happen and sometimes orders can be wrong. To make sure everything is correct, it’s important to assign an employee to check every order before it goes out and ensure all the items are there, including condiments. If you have multiple orders going to one location, separate them into multiple bags. For instance, if you have three orders going to one house, have each order in its own separate bag before placing them into one big bag to give to your driver. If you can see how many individual orders you have before your eyes, it lessens the chance of forgetting something.

Meeting with Customers

Meeting with customers means arranging ahead of time exactly where you will meet. For instance, if you tell a customer you will be in the lobby of their building ten minutes after the hour, it is best to have the customer down there waiting for you and not calling them to come down after you already arrived. By having a customer meet you at the exact same time you arrive, you will have a chance to make sure that if anything is missing, your driver can call the restaurant ahead and get another driver out the door while the first one is driving back. Because you can’t predict what your customer is going to do, you can control their actions by calling them when you are five minutes away to inform them where you will be.

According to Melody and Lucas, the key to successfully adapting to a new order of operations is controlling your customer’s behavior without having them feel like they are being controlled. There are various variables that come into play when servicing customers: different apartment buildings, different personality types. The only constant is you. You have to perform your job as consistently as possible and get your customers to meet you where you need them to be.

Putting in 10 Times the Effort

The future of the restaurant industry will never be the same and right now the food startups that are succeeding are putting in 10 times the effort. As a restaurant owner, you have to adapt in order to overcome the hurdles of carry out, delivery, and pickup or run the risk of being overcome by those that do. As industry experts who have worked to implement new standard models for the restaurant business, Melody and Lucas have plenty of advice to offer when adapting to a new order of operations. Check out the full panel discussion in the video above and learn how you can 10X your restaurant business as well.

Do you have any more advice on growing your food startup or restaurant business? Let us know in the comments below.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.