How restaurants are adapting and transforming their businesses amid the pandemic

Utilizing technology, operators can enhance customer experience and increase operational efficiency

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about many unprecedented changes for everyone—but the restaurant industry in particular found itself scrambling to adapt to constantly changing regulations, safety guidelines and occupancy limits. From dining room closures to a boom in takeout and delivery orders and the rise of ghost kitchens, restaurants experienced a number of situations that called for flexibility and adaptation.

One of the biggest changes that the pandemic brought on was the proliferation of takeout and delivery services. Shifts to curbside and contactless pickup helped limit exposure between people, and third-party delivery providers made it possible for small, local restaurants to offer their food to-go without having to hire full- or part-time delivery workers.

Prior to the pandemic and dining room closures, carryout and delivery made up a collective 70% of restaurant orders, with dine-in representing 30% of orders, according to Technomic’s 2020 Delivery and Takeout Consumer Trend Report. But during the closures, a full 100% of restaurant orders were completed as carryout/drive-thru or delivery orders. What’s more, 36% of consumers said that they ordered from the drive-thru more during the pandemic than they did before.

What restaurants did—and continue to do—to adapt

This shift toward exclusively off-premise business led to operators working quickly to organize and implement new offerings and streamline their processes. Some strategies included sectioning off part of the parking lot for curbside pickup, signing contracts with third-party delivery providers and trimming menus to only include foods that would travel well, just to name a few.

Beyond physical changes, though, many operators adopted technical and digital changes to weather the proverbial storm. From using data to predict traffic surges and lulls, to driving demand with innovative promotions, to sourcing and fulfilling third-party orders, and making the drive-thru experience more efficient, one thing many of these restaurants all shared was that they used services from Amazon Web Services (AWS) to keep up with the rapidly changing restaurant environment.

Taco Bell scales delivery

When consumer demand for delivery shifted at the onset of the pandemic, Taco Bell was able to adjust their approach. By building on AWS they were able to seamlessly and quickly integrate the chains’ mobile and online ordering apps with major third-party delivery providers. Using AWS, Taco Bell could automatically send menu updates, promotions and more to all of the platforms offering its foods at once. By quickly intergrating with delivery services, they were able to increase revenue at a time when indoor dining was closed. This will position them well post-pandemic, where they now see a future where 50% of their orders will be digital. Learn more about how Taco Bell was able to rapidly shift to meet consumer demand for delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic here.

Keeping customers happy at Margarita’s Mexican Restaurant

With heavily increased traffic for off-premise orders, many restaurants found themselves in a bit of a bind—they couldn’t handle the rush of calls at mealtimes, and customer service (and satisfaction) dipped as would-be customers got busy tones and dropped calls. For small, eat-in restaurants, this could prove to be devastating.

Margarita’s Mexican restaurant in Justin, Texas, faced a similar situation, and, using AWS, were able to scale and felx to support the onslaught of phone based togo and curbside orders. Within just two days, the restaurant was able to handle its carryout and delivery business much more efficiently. Amazon Connect, a modern cloud-based customer contact center solution built by AWS, helps businesses provide superior customer service at a lower cost, with minimal configuration and fast deployment. With Amazon Connect, the restaurant’s order process increased by 91% and customer complaints were reduced by 87%. What’s more, the tool enabled the restaurant to take orders remotely, enabled workers’ and customers’ ability to social distance and reduced bottlenecking and congestion in the restaurant.

Pizza Hut’s landmark promotion

Pizza Hut Australia, utilized AWS to rekindle the love consumers had for the brand. Celebrating its 50th anniversary of opening its first Australian store, the beloved Pizza Chain decided to give away 10,000 pizzas every day for five days. Chet Patel, Pizza Hut Australia’s Chief Marketing Officer, pointed out that the brand’s partnership with AWS was instrumental in helping Pizza Hut build a scalable and resilient cloud platform that triggered more innovative, personalized experiences, which would, according to Patel, turn a nostalgic emotional connection with the brand into a “love affair.”

Patel said, “We were going to use our website and unlock a giveaway giving customers 10,000 pizzas every day for five days. The original plan was to have people ordering online, then have them race to the stores to pick up their free pizza, which would create crowds, attention, be disruptive and provide a real buzz.”

But then COVID hit, and the team had to pivot. Instead, Pizza Hut opted to deliver, via email, vouchers for free pizzas, earned by submitting customer details. As the restaurants geared up for the launch of the promotion, no one anticipated the amount of traffic that would be generated—10,000 vouchers were given away in just 70 seconds. “We had 30,000 API requests in that time, supported by AWS. We had hundred of thousands of people using the site, and AWS handled that load,” Patel said.

How Amazon Web Services and other technologies help restaurants

Building on AWS allows restaurants to quickly adapt to changing customer demands. Using AWS can help speed up innovation in ways that enhance the customer experience and optimize core operations. Many restaurant brands, in fact, including Dunkin’ Brands, McDonald’s, Restaurant Brands International (Burger King, Popeyes, Tim Hortons), Quiznos, Sweetgreen, Subway, Yum! Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell) and more are building on AWS to transform their businesses.

When it comes to providing the best value and customer experience, operators have to be cognizant of a plethora of factors. Add the recent disruption experienced on top of an already complex business, and it makes perfect sense that restaurants would turn to digital technologies for help.

AWS offers an array of valuable solutions and services for compute, databases and storage that provide agility, cost savings, elasticity, innovation and the abilty to go global in minutes.

Additionally, once a restaurant has clear visibility into its own data, it can augment it with third-party data sources from the AWS Data Exchange for more robust insights, or connect it to improve customer service (as seen with Amazon Connect) and more.

Machine Learning services such as Amazon SageMaker and Amazon Forecast can help to optimize core restaurant operations, while Amazon Personalize helps with, as one might guess, personalizing the guest experience.

With these and other services, restaurants can streamline their off-premise orders (and the resulting deliveries), receive alerts for potential safety or illness concerns (via digital contact tracing tools), optimize their prep work via data to predict rushes in business and more. In short, restauants can focus on what they do best and turn to AWS to help make their initatives possible.

By being able to digitally harness every aspect of the customer experience with AWS, operators can create great value for their customers, as well as reinforce brands’ good reputations.

What’s next?

For restaurants, adopting technologies that aid in data collection, help predict customer behavior, enhance safety and more is table stakes. In order to keep up with industry trends, enhance customer experience and utilize the plethora of data that can inform business decisions, having a dedicated cloud platform to use is key.

For more information about how AWS will help restaurants going forward, be sure to download this new whitepaper focused on 21st Century Forecasting in the Travel and Hospitality Industry. It’s filled with industry insights, practical advice, and information for operators..

AWS is designed to provide restaurants with the tools they need for success—both now and moving forward. “Restaurants have gone through an incredably difficult period, but it’s been inspiring to see brands reinvent themselves to better serve their customers and reimagine what’s possible,” said Steven M. Elinson, Head of Restaurants, Catering and Food Service for AWS. “While I can’t predict the future, I’m certain the innovations born out of distruption will impact and improve the way we eat in the future.”

To learn more about the offerings for Hospitality, click here, and when you’re ready to get started with AWS, simply fill out this form and someone from AWS will contact you to help dermine how they can serve your unique business.

This post is sponsored by Amazon Web Services


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