Business Insight
Image of online ordering platform

Learnings From Lockdown Part 2

Key Points

  • Takeaway and delivery orders coming within a short timeframe has required new processes and procedures
  • Floor staff have been redeployed as delivery drivers as businesses pivot to new order channels
  • Businesses are utilising digital marketing opportunities provided by online platforms
  • Cross-promotional opportunities from suppliers can help attract customers

In our last issue we looked at how some pizza businesses have coped with the lockdown and started to rebuild business upon reopening. Since then, some businesses have had to go back into lockdown while others have welcomed customers back to dine-in, although still not at former levels. Club Perfect caught up with some more of our Perfect Italiano pizzamakers to get a sense of how they’ve fared during this trying time.

REDEPLOYING FLOOR STAFF AS DELIVERY DRIVERS

Jason O’Brien of Amici Restaurant and Pizzeria in Caloundra, Qld used to seat 160 diners for eat-in but due to the ongoing restrictions is now limited to 50 at a time. “We’re trying to push through two sittings per night,” Jason tells us. “The majority of our customers have stuck by us, and even some of those we thought we lost are now coming back and trying to get in where they can – but because we’ve had to reduce our capacity so much, inevitably a lot of people are missing out.”

The initial shift in focus from eat-in to takeaway and delivery posed problems for the kitchen, because the majority of these orders would come in within a short timeframe. “We found most people ordering takeaway and delivery all wanted it between 5.30 and 6.30 – we had a massive influx of orders come in around this time, but after 7pm it would be completely dead, and that was hard to adjust to at first. But we’ve had our own online ordering system for a number of years and we’re also on Menulog, so it was just a matter of working out how we could produce enough food to cater to all those customers within a short space of time,” Jason explains.

When the lockdown first came into play, Jason initially had to lay off floor staff, but quickly redeployed them as delivery drivers – “we tried to utilise staff wherever we could, our initial priority was to sustain the business and keep as many people employed as possible. So the floor staff became delivery drivers and the kitchen staff didn’t really change – we went from 27 staff down to 17, but then we went back to 25 because we put most of them back on.”

ENCOURAGING ONLINE ORDERS VIA DIGITAL MARKETING

Hugo Diago of Hugo’s Pizza in City Beach, WA says takeaway and delivery already made up the bulk of his business before lockdown – but the new demand for delivery orders meant an increasing reliance on Uber Eats rather than his own delivery drivers. “When we’re busy our delivery timeframe using our own drivers is around 40 minutes, but Uber Eats can do it in 15 – and that’s because they have so many drivers working for them. We were one of the first businesses in the area to sign up to Uber Eats but since lockdown we’ve been using them a lot more.” So although they’re getting more orders, those orders are subject to Uber Eats’ commission charges.

The main focus for Hugo’s during lockdown was to encourage online orders via marketing initiatives – “we did a lot on Facebook to boost our posts and reach more people, and we also worked with Uber Eats who provide marketing support,” Hugo says. “It was interesting to see how many potential customers we were reaching and how many orders we generated. Business has started picking up again – we had a meeting with all management and staff and everyone agreed we should stay open and provide a service to the community rather than just closing our doors. We wanted to be there for our customers in these difficult times, and they’ve stayed loyal to us in return. We have kept our regulars and even picked up some new customers too.”

CROSS-PROMOTIONAL OPPORTUNITIES HELP TO ATTRACT CUSTOMERS

Aleksander Nikolovski of Antico Wood Fire Pizza in Narellan, NSW says the first month of lockdown was the toughest: “Our casuals didn’t get shifts for about a month but we didn’t let anyone go, and as soon as the government allowed us to open we brought much pretty all our staff back on. We lost business in April, but once takeaway and delivery orders picked up we were doing more pizzas than before but making less money because of the higher commissions from the online order platform. We’re now doing 2000 pizzas a week - and we were set up for takeaway and delivery prior to lockdown, so we were one of the lucky ones who could keep growing our business despite everything that was happening.”

The business also took advantage of promotional opportunities offered by suppliers – such as a cross-promotion with Schweppes which saw customers offered a free softdrink if they spent more than $5. “A lot of customers appreciated that – because a lot of people have lost work, there’s less money around so people have less to spend on food. So we were able to give something back to the community as thanks for their support.”

Aleksander says business is going reasonably well right now – “we can have 50 people dining in at a time and we’re doing three sittings per night – so we still do about 150 customers on a Friday and Saturday night, and the takeaway business has really picked up and is still going strong. Our food costs have gone up but our sales are obviously in proportion with that. I think pizzerias are probably a lot better off than other businesses in foodservice. Pizza and pasta travel well and once the government lifted restrictions to allow gatherings of 20 people in homes we found people were getting together in a safe environment and ordering in pizzas to share. We started getting orders for 10 pizzas and four pastas, and that’s really helped sustain our business.”