SA’s bustling restaurant industry headed into 2020 poised for growth. Instead, it met with unprecedented turmoil. The Restaurant Association of South Africa says that nearly one-third of local restaurants have already closed down since the onset of the lockdown – and 70% have had to retrench employees. 

Restaurateurs were already contemplating using food delivery as an alternative service, but this wasn’t really front of mind. The harsh lockdown changed all this and forced them to seriously reconsider this. Although smaller establishments complained about the exorbitant fees attached to the service, the reality is that patrons ultimately dictate how a restaurant operates. And if you don’t follow where they’re headed, you’re going to be left behind and soon find yourself out of business. 

Oliver Wright, global lead of Accenture’s consumer goods and services practice, says: “I think restaurateurs are going to have to think increasingly more systematically about [whether] food in the home is going to become much more the norm.” But it’s anyone’s guess because no one knows how the global pandemic will play out. What we can do is keep up to date with the following ordering trends: 

The new norm 

The Bowery is one of South Africa’s leading corporate caterers. Its MD, Guy Bower, says:  “Only those business owners who were able to pivot to another product offering have survived.” He re-engineered his business by creating food packs for upmarket clientele. Bower warns that South Africans got used to the idea that they don’t need to go to restaurants and can order online if they want to take a break from the kitchen. 

Home food deliveries have flourished and until things return to normal, we are likely to continue seeing a slump in the demand for sit-down meals at restaurants. People are returning, but not in the numbers that restaurateurs saw before lockdown. 

Cost is a big factor 

People’s livelihoods have also been affected by the pandemic, so they are far more price- conscious when it comes to ordering food. This is probably where fast-food outlets will come out on top. But restaurants can also aim to entice cost-conscious patrons by offering them the kind of tempting specials they can’t ignore. 

Ease of use

It stands to reason that restaurants which make it simple to order will do better than others. Use standalone apps and online ordering platforms to showcase what’s available, or facilitate easy group orders, or try upselling a simplified meal for a family of four. 

When you make it easy for people to order, and especially to reorder, it creates return appeal. It works because customisation builds loyalty and consistency builds trust.

However, some customers prefer to place their orders directly on restaurant websites or apps. Some want to pick up their orders in store while others want to make use of a delivery service. These people are looking for flexibility, so the more opportunities you create for people to order food from your establishment, the more revenue you’ll bring in. It all boils down to a balance between how much you’re making and how expensive these applications are. But please do not discard them.

You can learn more from us besides ordering trends. For more tips on how to run a killer restaurant, download our guide, The Definitive 21st-Century Restaurant Playbook.

Author : Rudi Badenhorst