As several restaurants start to plan their reopening strategies during COVID-19, many restaurateurs may be interested in signing up for a restaurant reservation platform to plan out and control dining crowds, as well as to help with other priorities such as take-out.
I looked into a few platforms and found some useful information about what platforms are doing to help and how owners can take advantage of this as they manage Coronavirus.
OpenTable: Arguably one of the most popular online reservation platforms is OpenTable. For years they have dominated the space, but also have been quite expensive for restaurateurs to use – which has led to their clientele being mostly high-end restaurants and diners. OpenTable is waiving subscription fees through the end of 2020 and cover fees through September 30th, 2020 as well as a 50% cover fee discount through the end of 2020 for restaurants who sign up for their “Open Door” pricing program. Standard subscription and cover fee pricing will be reintroduced in 2021. The large customer base that OpenTable has could be a draw for restaurateurs. Make sure to read the fine print though as always.
Resy: One of OpenTable’s big competitors, Resy, is also offering no fees through the rest of 2020 for restaurants. It applies to both existing and new restaurant partners. They have added new features like a Mobile Waitlist, Automated Capacity Monitor, and Takeout and Contactless pickup are also in the works.
Tock: Tock is a reservation and takeout/delivery platform that is ran by Nick Kokonas of Alinea Group. Several of the people running and advising the platform are hospitality industry affiliated names. Many of the members of Tock seem to be smaller, local restaurants. Fees start at $199 a month, Tock has waived fees through the end of May for restaurants.
Yelp Reservations: One of the more expensive options has a flat rate of $249 a month, but is integrated with Yelp which is one of the busiest websites online for restaurants. There are no cover fees, setup fees, or web access fees added on for monthly service. Yelp offers table management and waitlist management. Yelp is offering 3 months of free access to Yelp Reservations and Yelp Waitlist through the end of May 2020 as part of their COVID-19 relief. Call (844) 889-1617 to sign up.
Eat App: This platform has some features in place to help restaurants navigating COVID-19 including switching to reservations only, the ability to change floor plans, configure shifts to automatically restrict covers, manage capacity minute by minute, and waitlists. They also offer phone integrations, custom tags and notes, SMS capabilities, and contact list information as well as other features. Pricing starts at $129 a month which is one of the lowest in the pack.
These are just a few of the tools out there for restaurants looking to get back on their feet during COVID-19. You will also look into your POS system and see if there is features on there for reservations or if it is compatible with these services.
As always, be sure to read the contract terms before proceeding with any deal.
The Coronavirus or COVID-19 is drastically changing the restaurant industry like never before. Numerous restaurant chains and corporations are changing their entire business models to try and survive in this quickly moving economic scenario. Many will not survive.
Dine-in traffic is imploding as more Americans wake up to the fact that COVID-19 is very contagious and that social norms of dining out just won’t work for the forseeable future. A vaccine could be at least 14-18 months away according to some experts.
How can you prepare your restaurant for this new reality? Here are a few tips:
Pivot to delivery and take-out
Delivery was already rapidly growing before COVID-19 entered the mix. The number of people ordering on Uber EATS, DoorDash, and the like has been growing rapidly over the last few years even though those business models have yet to become profitable.
You should explore each delivery platform to see which one works best and think about how you can make the numbers add-up to make your business succeed on the platform. If you can provide your own delivery, consider that as well.
Consumers will be spending more time at home and no doubt many will not want to cook 24-7, which is an opportunity for your business to sell to customers directly in their homes.
To be successful you will need to make your list of products available to be as competitive as every chain on earth and local businesses trying to stick around all go online. You may need to simplify your menu to more profitable items and adjust with to online habits.
Most delivery services will claim anything from 10%-30% on delivery fees. Consider offering a discount for take-out service to convince customers to pick-up their own orders.
This won’t be easy in the least and your business will no doubt still suffer from the lack of dine-in traffic, but if you want to survive this may be the only path forward.
Prioritize safety and cleanliness
During a pandemic virus, people are going to be very nervous about cleanliness and whether their food is being handled with care, whether it is for delivery or pick-up. Safety and cleanliness for both customers and employees will be key.
The last thing you want is for an investigation to be done into your restaurant for making people work sick and for negative press to accumulate.
At the high stress levels people are experiencing right now, the chances of this happening may actually be quite high. Consider paid sick leave and absolutely do not allow sick workers to come to work and find a way to compensate them.
Institute plans for how you will verify that your workers are healthy and able to serve and be transparent with your customers about how you are protecting their safety.
It goes far beyond just an e-mail and will need to be done regularly as cases come up in the news about outbreaks in restaurants.
Consumer confidence is the key during this time. Any indication that customers should not eat at your business may lead them running to another one or instead to the grocery stores.
Marketing + Social Media could give an advantage
Social Media will be an important way to maintain your brand and still reach customers who will be either working from home, going to school at home, or just home – depending on how economic forces change in the next few months.
Don’t forget that many platforms like Facebook and Instagram offer targeted advertising so you can reach your ideal customers. While it’s true that your budget is certainly strained, if you use it wisely it will pay off.
Remember to think about what people want to click and not just what you want to say.
Consider other ways to reach customers like e-mails and text message outreach. Most customers will have be spending more time online and you need to reach them there.
Brainstorm daily deals or packages that customers can draw on like family deals, couple deals, or themed deals.
Even if your business does end up closing during this economic time, maintaining your online presence may keep your brand alive for the future when everyone eventually gets back on their feet and outside. Come up with a marketing plan that reflects this.
If you’re a known chef or restaurant consider making videos at home with cooking tips, advice for people on grocery shopping decisions, use Facebook LIVE and Instagram LIVE, there are tools out there that you can use to try and keep your brand going in this time of uncertainty. Stay in front of the face of your customers.
Reach out to influencers and media
Influencers have already-built channels as does the media that may be locally tied to your business. Many influencer events, cross-promotions, and advertisements have been canceled as the COVID-19 virus makes its mark.
If your restaurant is going to continue fighting to stay in business, consider reaching out to influencers and to the media. Consider how you can position your business in a way that is relevant to their audience during this difficult time.
Influencers have an interest in maintaining their outreach during this time and no doubt probably have some extra time on their hands. Consider how you can reach out to them in a way that is beneficial for your business…after all you want people to reach out to your business for takeout and delivery right?
As for the media, this may become more tricky as many media companies are experiencing an exodus of advertisers due to COVID-19 which is straining their staff. As with any other time period, the key is relevance for the media. Subscribe to all media sites and channels and watch what they are talking about. Follow journalists on Twitter.
When you see something relevant to your business, reach out. There is a public interest in helping both local businesses and restaurants during this time, but first you have to reach out to get your story out there. How are you coping? What are your plans for your staff? How can they help you? Messaging is the key.
Support other businesses and organizations
COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on a wide range of businesses including many local ones and organizations that are involved in helping our communities. Consider how your business can help those other groups out.
Your business will be stronger by working with others and supporting each other. Restaurants have always played a big role in the communities around them, but during COVID-19 you may need some out of the box ideas to help your fellow community partners out. They will be sure to return the favor if you do.
The “social distancing” required during COVID-19 will make people feel isolated, but if your business is proactive and tries to bring people together for a group or cause it could make a difference. Share posts from other partners in related community fields on your feed or important government updates. We are all in this together!
San Francisco, CA – Reservations are now open for Eat Drink SF’s opening and closing dinners for SF Restaurant Week at The Vault Garden, Oct. 23, and at EPIC Steak on Nov. 1. Menus and pricing details are below.
Opening dinner: A Taste of San Francisco Friday, Oct. 23, 5 to 8 p.m. The Vault Garden, San FranciscoThis socially distanced outdoor dinner features a collaborative multi-course experience designed by all-star chefs Robin Song of The Vault Garden, Jason Halverson of Hi Neighbor Group, Staffan Terje of Perbacco and barbacco, Reem Assil of Reem’s California, Belinda Leong of B. Patisserie and Routier and Angela Pinkerton of Pie Society and Pinkerton Confectionery. This one-night-only meal includes a welcome beverage and two desserts. $175, including all taxes, fees and gratuity. Tickets on OpenTable [View the menu here]
Closing dinner: A Waterfront Surf and Turf Experience from Waterbar and EPIC Steak: A Night of Gratitude Sunday, Nov. 1, 4 to 8 p.m. EPIC Steak, San FranciscoIconic San Francisco Bay views and live music from The Henry Coopers accompany a welcome cocktail and a sumptuous five-course surf and turf menu from the culinary teams at EPIC and Waterbar, led by acclaimed Executive Chef Parke Ulrich. Courses include Maine Lobster Beggar’s Purse, Venison Carpaccio & Crispy Oysters, Roasted Bone Marrow and Dungeness Crab Gratin, Classic Beef Wellington & Smoked Uni and Fall Apple Galette. Specialty cocktails featuring Maker’s Mark and Sipsmith Gin will also be offered.$127, including all taxes, fees and gratuity. Tickets on OpenTable.
Virtual events with ChefsFeed Eat Drink SF 2020 is coming to your home thanks to ChefsFeed. The line-up will include Kim Alter of Nightbird, Simileoluwa Adebajo of Eko Kitchen, Samir Mogannam of Beit Rima and Rebecca Pinnell, formerly of Bon Voyage! Details coming soon.
Vote By Mail has been breaking records in Hillsborough County this election, but it’s not the only option. For voters who prefer to vote in person, Early Voting begins Monday in Hillsborough County. In Hillsborough County, Early Voting is open for 14 days, from October 19 through November 1, 7AM to 7PM, including weekends.
Hillsborough County voters can choose from any of 26 Early Voting locations to vote. This is different from Election Day, when voters must vote in the polling place assigned to their precinct. Each Early Voting location will also have a curbside, Vote By Mail drop-off tent for voters who want to turn in their Vote By Mail ballots in person.
“We are a large county and I want our voters to have plenty of options, so I’ve added extra sites and we will be open the maximum number of days and hours allowed by law,” said Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer. “In these uncertain times, I encourage voters to vote early if you can. If you get sick, or someone you care for gets sick, you may not be able to vote on Election Day.”
Early Voting for the General Election includes two new sites, at Amalie Arena and Raymond James Stadium. The voting sites in those locations will be similar in size to other large Early Voting sites in the county, including the sites at several libraries and the University Area Community Center.
The elections office has taken extensive measures to ensure the health and safety of in-person voting, and has posted a video preview on the 2020 General Election page of their website.
Only a limited number of people will be allowed inside to ensure social distancing, and surfaces will be cleaned throughout the day. Poll workers are required to wear masks at all times, and face shields or plexiglass barriers will provide additional protection.
Supervisor Latimer asks that all voters wear masks and will have them available for voters, if needed. And, voters will get their own combination stylus/pen to sign in and mark their ballot.
“With ongoing cleaning and limited capacity, in-person voting will go a little slower, but once voters are inside the polling place, they should be able to move through quickly,” said Supervisor Latimer.
Voters should bring a Florida Driver License or other acceptable photo and signature ID for voter checkin. If they forget their ID, they can vote a provisional ballot to be verified by the elections office. The full list of accepted IDs, along with a list of Early Voting locations, can be found on the Early Voting page of VoteHillsborough.org.
“The drive-up Vote By Mail drop-off tents are a contactless way for voters to cast their ballot in person, so I expect this option to be popular. We’ve sent out more than 405,000 Vote By Mail ballots and we want to see those voted ballots come back in,” said Latimer.
For some strange reason the Governor of Florida decided to move Florida into Phase 3 of the reopening from Coronavirus. There are no statewide rules on capacity or restrictions in restaurants in bars. Just weeks ago bars and breweries were closed due to the spike they contribute to the pandemic.
Governor DeSantis is now calling for packed football stadiums in the middle of a pandemic that has killed more than 15,000 Floridians and over 219,000 Americans in just a few months.
Some restaurants and bars said they will still maintain rules though and the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County have pledged to maintain things like mask rules in place (for now). Here are some of the places that are pledging to maintain rules:
The Golden Gate Restaurant Association in San Francisco is announcing a new dining program to support the local restaurant program which has been struggling due to COVID-19. The dining program is called: “Eat Drink SF Presents: 10 Days of Dining, Culture, and Community”.
The program will begin with an opening dinner on Friday October 23rd and run through Sunday November 1st.
The itinerary will explore neighborhoods throughout San Francisco with a focus on outdoor dining, Restaurant Week-style prix fixe menus., exclusive to-go options, virtual demos and forums as well as ticketed outdoor seated dinners, while keeping a focus on the current SF Department of Public Health guidelines.
Eat Drink SF has been around since 2009 and was created to celebrate the SF Bay Area restaurant community as a “world-class culinary destination”. This year proceeds will go entirely to participating restaurants, chefs and bartenders without an additional charitable partner involved.
The first event will be at The Vault Garden in San Francisco on October 23rd from 5:30PM to 8:30PM (reservations soon to come). The final event will be at EPIC Steak in San Francisco on November 1st from 5PM to 8PM.
The Golden Gate Restaurant Association has existed since 1936 with a mission to “celebrate and empower the restaurant community through advocacy, education, marketing, events, and training”. It is a San Francisco-based membership organization comprised of restaurant members of all sizes and profiles.
Today President Trump announced an end to the stimulus talks with no hope before Election Day. Main Street Alliance Executive Director, Amanda Ballantyne shares this:
“For Trump to stop negotiations on urgently needed relief, stating he will only resume negotiations after he “wins” the election shows callous disregard for millions of Americans suffering extreme financial hardship. The President appears willing to take the economy down with him if he fails, at this point.
Small business owners across the country are aghast at the short sightedness of this refusal to move an aid package. The failed leadership of the Trump Administration to control the pandemic and keep the economy on track will drive many small business owners to close and lead to prolonged economic hardship for working families in this country. Main Street Alliance members and small businesses across the country have been clamoring for months that additional support is necessary to avert a prolonged, protracted, costly and livelihood destroying economic crisis.
Small businesses have waited far too long for needed relief, and the consequences of delay have meant hundreds of thousands of closures impacting the labor market and economy. This is no time for political brinksmanship. Senate Republicans must come to the table and take action.”
Main Street Alliance is a national network of small business coalitions working to build a new voice for small businesses on important public policy issues.
Cold Stone Creamery is partnering with Nintendo for Super Mario’s 35th Anniversary. Nintendo fans can enjoy their favorite Cold Stone treat in a special edition Gotta Have It® ice cream cup featuring their favorite character, Mario, during the promotion. The Mario-inspired Creation, Shake, Ice Cream Cake, and special edition cups are available at all participating Cold Stone Creamery locations and online ordering until December 15.
“We are thrilled to join together with Nintendo once again to commemorate the Super Mario Bros. 35th anniversary with our super-premium ice cream,” said Sara Schmillen, vice president of marketing for Kahala Brands™, parent company of Cold Stone Creamery.
“Cold Stone and Nintendo both focus on bringing families together; so gather your loved ones, grab some ice cream, pick up your Nintendo Switch system and let’s start making memories that last a lifetime!”
Mario’s Super Birthday Blast Creation features Cake Batter Ice Cream® with Yellow Cake, Bright Blue Frosting and Star Sprinkles
Mario’s Super Star Shake features Cake Batter Ice Cream and Bright Blue Frosting with Whipped Topping and Star Sprinkles
Rainbow Road Rally features layers of moist Yellow Cake and Cake Batter Ice Cream with Star Sprinkles wrapped in fluffy Bright Blue Frosting
Cold Stone® will feature four Mario-inspired Gotta Have It cup designs. These collectible cups feature Mario through the years and are available in red, blue, green, and yellow, while supplies last.
“To commemorate the 35th anniversary of Super Mario Bros., we are excited to continue our collaboration with Cold Stone,” said Nick Chavez, Nintendo of America’s senior vice president of sales and marketing.
“From fun ice levels to delicious ice cream, Nintendo and Cold Stone are offering cool treats this year for people of all ages.”
Cold Stone Creamery is also offering a multi-faceted sweepstakes (Nintendo is not a sponsor, co-sponsor or administrator of this sweepstakes) for fans. 5 customers, who enter the sweepstakes, will be awarded a grand prize package that includes one (1) $50 Cold Stone Creamery gift card and one (1) Nintendo Switch Prize Pack that includes one (1) Nintendo Switch system and twelve (12) download codes for digital Nintendo Switch games.
The fun will continue for even more fans as one-hundred (100) first prize winners will be awarded a first prize package that consists of one (1) $25 Cold Stone Creamery gift card and one (1) Nintendo Switch Prize Pack that includes one (1) Nintendo Switch system and five (5) download codes for digital Nintendo Switch games.
My Cold Stone Club Rewards® members will also receive My Nintendo Platinum Points* throughout the promotion.
For more information about the Super Mario Bros. 35th anniversary, visit supermario35.com.
Coffee fans, unite! We now have our very own day to enjoy the rich variety of caffeinated beverages that are in the coffee world. Of course, all of us that love coffee enjoy it on nearly every day—we don’t need a holiday, fortunately, to have a cup of joe. But when you do pour something, you might turn to a relatively new entry in the coffee world, and that’s cold brew.
If you go to any coffee shop or even go to a retail location or gas station, you’ll notice that you have loads of pre-made options. But they can be pricey. Instead, it’s helpful to learn how to make your own cold brew at home and enjoy all the tasty deliciousness that this drink offers.
People enjoy cold brew because it’s naturally more sweet and less acidic. So how do you expertly add this to your at-home drink menu? This graphic offers a how-to to try.
Armature Works, Tampa’s largest food hall and event space, is joining forces with Rooftop Cinema Club to launch “The Drive-In at Armature Works”, a contact-free drive-in event in Tampa Heights District.
Audiences can enjoy a mix of modern and classic films every day of the week, two showings per night, including a full week of Halloween and Horror favorites.
Family-friendly screenings will take place at 7:30PM followed by a second screening for the night-owls at 10PM.
Tickets will start at $22 per vehicle, regardless of occupancy. Parking will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis depending on ticket type, and audio can be picked up through local FM stereo.
Guests can order concessions or food and drinks online from their vehicles and will be notified for pick up.
Tickets and programming will be released this coming week. Locals are encouraged to sign up to Rooftop Cinema Club’s email database via rooftopcinemaclub.com/armature to be the first to know when tickets and programming are released, and to receive 10% off their first purchase. One lucky subscriber will also win unlimited drive-in movie tickets for the first two weeks of screenings.
If you buy something from a Carlos Eats link, commission may be made by this site.
Can you feel that in the air? It’s Pumpkin Spice Season. The sun is starting to go down earlier and pumpkins are invading all the grocery stores and home decor shops.
Although this year might be a little different with social distancing, there is nothing stopping you from enjoying pumpkin spice in the comfort of your home. I am already busy trying to improve the mood in my home.
Here are 5 pumpkin spice coffees to order for fall 2020:
Dunkin’ is one of the brands that originally made pumpkin spice so popular and they now have options you can enjoy at home like this pumpkin spice ground coffee. The coffee is 100% premium Arabica coffee. I personally bought this one recently at the store and enjoyed it. It’s ground coffee so it’s ready to go in your keurig or coffee machine. The flavor is so good it hardly needs any sweetener on top though I never say no to some oat milk.
If you’re looking for a cold beverage with pumpkin spice, Califia Farms is a great option. This cold brew coffee made with 100% Arabica beans comes already mixed with almond milk for those of us on the go who don’t have time to make a batch of coffee at home. The price is more than fair and it is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, BPA-free, kosher, and vegan. Their mix is made with real pumpkin puree and spices as well. It being only 100 calories per bottle is also a huge plus for those of us trying to watch our weight at home.
Death Wish Coffee is popularly known for its strong brews and best practices used in production. This roast is Fair Trade and features Arabica and Robusta beans as well as chai, cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger-infused spices. Pumpkin spice is really just a blend of all these great flavors and they use a cauldron-aged process to simmer the spices and extract the flavors into the roast. It’s more expensive than the competition, but if you’re looking for something organic and sustainable you will want to look into this brand.
I love Trader Joe’s products, but one of the hardest things can be finding the products online since they don’t do delivery. Their pumpkin spice coffee features orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla beans, and pumpkin spice oil with 100% Brazil Cerrado Arabica beans. It’s a medium roast so right between the Death Wish and Dunkin’ brands.
If you’re looking for something different, check out Bones Coffee Company based in Cape Coral, Florida. Besides having some great artwork on their coffee bags, this roaster offers artisan craft coffee in either beans or ground made with 100% Arabica beans. Their coffee is keto-friendly, vegan friendly, and dairy-free without added sugar or carbs. Their pumpkin spice coffee is a medium roast with low acidity but a sweet taste. This seasonal roast is only available for a limited time. The brand has a huge online footprint.
There you have it. 5 pumpkin spice coffees to order for fall 2020. Have fun and enjoy the season.
Dunkin’ and DoorDash announced today that delivery is now available through DoorDash at approximately 3,500 Dunkin’ restaurants across the United States with expansions planned in the coming months.
As part of an introductory promotion guests who spend $10 or more (excluding taxes and fees) on Dunkin’ through DoorDash will be eligible for a free 25-count box of Dunkin’s MUNCHKINS® Donut Hole Treats and a $0 delivery fee* from September 15th, 2020 to September 21st, 2020. Limit one per person.
“Dunkin’ guests know they can count on us to offer the most convenient ways to enjoy their favorite coffee and food items. We are excited to kick off the fall season by continuing to expand our delivery footprint, teaming up with DoorDash for yet another way to keep Americans running by delivering their daily Dunkin’ order right to their doorstep.”, says Brandy Blackwell, Director of New Business, Delivery & Catering, for Dunkin’ U.S.
To place a Dunkin’ delivery order on DoorDash, customers can simply download the DoorDash mobile app or go to DoorDash.com, , select their nearest Dunkin’ location, choose their food and beverages, customize them just the way they like, and checkout. Their Dunkin’ order will then be delivered contact-free.
“That first sip of coffee is what gets most of us going in the morning, and even though our morning routines look a bit different these days, we’re excited to make it easier for Dunkin’ fans everywhere to enjoy their favorite classics from the comfort of their couches, home desks, or wherever they start their day,” said Toby Espinosa, Vice President of Business Development at DoorDash.
“Dunkin’ selected DoorDash for our commitment to operational excellence and ability to further enhance their already strong off-premise offerings at store locations across the country.”
Dunkin’ was founded in 1950 and is a market leader in the hot regular/decaf/flavored coffee, iced regular/decaf/flavored coffee, donut, bagel and muffin categories. Dunkin’ has earned a number one ranking for customer loyalty in the coffee category by Brand Keys for 14 years running and has more than has more than 13,100 restaurants in 41 countries worldwide. The company is based in Canton, Massachusetts.