How to Turn Your Restaurant into a Corner Market

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Let’s start this article with a blatant, condescending understatement: The coronavirus has presented all of us with a challenging situation.

That’s how a politician might describe it: a bland whitewashing statement in order to minimize the severity of the situation, in hopes of dulling our sense of panic.

And yet, what has evolved from this bizarre time in our history is some of the most innovative and creative thinking, triggering fresh optimism among owners and managers who are willing their restaurants to make money via multiple revenue streams.

If you are one of those thought leaders, I congratulate you. Bravo.

For those of you who have spent the last four weeks or so living in fear, with your head stuffed between your ankles like an ostrich who can’t locate any sand, I’m going to show you one of the more remarkable revenue streams some restaurant owners have come up with, which is transforming their restaurant into a corner market.

Yep, you read that right. I’m about to show you how to go from steakhouse to 7-Eleven in 5 easy steps, because right now, for the most part, the government is allowing restaurants to stay open in a limited capacity, and we the people (at least many of us) are still willing to acquire take-out, despite the potential risks involved.

And as long as that holds true, it’s our job as restaurant owners and managers to take advantage and find new ways to generate revenue.

Let’s begin.

5-STEPS TO TURNING YOUR
RESTAURANT INTO A CORNER MARKET

STEP 1: GET YOUR ONLINE ORDERING DIALED IN

This is the most obvious statement ever, but if you don’t have online ordering set-up yet, get off your ass and get it set-up. Getting a good take-out system on your website is not an option right now, it’s a NECESSITY in order to survive.

If you don’t have a website guy, find one. If you can’t afford one, find a friend who is good with computers. If you don’t have any friends, you can watch the video below to learn how to set-up a restaurant website with Wix, which you could have done in one day, including online ordering, which is only about $20 per month.

Also, if during this down time one of the things on your list is to get a new POS system, Upserve (who we love) has a great deal going on right now. They are offering 12 months of FREE online ordering integration (normally $99/month), plus a $100 ad spend for Facebook to get people to your restaurant. That’s $1,288 they are giving away for free. You can click here to get a free demo.

IN ADDITION, if you use the link provided, you will also get TheRealBarman Upserve Special Offer, which means if/when you sign-up to use Upserve, you will receive a $500 voucher. That’s an additional $500 off to the offer I just mentioned, which brings your total to $1,788 in savings. But first, just sign-up for a demo. It’s free and there’s no obligation to sign-up, but you won’t get the additional $500 off unless you use this link: Click here for a free demo.

STEP 2: DETERMINE HOW PEOPLE WILL GET THEIR ORDERS

Whether you create a corner market or stay with the restaurant theme, there are three main strategies right now for people to get their orders:

OPTION 1: IN-STORE PICK-UP – Option 1 and 2 require people to order online (or call it in) and then drive to your location to pick-up their order.

The main thing you need to make sure of with in-store or walk-in orders is to have safety procedures in place in order to abide by the social distancing standards.

Have a sign on the door with instructions. Something like:

Have sanitation wipes available outside so your guests can open the doors with them and wipe their hands and credit cards when they leave. Small touches like this will motivate them to return.

Make sure all of your employees are wearing gloves. I understand that using gloves is nearly the same as using clean hands because the virus could just as easily get on the gloves and spread that way, but it’s just common sense and it will put your guests at ease when they see you are taking precautions.

OPTION 2: CURBSIDE DELIVERY – The decision to provide curbside delivery will depend on your parking situation. Do you have an area that is easy for your guests to park? If so, curbside take-out is a service that stands out when people are trying to decide where to get their food from.

This is because it is less risky than getting out of their car, trying to negotiate opening the door without touching it, and then being around multiple people instead of just the one person delivering it to their car.

If you do provide curbside delivery, you should assign one or two employees to be out in the delivery area as people pull up so they aren’t left waiting and wondering. Your employees can then ask their names, go in and bag up their order, and bring it back to them.

I also HIGHLY recommend that you encourage your guests to pay online, otherwise you will need to have a hand-held device to take payments on the curb or your employees will have to take their credit card, run inside to make the transaction, which is inefficient, and your guests will worry about the risks of giving up their card for fear of it getting slathered with germs.

OPTION 3: IN-HOME DELIVERY – This is an even more attractive offer than curbside because they don’t have to go out at all into the world.

You have one of two options here: 1) use your own employees to deliver the food at no charge (hopefully they will receive some gratuity along the way), or 2) use a third-party like GrubHub, UberEats, DoorDash, etc.

STEP 3: DETERMINE WHICH ITEMS YOU WILL CARRY

This is the step that is going to turn your restaurant into a corner store. We’re not only going to talk about WHAT you should carry, but the many different ways in which you present it.

First, let’s answer the question: which items should you carry? 

When deciding what items to carry, remember this: you can design your restaurant/store to be anything you want. You can decide to provide store-like items (commodities and in-home products), as well as your food menu items, and even your cocktail menu items. In any ratio you want.

You are only limited to what your suppliers will deliver to you (or to what you purchase yourself at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco, etc.).

That means you can sell the most sought-after and out-of-stock items at the grocery store, down to knick-knacks, including cleaning supplies, toilet paper, hand wipes, food, gum, candy and even alcohol (check your state laws).

If possible, I would suggest setting up some shelves to display items that your guests may not know you would be carrying, so if they do walk into pick-up an order, they can see all you have to offer. Sort of like those last minute items you see at the grocery store when you’re checking out.

THE KITS

You can certainly sell anything as an individual item, and one of the best ways is to have them available as an upsell when your guests arrive. If you are doing curbside, have your employees ask them if they want to add any gum, candy, hand wipes, etc. as an upsell.

But one of the most attractive and fun ways for people to get their food and essentials is to offer it to them in a kit.

This can include as a prepared meal (just as you always do when doing take-out orders) to frozen meals they simply throw in the oven, to just the ingredients and instructions on how to cook a meal.

Or, you can offer a kit of essential ingredients, unprepared. For example, Lazy Dog Restaurant has what they call The Pantry, which is a kit of essential, hard-to-get items all in one pack.

The items in this kit are like picking them up from the store, unprepared and uncooked. It not only provides you with some of the harder to come by food items, but it comes with another highly coveted item as well.

In addition, they also have themed kits for its guests to pick-up on the fly:

SELLING ALCOHOL KITS

Make sure to check your state laws before you start sending alcohol home. Most states do not allow sending actual cocktails home, so instead you’ll need to sell beer, wine and liquor in their full containers, but even so, you can get quite creative with the alcohol kits, as you’ll see.

Now, it’s unlikely that anyone will jump on to your website just to order some beer, wine or liquor, as the mark-up is higher than that of a grocery store. However, people ordering food will be much more likely to add alcohol to their order for the convenience so they don’t have to make an extra stop (and increase the risk of coming in the contact of more people) on their way home.

Here are some things to consider when selling alcohol kits:

MAKE IT EASY TO FIND ON YOUR WEBSITE – Most people will have no idea that you are selling alcohol kits. Some people might not even be sure that you are even open at this time.

One great way to get their attention when they come to your website (in general, not just for alcohol kits) is to have a pop-up or something right on the front page letting them know exactly what they want to know. This one from Loro Asian Smokehouse in Texas gives them three choices to choose from.

coronvirus restaurant ordering

TAKE PICTURES OF YOUR ALCOHOL KIT – Pictures allow your guests to see what they’re getting. Restaurants in general should be including a picture of every dish on the menu on their website, but 95% of restaurants do not do this, which is missing a huge opportunity to show potential customers visuals of what they’re getting.

You’ll notice here how they also include a card with the ingredients and instructions on how to make the drink. The other thing I like here is that they put their to-go food bags in the background, subliminally reminding people to add the cocktail kit when ordering food.

With your food kits, I highly recommend listing the ingredients they will be receiving right on the website. Don’t leave anything up to chance by naming the cocktail kit and then not providing what’s included. Most people aren’t risk takers. They want to know exactly what they are getting.

For instance, this restaurant simply provided a picture of the kit, but did not list the ingredients.

Leaving that bag of…whatever…to the imagination risks your guests picturing something out of a DNA crime lab.

EVERY DAY ITEMS

To really turn your restaurant into a corner market, you’ll need to provide every day commodities and items that people either need, or things they want that they normally pick up from the store.

Again, you may be asking why they would come to your make-shift store when they can go to a regular grocery store, and again, if they are picking up dinner from you anyway, it’s extremely convenient to also grab other items that you have available.

Remember, check your suppliers’ item lists. There will be things on there you’ve never ordered before, but you can certainly order them now because there is a demand for them.

NECESSITY ITEMS

Beans

Bread

Cheese

Cleaning Supplies

Disinfectant Wipes

Eggs

Flour

Meat

Paper Towels

Pastas

Rice

Sanitizers

Sauces

Soap

Toilet Paper

Yeast

Other Canned Goods

Frozen Goods

EXTRAS

Alcohol

Candy

Chips

Fruit/Veggies

Gum

Nuts

Pop-Corn

Sodas

Other Snacks

Again, I would put many of those Extras on some shelves near the front of the restaurant where you ring up orders so your guests can quickly grab them and add them to their order. I would also add the list of the commodities and extras you are selling on your website and make them available to add to the checkout cart.

WHAT TO CHARGE FOR COMMODITIES

The first thing I’m going to do is remind you that a law has been put in place for no price gouging, meaning you can’t jack the price up for highly sought after and low supply items. If you do, you will incur a hefty fine.

Once you receive all of your new supplies and commodities, the first question that will pop into your head is, “How much am I supposed to charge for toilet paper?” 

Here is a general mark-up guide used by many grocery stores. For your regular take-out orders you can charge what you always do. I have noticed that many of the restaurants are offering a 25% discount for all alcohol to increase the incentive of ordering beer, liquor and wine.

  • Dairy Products: 30 - 50%
  • Produce: 50 - 60%
  • Meats: 40 - 60%
  • Eggs: 40 - 50%
  • Cleaning Supplies: 30 - 50%
  • Misc. Household Items: 30 - 50%

STEP 4: SHARE THE STRATEGY WITH YOUR STAFF

For the most part, your staff should be just fine. You’ll be taking what they already do, (take orders, prepare the orders and present them to the guests) and restructuring it a bit. We can be grateful that with the take-out process that at least some people will be able to continue to work and keep their jobs.

The main differences for your staff will be:

1. All the orders will come in by phone or online.

2. The orders will all be packaged up to-go.

3. Some orders might be packaged differently if you are providing meal and alcohol kits, which is something you most likely haven’t done before.

4. Safety is of the utmost importance

Obviously #4 cannot be overstated during this time. Practice CONTINUOUS AND ON-GOING psycho-sanitation of everything. POS system, counter-tops, equipment. Take out the trash often. Use gloves. Constantly wash and sanitize hands. Put in the social distancing practices that have been recommended. And then make sure to enforce them.

It is your job as owner/manager to provide your staff with a vision of what it is you want to accomplish during this time.

STEP 5: MARKET, MARKET, MARKET

I know that the last thing you want to do is spend unnecessary money right now, but marketing is the only way to make people aware that you are open and also what you have to offer. This would be my suggestion to keep it simple:

MAKE SURE YOUR WEBSITE EXPRESSES YOUR VISION – We just talked about sharing your vision with your staff, but it’s even more important that you share it with your potential customers.

If you just leave your website the way it is without updating what you’re doing, people will have no idea if you’re up with the times or not. Get someone on your website to express your new offerings (with pictures) immediately.

In addition, if you don’t have online ordering set-up, you need to do this right now. 100% of your orders will be take-out and if you aren’t prepared, you will lose A LOT of money.

EMAIL LIST – If you don’t have an email list, shame on you. However, it’s never too late to start, and this is a perfect example of why you should be building an email list. How easy is it to connect with your customers via email and tell them what you’re doing during the pandemic for food and to-go?

If you had a list of 2,000 people you could just quickly email, that would be instant revenue and you wouldn’t have to chase them down. Email marketing is powerful, and something you should be focusing on moving forward.

If you have a way to start adding emails right now, do it. If you already have an email list, send out a message to all of your subscribers, sharing what you’re doing, and then keep adding to that list.

USE FACEBOOK ADS – I know this is scary if you have never used Facebook ads to boost your business, but the targeting you can do within 20 miles of your restaurant is INSANE.

I’m not going to provide a lesson here on Facebook ads. I have a full lesson on it inside the Restaurant Management Masterclass. There is also other information on the Internet you can look up, or find a staff member who is savvy at Facebook and set them to the task.

If you REALLY want to explode your business during this time, I highly recommend contacting Nick Fosberg. He is the best in the country at restaurant Facebook ads in the country and he guarantees you a 1,000% ROI or you don’t pay anything. He has case study after case study of restaurants that have exploded their sales because of him.

If you want, you can check out his case study for a restaurant called Burger Bach here, and then if you want to set-up a time to talk, he would love to speak with you. Again, there is no risk to you.

I hope this was helpful, or perhaps inspired some ideas of your own. This is only a guide to help you envision how you might want to set-up your shop so you can bring in some solid revenue until we’re all back on our feet again.

Thanks for being here. See you next time.

Dave

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