2020 has undoubtedly been the year of the meal kit. With fast-thinking operators developing at home food and drink concepts at lighting speed, the industry has never seen more rapid innovation. And consumers have happily embraced making restaurant-food in their homes. Getting hands floury kneading pizza dough and smoking out kitchens searing 35-day dry-aged rib-eye steaks was all part of the fun!
But what happens when the pandemic crisis is over? As restaurants reopen will the general public hang up their aprons and fall back into old habits?
The explosion of delivery over the past 5 years and the emergence of subscription-style recipe boxes points to a longer-term evolution in the way we source ingredients, prepare food and eat. According to the head of Naspers, one of the world’s most successful technology investment firms: “The notion that people gather a bunch of ingredients from a shop and put things together three times a day, 30 times a month – that’s not the way things are going to work any more.”
It just took a global pandemic to accelerate the trend – and turn it into a significant revenue stream – for the hospitality industry to really see the opportunity.
Of course meal kits aren’t the only retail products restaurants can offer. And great e-commerce isn’t just about putting things in a box. Anybody can do that (and everybody is!). For a hospitality brand to build a successful, long-term retail proposition you have to think properly about product diversification.
Most online hospitality products out there now are line extensions; new products within the same category – food and drink. Click and collect, delivered food, meal kits and hampers; this sort of product diversification can help you reach new customers as you expand your geography. You could also consider creating products to appeal to specific target segments – kids meals, for example or a low calorie or vegan range. Create products for different day-parts and consider price points and positioning products for different budgets.
When two brands come together to create a new co-branded product there are benefits to both parties. Each brings their own brand equity, you double your target market size and it’s a good PR story too. As well as creating products together you can share distribution channels, and offer exclusive perks or discounts for each other’s audiences. Lockdown has brought us brand partnerships from restaurants x suppliers and restaurants x foodie content creators – drinks brands are definitely a great place to start. But do consider looking beyond the hospitality sector for collaborators. Cinemas, fashion brands, homewares and even beauty could have more in common with your brand than you think. As long as there are brand synergies with your positioning and target audience, then there’s potential for a valuable co-brand.
Brand extensions leverage your brand equity – the awareness and associations of your brand – to create new products outside of your original category. Look at your brand principles (your brand DNA, your brand ethos, whatever you want to call it!) and translate these into new products. All about little luxuries and ‘me time’ – what about scented candles and blankets? Precision and authenticity – a quality kitchen knife range. Excitement and discovery – online speed cocktail-making classes. This is a longer-term play for sure – and you need to be really sure-footed with your brand for it to make sense to consumers – but proper consideration of brand will separate the great from the mediocre.
Much has been said about how to retain the guest experience and wow your customers outside of your bricks and mortar store. Your packaging, your product design and features should all be on-point and consideration given to the great ‘unboxing moment’. And attention should be given to that – it’s a powerful moment to have your brand unwrapped and consumed within somebody’s home, sitting atop the family dinner table or placed in the fridge next to loved household brands.
But your customers’ experience doesn’t start and end at the point of consumption. From ordering and support, to delivery and after-care, how do you imbue your brand across all of those customer touch points? How can you make it better, or easier for consumers to buy from you? What little touches can you add to elevate the experience and insert your brand positioning? The very best brands interrogate the customer journey and understand what’s important to their customers – for example, having somebody available on the phone for support with orders might be just as important as the food for your customers. Ask them what’s important and monitor satisfaction at every step.
An Integrated Digital Ecosystem
The ability to sell online – through your own platform and not an aggregator – is fundamental. By using your own e-commerce tools, via your own website, you will retain crucial control over the customer experience and be able to understand more about their buying behaviours. Essentially, you will be able to provide a hugely superior service, and they will remain your customer, not somebody else’s, enabling you to build your audience and brand advocacy.
Fuse is Ignite’s all-in-one e-commerce platform for restaurants. It allows you to sell anything for your restaurant, pub or bar directly to consumers via modules on your own website. Including modules for at-home meal kits, gift vouchers, hampers, delivered food, click & collect, and event tickets, Fuse puts everything in one place – and you in control. With one central e-commerce hub for everything you sell, you can cross-sell, up-sell and run promotions across your entire product range.
Effective digital marketing is a brilliant way to drive traffic and sales through your shop. Tactics like abandoned basket follow-up, dynamic ads and remarketing audiences will transform your shop into an e-commerce success story, with incredible returns.
And the best bit? It’s trackable end to end, so you can measure everything and calculate a precise return on ad spend. This means your e-commerce marketing becomes a self-funded model. See how this works with our e-commerce platform for D&D.
Building National Brands
Creating exciting new products and an experience you can be proud of, whilst extending your geographical reach and penetrating new market segments, is the dream. Restaurant e-commerce done well isn’t just an extra revenue stream on the side – it’s a brilliant recipe for brand building that should benefit your entire business, building audiences, creating brand advocacy and solidifying your brand positioning.
The restaurant experience will never be replaced – and long-live traditional hospitality – but a shift in perspective for the industry, embracing e-commerce and thinking long-term will create the hospitality success stories of the future.
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