With the daily news bombarding us about more restaurant closures and dining room shutdowns as the pandemic readies itself for a winter stronghold, it’s nice to hear some good news. It’s hard to imagine, but there are some restaurants that are thriving despite COVID-19.
One of these resilient companies is Nekter Juice Bar.
Nekter Juice Bar initiated its Project Wellness Campaign and turned the tide from a COVID-19 impacted brand to a company with a 32 percent increase in sales from the second to the third quarter of 2020. Not bad.
What is Project Wellness?
Quick actions taken by Nekter’s leadership team led to Project Wellness soon after the pandemic struck. At its core, the campaign is all about increasing safety measures for both guests and employees and increasing their online and delivery footprint. According to CEO Steve Schulze, “By concentrating our efforts on safety measures first and our online and delivery platforms, we were able to amplify our role as a leading health and wellness resource for our communities across the country.”
The plant-based brand started providing fresh organic juice, superfood smoothies, acai bowls, and healthy snacks to the growing health-conscious consumer market in 2010. In May 2018, they had grown to about 100 units. As they continue to expand across the country, 170 restaurants are expected by the end of 2020.
Expanding their multichannel ordering and delivery program, which includes ordering directly from their loyalty app as well as online, was considered a key part of their success. They also launched curbside pickup. According to Fast Casual, in the last few months, Nekter has increased its digital sales by 200 percent and its check averages by more than 30 percent. They currently have more than 700,000 subscribers.
Another part of Nekter’s success lies in their menu which consists of several of the trending superfoods. Dragon fruit, ginger, turmeric, and kale have all made the grade along with ashwagandha, a revered Ayurvedic herb known for its wide-ranging health benefits including increased energy and reduced anxiety.
What their success tells those in the restaurant industry is that a digital presence with a solid delivery platform and a proven customer loyalty program is a success strategy that will be here long after the devastation of the pandemic has receded.
Creating a Multichannel Ordering and Delivery Platform
Today’s digital age has inundated us with choices. Let’s take a look at what the bigger brands have targeted.
Customer Loyalty Apps
Punchh, a loyalty and engagement platform, announced that their customers were seeing a 25 percent increase in loyalty spend since the first quarter of 2020. The increased sales were derived from increasing lifetime customer value and turning guests into brand-loyal advocates. El Pollo Loco reported gaining 1.9 million loyalty members since partnering with Punchh in 2017. They also experienced an 11.9 percent increase in member spend year-over-year.
MOD Pizza, also a Punchh customer, focused on building their omnichannel loyalty program and rewards. As a result, they saw a 182 percent lift in spend year-over-year in the second quarter of 2020 and grew their loyalty program sign-ups by 28 percent from the first quarter. They expect to open 13 additional restaurants this fiscal year.
Nekter is but one of many brands making their space in the crowded digital arena. QSR Webinars reported on Taco Bell’s VP of Digital Experiences, Zipporah Allen. His goal is to “drive the customer experience through the brand’s digital channels—kiosk, app, web, and delivery.”
Online Ordering and Delivery App
Go to Google’s “People Ask” and you’ll see a resounding theme. Questions such as “How do I create an online food ordering app?” and “How do I create a delivery app?” are omnipresent. And, of course, there are a wealth of businesses that have entered the restaurant app space looking to supply this high demand.
One simple and straightforward approach is Appy Pie’s restaurant app builder. It includes online ordering as well as delivery tracking and loyalty rewards.
As is evident by Nekter’s success, a restaurant app that includes rewards, an ordering, and delivery system, as well as a payment process, has been found to encourage repeat customers.
Of course, there are always third-party delivery apps. Many restaurants, however, are turning to in-house delivery due to the commission fees which can be marked at 30 percent of the order.
Nekter is not alone in their success during the pandemic. Wired reported on Eric Rivera, a tech-savvy chef and owner of Addo, a restaurant in Seattle, that is using online platforms to his benefit.
One of his recommendations is the Tock platform. Diners purchase their meals online and then show up to eat, when the dining room is open, or pick up their meal to-go. It has significantly decreased their food waste, offers contact-free handoffs, and eliminates point-of-sale transactions.
He also created an in-house delivery system and suggests linking your social media posts to the sales platform. For him, this means that someone clicking on his Facebook post is sent to the purchase page on Tock.
It’s become apparent that restauranteurs who take risks, get creative, and implement digital technology are the ones that are making advancements while others around them close or struggle. As a testament to this new “digital” restaurant, Chipotle introduces Chipotle Digital Kitchen, their first digital-only restaurant.