JUL 07, 2022
The COVID-19 pandemic brought on unprecedented hardships for restaurant owners and employees, resulting in shuttered restaurants, job losses, and shattered dreams for countless owners and industry employees. I am lucky that Yolk, the restaurant I work for, did not suffer a similar fate.
This is certainly not to say we didn’t face our own set of challenges or were able to get through these difficult years unscathed. Like so many others, when the pandemic began and we were forced to shut our doors to indoor dining, we had to make the devastating decision to lay off hundreds of employees across our locations and even permanently closed two of our locations altogether here in Chicago.
While we didn't know it at the time, establishing a partnership with third-party delivery apps before the onset of the pandemic would come to be a consequential decision that ultimately helped buoy our business when times got tough. We saw 70% growth in our takeout and delivery business from 2020 to 2021, which simply would not have been possible without the services provided by partners like DoorDash.
While we saw this sharp increase in our takeout and delivery business, like so many of my industry peers I wondered what would become of the boom in this segment of our business once the restrictions at the height of the pandemic eased. Would it be a temporary fad that disappeared as soon as people were able to dine-in at our restaurants, or would it be a more permanent shift in the industry that is here to stay?
Now that we’ve entered a time that more closely resembles pre-pandemic conditions in the dining industry, I have no doubt that the online ordering ecosystem is here to stay, and that third-party apps will continue to be a critical part of it to continue supporting restaurants like Yolk.
Despite diners returning to Yolk in recent months at an even higher rate, the demand for delivery and takeout has not only held steady, but grown 29% in the past 12 months.
This data makes clear that even with options of how to dine, customers still want, enjoy, and rely on the convenience third-party apps provide. They are also willing to pay a little extra for it. As a restaurant marketer, if that’s how we can continue to grow our business and connect with new diners, then we’re also willing to pay a little extra to use these services.
We also know that our money goes beyond just providing us with delivery capabilities. Third-party apps don’t just provide delivery support for restaurants who may not have the capability to manage their own fleets — they also offer numerous other tools for their partners that have become invaluable to us. For example, delivery apps offer tools to analyze sales performance and use data-driven insights to improve operations, optimize our menu based on what is selling, increase discoverability and reach more customers.
This input has been essential as Yolk has prepared to expand in recent months, something that we were forced to put a pause on two years ago when we were struggling to just stay afloat. This year alone, we’re opening up four new locations — one in the Chicago suburb of Burr Ridge, two in South Florida, and one in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
We may pay a fee to utilize third-party apps, but it’s a price worth paying for everything we get in return, especially since it’s money we’d still be paying for these services — just with the added inconvenience of going through multiple platforms or running these services on our own.
While each day we appear to come closer to turning the post-pandemic corner, restaurant owners across Chicago and the state are still left with uncertainty about what the future holds. But uncertainty is simply an inevitability of our industry. We’ve learned so much over the past two years about how our investments in third-party apps can not only help us survive challenging circumstances, but thrive in spite of them. Now, we’re taking those lessons with us on a path to continued success and future growth. I hope policymakers at the state and city level understand that the restaurant industry and third-party delivery apps need each other in this post pandemic world. The two industries have formed a sort of symbiotic relationship and any new legislation must reflect that.
Gianluca Pesce is the Director of Marketing & Communications for Yolk.
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