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5 New Year's resolutions for restaurant operators

2022 is brimming with promise, with 70% of consumers saying they feel comfortable returning to a restaurant[1]. This is already proving to be true, with trips to restaurants increasing by 7% in October of 2021 compared to the previous month[2]. While restaurant operators are eager to embrace the anticipated "return to normal this holiday season," there's no denying they face some headwinds from continued supply chain disruption and rising costs.

Although some facets of the operation are out of restaurant operators' hands, there are still many opportunities to prepare restaurant businesses for a banner year. Here are five New Year's resolutions to help brands start 2022 off right.

Resolution 1: Optimize drive-thru and curbside pickup processes

Consumers continue to embrace the drive-thru, yet they are not always receiving the convenient experience they expect. In fact, throughout 2021, time spent in the drive-thru increased while order accuracy decreased[3]. What might have been acceptable a year or so ago no longer is, as consumers expect restaurants to have corrected service difficulties. Whether they are picking up food in the drive-thru or curbside, they want it hot and fresh when they arrive.

How can restaurants best meet consumers' expectations? Now is the time to make fixes. First, invest in technology that will ease the pick-up process for patrons and streamline incoming orders for staff. Then, instill in the team the importance of giving these customers a stellar experience by prioritizing both precision and speed. Once a smooth process is in place, alert local drivers to the availability of amenities like drive-thru and curbside service.

One way to ensure on-the-go customers know which services are available is to use Waze Location Personality badges. "These provide an additional way to connect with customers and provide a valuable user experience by amplifying specific offerings at your location," says Waze's Head of Industry, Restaurant, Mike Wilson. "It helps them make a decision on which locations to visit based on their preference for using a drive thru or ordering ahead, for example."

Resolution 2: Consider nontraditional sources of staff

It's hard to find a restaurant that's not short-staffed these days, with three-fourths of restaurant owners citing labor constraints as their top concern[4]. As locations aim to combat the workforce shortage, restaurants are competing for workers like never before: Between February and April 2021, there was a 72% increase in job ads for food and beverage servers and a 59% increase for cooks and food preparers[5].

To attract the best employees to their door, managers need to tap into new demographics, such as retirees — who may have retired before or amid the pandemic and now yearn for some camaraderie and income — or parents who stepped out of the workforce to care for kids who have since returned to school. With vaccinations widely available, many populations who were previously hesitant about a public-facing position could be reconsidering, so be the first to attract their attention.

Resolution 3: Improve conditions for valuable staff to boost retention

Given the challenge inherent in finding new staff, one obvious solution is to create an environment that engages current workers. After all, the last thing a restaurant operator wants is for a well-trained, diligent employee to shift to the brand across the street in search of a better situation.

Today, frontline workers are facing an enormous amount of stress, which is often the underlying reason they quit. Workers say the most significant on-the-job stressors include low pay (56%), long hours (54%) and lack of opportunity for growth or advancement (52%)[6]. Interestingly, many of the possibilities they suggested as ways employers could ease their stress, and possibly reduce turnover, don't cost a dime. These include offering flexible hours (34%), encouraging employees to take care of their health (32%) and allowing breaks during the workday (30%)[7].

By focusing on positive reinforcement and incentives to retain existing staff and boost morale, restaurants might not need to post "help wanted" signs after all.

Resolution 4: Invest in more targeted marketing strategies

When trying to market to potential diners, why not reach out to drivers who are already out and about? Waze's in-car advertising platform reaches hungry consumers with targeted messages designed to pique their interest. The bakery franchise, Nothing Bundt Cakes, with more than 410 locations in the United States and two in Canada, used Waze to reposition their product offerings as an everyday reward, using Pins and Takeovers to delight drivers with suggestions for different sizes of their mouthwatering cake flavors. The campaign drew in more than 90,000 guests in seven months, resulting in a 391% return on ad spend[8].

Resolution 5: Pivot messaging to reach new consumer

As consumers shake up their routines, restaurants have the chance to reach an entirely new group of clientele, and their messaging should reflect that. "Consumers continue to look to brands for solutions, and the new year provides an opportune time for that positioning," Wilson says.

For example, resolutions related to healthier habits routinely top the most popular list, which allows a brand to tout its latest spin on functional foods or veggie-packed salads[9]. And of course all year, everyone deserves an impulse treat, which is why Nothing Bundt Cakes promotes its cakes year-round to customers who appreciate the suggestion of a sweet indulgence for friends and family — or even themselves.

In addition to creating engaging content, brands can also reach new diners by emphasizing promotions at non-traditional hours. With more people continuing to work remotely, commutes have become disrupted, offering the chance to reach diners during extended dayparts. For example, Waze research finds that coffee shops are seeing more consistent traffic all day, and quick-service restaurants now see more navigation between 1 and 4 p.m. and 7 and 10 p.m., rather than the traditional mealtime spike[10].

"Our goal is to help restaurant operators make the most of their marketing budget by putting their location on the map at that critical moment of decision," says Wilson."Waze advertising options like Arrows and Pins, Search, Takeover and Location Personality help those on-the-go drivers know you are open and ready to serve them."

[1] "Tracking the Return to Normal: Dining." Morning Consult, 3 November 2021, URL. Accessed Nov. 9, 2021.
[2] Waze Internal Data, 2021.
[3] "It's not your imagination: Restaurant drive-thrus are slower and less accurate." CNBC, 23 September 2021, URL. Accessed 9 November 2021.
[4] "2021 State of the Restaurant Industry Mid-Year Update." National Restaurant Association, 15 September 2021, URL. Accessed 9 November 2021.
[5] "Labor Shortages Are Making a Comeback." The Conference Board, URL. Accessed 9 November 2021.
[6] "Facing compounding stressors, many American workers plan to change jobs in coming year." American Psychological Association, 4 October 2021, URL. Accessed 9 November 2021.
[7] ibid
[8]"Enticing drivers for an impulse treat." Waze, URL, Accessed 9 November 2021.
[9] "Exercising and sticking to a healthy diet are the most common 2021 New Year's resolutions." YouGovAmerica, 23 December 2020, URL. Accessed November 9, 2021.
[10] Waze Internal Data, 2021.

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