Stats Of The Week

The State Of The Industry

A new report shows that consumers are more likely to spend money on restaurant e-commerce gift cards than they did in 2019, according to Blackhawk Networks. The report illustrates that the holidays are the most popular time for U.S. consumers to purchase gift cards with the growth of e-commerce gift cards expected to grow to 21% across all industries from November to January. Due to the pandemic, consumers are expected to start their holiday shopping early this year. On average, consumers are projected to purchase 10 gift cards this year or double what they purchased last year. The influx of gift cards expected to be purchased this year may provide a source of much-needed revenue for restaurants during the winter months and provides an incentive for consumers to order food for take out or delivery during these slower months.

Cooking Robotics Expected To Be The Future Of The Industry

Before the pandemic, the demand for cooking robotics was rising. With restaurants pivoting to contactless technologies, the pandemic has only accelerated this innovative and already-growing market. In 2019, the global cooking robotics industry was worth $86.2 million and is projected to grow to $322 million by 2028, according to data from Research Nester. From robots that flip burgers to ones that disinfect tables, automation is helping restaurants get through this health crisis while streamlining their food preparation process. The fast food industry is taking advantage of this technology with 24% of fast food restaurants holding the highest share of cooking robots in 2019.

What’s Trending

The Hope For A New Vaccine Raises Restaurant Stocks

On Monday, the drug company Pfizer released early tests of its COVID-19 vaccine showing that it is 90% effective in thousands of its patients. The remarkably high results have brought a welcomed relief for restaurant owners and customers during the pandemic. Once the data was announced, stocks went soaring particularly in industries that have been struggling the most during these past few months. Casual dining chains saw the most surge in early trading with restaurants like Texas Roadhouse, Ruth’s Chris Hospitality Group, Bloomin’ Brands, and others reaching double digits in trades. Fast food restaurant stocks didn’t move up as much because many have already recovered thanks to drive-thrus and mobile ordering. Other segments that have done well during the pandemic, such as popular pizza chains including Domino’s and Papa John’s, were down more than 5%. The Pfizer vaccine is still in its early stages and must go through further analysis to validate its efficacy.

“With today’s news, we are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis,” Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s CEO, said in a statement.

Chicago Provides Relief For Independents

After Chicago Governor J.B. Pritzker suspended indoor dining due to high rates of positive coronavirus cases in the state, many independent restaurants had to shut down their operations. Last week, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot launched a new grant program to help out independents that were struggling as a result of indoor dining closures. The program would offer $10,000 to 1,000 independent restaurants and bars chosen through a lottery. In order to qualify, restaurants must prove that they have lost at least 25% of their annual net revenues since March. The city is also trying to enact another helpful measure for restaurants by seeking a temporary cap on restaurant delivery fees. In May, a 5% fee cap was introduced but never made it out of committee.

Ways The Hiring Process Has Changed During The Pandemic

With the rise of COVID-19 cases spiking across the country, companies are taking on new hiring tactics for the upcoming holiday season. More than 400 Taco Bell restaurants are hosting drive-thru hiring parties to attract more applicants during the pandemic. The event offers a safe and socially distant opportunity for potential employees to interact with Taco Bell managers during the interview process. McDonald’s also held a similar event with drive-up interviews in September. Most events also include tables and chairs placed outside and six feet apart to adhere to health and safety guidelines. This hiring strategy is a result of restaurants adapting to the new normal of continuing operations during the pandemic.

Fast Food Restaurants Offer Loyalty Benefits

In an attempt to maintain their customer base, many restaurants have come up with new strategies to entice customers to choose their establishment. Chains have done particularly well during the pandemic due to the success of their drive-thru and off-premise sales. Many fast food chains, including McDonald’s, are capitalizing on this and launching new programs to attract more customers. McDonald’s is launching a new loyalty program called Accelerating the Arches which targets digital and drive-thru. The program will offer personalized order suggestions and deals through the chain’s kiosks, mobile app, and digital menu boards at the drive-thru. This new initiative is projected to have customers more engaged and allow them to make their meals more customizable to build a stronger base.

QSRs Test Out Alcoholic Beverages

As the virus continues to spread and appears to be staying around for the foreseeable future, restaurants are pivoting their operations to extend their sales. Quick-service restaurants, like Panera Bread, are testing out beer and wine sales in a selection of their restaurants. Panera has introduced a new program called Panera Tonight: Beer, Wine & Dine that premiered in 5 locations in Kansas along with their new flatbread pizzas. This the first time that any Panera Bread cafe has served alcohol. The franchisee has partnered with a brewing company and winery to offer guests a variety of wines, beers, and hard seltzers. Their alcoholic beverages will only be offered after 4 p.m. for dine-in customers to potentially boost the cafe’s dinner sales.

Bright Spots In A COVID-19 World

Teens Host Virtual ‘Chopped’ Event Fundraiser

In years past, teenagers have partnered with Milwaukee restaurant chefs to pull off an event that follows the concept of ‘Chopped’. Due to COVID-19, the competition went virtual this year with half of the money raised to go to the chefs that participated and the other half to help fund teens’ internship programs. This competition includes three teams that open their boxes with surprise ingredients, then they cook their meals, and present them to judges with everyone being masked, socially distanced, and outdoors. The chefs let the teenagers take the lead and work with their secret ingredients: jicama, ribeye steak, and chocolate.

Grubhub Helps Restaurants Prepare For Winter

While Congress remains at a standstill for providing restaurant relief during the pivotal winter months, companies are taking matters into their own hands and fundraising to help the struggling restaurant industry stay afloat. Grubhub has partnered with The Greg Hill Foundation’s Restaurant Strong Fund to help restaurants prepare for winter. They’ve created a $2 million Restaurant Winterization Grant Program that will provide $10,000 in grants to eligible independent restaurants. Grubhub is one of many businesses that have stepped up to support charitable organizations that help restaurants, drivers, and people that have been impacted by the pandemic.

Quote Of Hope

“When you acknowledge, as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, then the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear: to make people happy, that is what cooking is all about.” - Thomas Keller, chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author