Woah! What is happening?
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly caused massive disruption to our everyday lives. There are countless stories of frontline NHS and other key workers being unable to buy essential food as panic-buying has stripped shelves bare, and the most vulnerable customers are unable to shop for fear of contracting the virus. Not to mention those of the population who genuinely cannot cook and for whom takeaway and food deliveries are a lifeline!
Among the chaos, however, food delivery businesses are adapting and continuing to provide vital services for customers.
Achieving this has required a huge shift in thinking and fast action!
There has been a unique collaboration across Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa Johns to work together with the Aggregators (Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats). Collectively they lobbied the government to ensure that delivery staff were able to access key worker status.
Why is this important?
It enables staff to get the childcare and support required in order for employees to be able to keep producing food and providing home deliveries.
Whilst I really don’t like the term Social-Distancing, at a time when Physical-Distancing is imperative to prevent the spread of the virus, we should be embracing Social-Closeness which is of paramount importance for our wellbeing right now.
But how are food delivery companies adapting to the needs of their staff whilst maintaining a service?
One measure is to reduce the menu items available.
Why? I hear you ask! The more complex the menu is, the more inventory required. The make table chiller where pizzas are made has ingredients close together which means the team having to work close in proximity. Most home delivery food stores also have limited workspace. At a time when the kitchen staff need to maintain a physical distance from each other, a simplified menu allows fewer staff to produce the same volume of food.
How are these measures adapted for customers?
Customers can let the delivery driver know when ordering where they would like their order to be placed – usually on a portable table or raised shelf. In some cases, the delivery driver carries an empty box to prevent those containing food from being in contact with the floor.
The driver then contacts the customer to pick up their order. The driver then leaves knowing that the customer has been in receipt of their food, and both the driver and customer have not needed to handle the boxes at the same time, maintaining the recommended 2 metre distance.
The second adaptation for customers is the removal of collection from the transaction process. No longer can you pop into the store, place an order and grab a cheeky pint next door while it cooks. Again, to protect all involved, closing the shop to shoppers popping in off the street and preventing collection orders minimizes the opportunity for physical contact.
Thirdly, the use of cash is removed from the equation – we’ve all heard the phrase “Dirty Cash” but in this case it literally could be! So, once again, removing cash payments and reverting to online card transactions only, both customers and staff are further protected. Will we ever go back to cash transactions?
How is service recovery adapting?
As with most large retail businesses there is, sometimes, a need to recover a service issue. Whilst most retail stores will have a phone number, some companies provide an additional layer of Customer Service to customers.
There is a catch though, most customer service teams sit in large contact-centres with multiple data systems needed to resolve queries and complaints. There is also the added challenge of maintaining data privacy and compliance with GDPR which for people working at home is still hugely important.
The beauty of the modern age is that contact centres are now typically managing customer contact through multiple channels. The use of multiple digital channels makes it feasible to move to remote working and still maintain secure customer service.
Making these changes to allow staff to provide the service to the public is key both in providing a community the food services it requires, but also for business survival. Such adaptive responses to COVID-19 have been driven by the need to provide food to customers, but will also provide growth in times of adversity for such brands too.
The ability to continue trading in such hard times places a degree of responsibility to be benevolent and support those who depend on you most.
There has been plenty written about what we will remember when this lockdown passes and the memories fade. Businesses that have adapted and whose motives have been truly customer-focused are likely to be looked upon more favourably.
As a result, the food delivery companies are offering universal discounts for key workers from the NHS, Community Care, Teaching and other Emergency Services. From 50% off, to additional value deals.
For some this is not enough and there are businesses co-ordinating with the London Hospitals to deliver regular weekly food. There are also relationships with homeless charities such as Mungo and Shelter to provide food for homeless people who have been given temporary hotel accommodation during the pandemic.
I admire the reaction and rapid response from the food delivery businesses who have come together to maintain a vital service to their customers, who have adapted to ensure the safety of their employees and who have gone further to gift food to those who need it most. There is only one thing left to say – Thank you & keep up the good work!