Best Practices for Curbside, Delivery and Upping Sales to Help You Survive in the Covid-19 Environment

Compiled by Susie McKinley

In order to #flattenthecurve and protect citizens and guests from highly contagious and deadly Covid-19, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has closed down dining rooms in restaurants across the state to minimize exposure.  Today in order to survive and feed customers, restaurants have moved to curbside pickup, delivery and drive-thru for food service.  The FRLA team has attended several webinars and read many articles recently about enhancing your curbside, delivery and drive-thru presence.  The following is a compilation of what we’ve learned.

There are two ways to approach delivery:  either do it yourself in-house or work with a delivery partner.  If you choose to do it yourself, be certain to work with your insurance provider to ensure that coverage is adequate.  If you decide to deliver in-house, there is the added bonus of potentially keeping extra folks on staff to assist with this.

Many delivery programs are now offering custom contactless delivery in that the customer pays in advance and advises the delivery person where to drop the food.  This can provide some measure of comfort to the customer when not having to interact with a delivery person.

Alex Canter from Ordermark, an online ordering management solution, recommends to restaurants to “omni-channel” with delivery services if using a third-party delivery option in order to cover all of your bases.  If you aren’t listed with a delivery company, customers loyal to that delivery company won’t find you.

Online ordering is a must in this environment.  Be certain that your restaurant has the capability and an effective system to follow up with online orders.

Delivery and curbside pickup can be made easy.  Establish a protocol for staff taking orders that includes basic information such as address and contact number, where to actually deliver food once onsite, food and drink order of course, and if utensils/napkins will be needed.  Ask the customer if they would like a gift card as well.  Customize the protocol as needed for your restaurant and be sure to thank the customer for the order.  We’ve heard that a short note included with the order expressing gratitude for the order is welcome and easy. Insert a menu flyer with the order to encourage next time ordering. Be certain the food is maintained at the correct temperature:  if hot food, keep it hot and if cold food, keep it cold.  Use travel bags that allow for heat and cold retention.  Advise employees to keep their “social distance” when delivering food to make sure the customer and the driver are comfortable. Process the payment information in advance to resolve any payment issues onsite.  Make it as simple and easy as possible for the customer.

Curbside is something that is very popular, but it has not been utilized as much as other food service.  Many of the practices noted above can be used in this approach.  In addition, when taking the order for curbside, require employees to ask the customer where they would like the food placed into the vehicle upon arrival.  Some folks may want it dropped in the trunk of the car.  Others may want it in the front or back seat.  It’s important to give the customer a choice, so that if they don’t want any physical interaction with the restaurant, they don’t have to engage in that manner.  Again, it is important whenever possible, to process payment in advance in order to minimize exposure.

Menu
Think about narrowing your menu to the most popular dishes and then what travels the best.  Other things to think about are:  what menu items use less staff and equipment to prepare?  Do offer a daily special if you can.  This gives some variety and interest to your menu and gives the operator a chance to use what is readily available.

 

Large Format Food Items
With so many people at home with family, consider preparing some menu items in a larger format than what you’ve done in the past.  Food items serving larger crowds may be enjoyed by a group or as leftovers.

 

Frozen Food
Frozen food is another way to serve your customers.  Offer food items that hold up well to freezing as an option.

 

Gift cards
Perhaps offer a gift card with a minimum threshold level and give extra credit on top for redemption in the future.  This is also known as gift card bonds.

 

Specials
Show your appreciation to health care professionals or first responders by giving them a discount on a specialized menu item or on the whole order.  You will receive some goodwill from this effort and will help those who are helping us.

 

Apps
Can be very useful in ordering and in pre-payment. Encourage use whenever possible.

 

Marketing
Customers are looking for deals, options and offerings now more than ever.  Be sure that your restaurant is visible in an online search.  If possible, improve your SEO if needed.  Frequently engage socially to let followers know what is going on.  A daily email to your loyal customers might be something they are looking for.

Susie McKinley is Editor of FR&L Magazine and a former Director of the Division of Hotels and Restaurants.  Susie sat in on several webinars recently and has compiled information learned in webinars in this article.

Restaurants Stay Open During COVID-19: A Great Win For The Industry

On March 20, Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-71, where he announced that restaurants will move to take-out and delivery only in response to the evolving COVID-19 impact across the state. In his Executive Order, the Governor also lifted the ban on alcohol delivery for restaurants under certain conditions.

Allowing restaurants to remain open is a great win for the industry among the COVID-19 pandemic. It is vital for restaurants and hotels to remain safe and practice sanitation and social distancing during this time. Governor DeSantis has expressed his support to retailers, restaurants, and employees as they pursue creative business practices that safely serve consumers during this temporary period of social distancing.

In addition to allowing restaurants to offer to-go and delivery service, the ban on alcohol delivery has also been lifted. Restaurants are now allowed to sell alcohol in sealed containers to be consumed off of the premises of the restaurant, so long as it is accompanied by the sale of food and complies with Section 561.57 of Florida Statues.

For more information and industry-related COVID-19 updates, please visit https://frla.org/covid-19.

Meet our January Member of the Month

Meet Laurie Farlow, our January 2020 Member of the Month! Laurie is the proud owner and operator of Farlow’s on the Water, located in Englewood, Florida, which she runs with her husband Keith.

Her career in the restaurant industry began in 2003, when she and Keith opened Farlow’s. The 285-seat restaurant serves food with a Caribbean taste and Southern twist. Before opening Farlow’s, Laurie had zero restaurant experience but plenty of supervisory and management service. It was actually Keith who had the experience and passion for food service. With their combined experiences, Laurie and Keith make the perfect team for operating Farlow’s.

Laurie’s favorite part about working in the restaurant industry is meeting people (customers, employees and other trade professionals). To her, customer service is about connecting with people.

Thank you, Laurie, for being a wonderful FRLA member. We are proud to honor you as our January Member of the Month.

If you haven’t already, watch Laurie’s highlight video below:

Feeling Jolly About our December Member of the Month

Get to know our December Member of the Month, Damien O’Riordan, General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota.

Damien attended the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology pursuing a degree in hospitality management nearly 25 years ago and immediately found his passion for the industry.

To Damien, Sarasota has so much to offer visitors and locals alike, and considers it the “best kept secret”. Boasting 35 miles of white-sand beaches, fabulous restaurants, and countless things to do, Sarasota is a tourist haven. Sarasota’s Ritz-Carlton boasts over 250 rooms, and offers wonderful amenities to help visitors explore this beach destination. However, Damien doesn’t take credit for the exemplary service offered here. He couldn’t do it without his hard-working staff.

Damien is a gift to FRLA, and a gift to The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. Be sure to check out his highlight to learn more about this awesome member!

Thankful for our November Member of the Month

“We’re in the food and beverage industry. We love to make people happy. When you see a smile on the face of a guest, that’s what makes it all.” – Leigh Doyle

At FRLA, we are thankful to have such supportive and involved members like our November Member of the Month, Leigh Doyle. Leigh is the Vice President for Ellie Lou’s Brews & BBQ in Ocoee, Florida, and serves on the board for our Central Florida chapter, as well as a chair on the legislative committee.

His career in the hospitality and tourism industry began at Disney World, where he served countless Dole Whips to smiling faces. It was working at Disney that Leigh found his passion for the industry. Now, as Vice President, he oversees 98 employees. Leigh and the Ellie Lou’s team partner with local schools to support programs they need assistance with at the time.

Thank you, Leigh, for your involvement and love for the industry. Be sure to watch his highlight if you haven’t already!

 

Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

In 2016, Florida voters soundly passed Amendment 2, Florida’s medical marijuana law, with over 71% of the vote.  Since then, two bills have been passed implementing the law, there was one high-profile lawsuit targeting the legislature’s initial ban on smoking medical marijuana, and the Office of Medical Marijuana Use was created as part of Florida’s Department of Health. We’d like to touch on what this means for marijuana in the workplace.

Where are we now?

Only “qualified patients” are entitled to use medical marijuana, which requires certification by a physician of a debilitating medical condition:  cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, other medical conditions “of the same kind or class as or comparable” to the ones specifically identified, a terminal condition, and chronic nonmalignant pain.

Florida’s law specifically provides that no employment accommodations are required for any on-site medical marijuana use.  Thus, an employee can use medical marijuana on-site only if permitted by the employer.  Further, in order to qualify for a 5% discount on worker’s compensation premiums, employers are required to comply with the Drug Free Workplace Act, which demands a zero tolerance of illegal drug use (including marijuana, which is still illegal under federal law).

According to a June 21, 2019 report from Florida’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use Florida’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, there have been 311,443 total patients in Florida who have been issued a medical marijuana card (more than double the number of total patients from the year before).  This roughly translates to about 1 in every 68 people in Florida having been issued a medical marijuana card.

Where are we going?

Based on trends in other states and changing attitudes towards marijuana usage generally, it would not be surprising if, over time, Florida’s medical marijuana laws expand and evolve.  Here are a few things we may see in the employment context:

  • Workers compensation. As noted above, many employers implement a drug-free workplace policy to receive a discount on their worker’s compensation insurance.  Florida’s medical marijuana law does not affect an employer’s ability to “establish, continue, or enforce” such a policy.  Consequently, employers who enforce a drug-free workplace policy may lawfully prohibit employees taking medical marijuana from work.  Additionally, medical marijuana is not reimbursable under workers compensation claims at this time.  Moving forward, however, workers compensation may change as medical marijuana becomes more accepted.  Some carriers have shown a willingness to reimburse for medical marijuana, and courts in some other states have required it.
  • Accommodations for medical marijuana. Marijuana (including medical marijuana) remains a schedule 1 narcotic and thus illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.  Additionally, Florida’s medical marijuana law does not require employers to accommodate employees’ use of medical marijuana.  Early court decisions in states other than Florida have sided with employers on this issue, but there are some more recent cases that are more employee-friendly.  Indeed, there are some states that have written employee protections into their marijuana legalization statutes.
  • Less drug testing.  Many employers in Florida have stopped testing job applicants for evidence of marijuana usage.  This is because they have had trouble recruiting and hiring quality employees when they are forced to reject a significant slice of the population who uses medical or recreational marijuana.  Although we can expect employers to continue broad drug testing for employees who perform high-risk or safety-conscious jobs, the movement is to eliminate testing for marijuana usage for other, low-risk occupations.
  • Recreational usage of marijuana.  To date, there are 11 states plus the District of Columbia which have adopted laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use.  A Pew Research Center survey from 2018 found that 62% of Americans believe that marijuana should be legalized – this is double what it was in 2000 .  Thus, the trend certainly is for legalization of marijuana for all uses – medical and recreational.  It is not a stretch to believe that Florida will eventually follow this trend.

Tips for Employers:

Employers should give real thought to their businesses, the type of work the employees do, and the risks of employee use of medical marijuana, and then determine whether to  limit or prohibit medical marijuana in their drug-free workplace policies.  The discount on worker’s compensation premiums is a powerful incentive for a zero-tolerance policy, but it may be worth giving up that discount in order to attract a larger number of qualified employees.  Talking with an employment attorney about these issues can be a worthwhile investment, as an attorney can help to draft a policy that is specific to the employer’s needs and ensure that the policy complies with any changes in federal or state laws pertaining to medical marijuana.


Blog written by Sally R. Culley, sculley@rumberger.com, and Chase E. Hattaway, chattaway@rumberger.com.  You can find this blog in the Florida Restaurant and Lodging MagazineFall Edition

It’s a treat to honor our October Member of the Month

We are excited to honor our October Member of the Month, Matt Moore with Fish out of Water (FOOW). FOOW is located on Scenic 30A in a small town called WaterColor, and with a prime spot right along the beach, locals and visitors alike love to admire the views and catch the sunset at night. This awesome restaurant combines two of Florida’s popular cuisines, seafood and southern cooking, in a fun, welcoming setting.

Outside of serving food for their visitors, the Fish out of Water and WaterColor team coordinated with FRLA to serve hot meals to those in need in response to Hurricane Michael in 2018, and we are so appreciative of their help.

Check out this “Instagram Worthy” restaurant on your next trip to the Gulf Coast!

The Fastest Way to Get a Delivery Program Up and Running

Today’s restaurant operators can now use several channels to reach their guests, including:

  • bricks-and-mortar seating
  • catering
  • takeout
  • drive-thru
  • delivery

Digital ordering apps and online delivery platforms have grown the delivery channel exponentially.

Among them, online delivery — particularly, via third-party providers— is garnering the most attention because it holds the biggest promise of boosting sales. Last year, the research firm NPD reported a 20% increase in delivery sales and 10% gain in delivery foodservice visits, many them prompted via digital ordering. A Technomic restaurant operator report showed delivery generated incremental sales for 60% of those surveyed.

By all accounts, the delivery runway remains long. This year, for example, a Wells Fargo survey of nearly 500 consumers who ordered restaurant delivery at least once during the surveyed month found that respondents ordered delivery fewer than five times a month. The survey also noted 28% ordered delivery just once in the past month.

This channel is immature and has a long way to go to become economically viable on a long term basis. The marketplace is evolving and will change until it normalizes.

So if you’re among operators ready to leap on the bandwagon yet smart enough to grasp the pros and cons of online delivery, consider these five issues before signing a contract with a third-party delivery service. Or, more likely, services.

  • Footprint. Is there enough front-of-the-house space to accommodate both delivery drivers arriving with large sacks and dining-room guests waiting to be seated? If not, can the space be expanded to accommodate guests — and at what cost? Or will you have to devise rules for when and where drivers arrive and hang out while waiting for orders?
  • Seamlessness. The issue of seamlessly integrating third-party delivery technology into a restaurants’ point-of-sale system is improving. But that doesn’t mean your delivery service of choice will make it happen for you. Yet it shouldn’t be a dealbreaker if the delivery service hands you their tablet. But be aware that technology (via third-party integrators) does exist to flow orders directly into your POS. Companies that supply it include Ordermark, Omnivore, Chowly, and ItsaCheckmate.
  • Visibility. Images of your food will appear on a third-party’s website. Make sure the photos you supply not only make your dishes look inviting but fairly represent what is supposed to arrive at the customer’s door. Also, a good idea is to first “test drive” menu items yourself by putting them in a car and driving around to determine which hold up best after, say, an hour’s drive-time.
  • Data. Today’s big issue is, Who owns sales and customer-behavior data —  you the operator or the delivery service? For now, delivery services claim it, because in their mind they “own” the customer. But here’s the twist: If the delivery driver arrives late with cold food, guess who gets blamed? You do. And without customer details, how do you reach out and solve the problem? Worse: Ordering off of a third-party platform bypasses a restaurant’s loyalty program, depriving guests of a possible deal and operators of customer data.
  • Fees & pricing. There’s no such thing as “free delivery” — at least not for you, the operator. Third-party service fees may run as high as 30% of individual menu items, depending on an operator’s ability to negotiate a fair percentage. The bigger you are in terms of sales or number of units, the better your chances of negotiating a lower fee. One way to make up for high fees is to raise menu prices on delivered items. Yet check first with your third-party delivery firm. Some are known to frown it.

Blog written by Former restaurant CEO Fred LeFranc is the Founder/Chaos Strategist at Results Thru Strategy, the Charlotte, N.C.-based consulting firm he co-founded in 2009. This blog can be found in the Florida Restaurant and Lodging MagazineFall Edition

The Significant Role Plastic Straws Play in Health and Safety

Straws are often thought of as a modern-day convenience, but straws have been used by almost every culture throughout history. The oldest evidence of straw usage dates to Ancient Sumeria. Long, thin tubes of precious metals which were placed into jars of beer to reach the liquid beneath the fermentation were found in Sumerian royal tombs. Evidence of straw use by people across Mesopotamia, China, and the Americas, has been found. During the Industrial Revolution, people used straws to avoid flu and polio epidemics from communal cups used at popular soda fountains. However, no one has benefited more from the advances in straw design than the disability community.

One of the first straw patents ever filed was for the “improvement in drinking-tubes for invalids” by Eugene Chapin in 1870. When Joseph Friedman founded his Flex-straw Company in 1947, hospitals were the first to buy his patented bendy straw. When factories began churning out consumer plastics after World War II, not only were plastic straws convenient for fast-food consumers because they didn’t tear on the crosshairs of plastic lids like paper straws, but they provided a way for people with disabilities to drink both cold and hot beverages independently without worrying about choking,  breaking their teeth, bacterial infections, and allergic reactions.

Most people no longer use straws to avoid fermentation at the top of beverages, or to avoid disease from the use of communal cups. Straws have become a modern-day convenience for most. For people with disabilities, however, single-use plastic straws are still a vital piece of assistive technology that have no current viable replacement. This simple, plastic tube is just as essential to our day-to-day lives as a bowl, fork, curb cut, elevator, or any other accommodation we have come to expect in order to be a fully inclusive, integrated society.

As straw bans continue to pass across the country, the disability community continues to be left out of the discussion even though this is the community most impacted by them. Many lawmakers have passed straw bans with the intention of still providing access to those who need plastic straws, but frequently exceptions only apply to institutions providing medical care. A lot has changed since 1870. Most people with disabilities no longer reside in institutional care. We now live integrated within our communities. We attend school, we have jobs, we go to grocery stores, we have active social lives, we go out to restaurants, and we need access to single-use plastic straws in those places.

While our lives might have changed dramatically, most of the alternatives to plastic straws haven’t. Metal, paper, glass, and even plant-based straws might be marketed as new ideas, but most of these materials have been used for straws for hundreds of years. Even in their new designed forms, they still pose the same significant health risks that contributed to single-use plastic straws being used in lieu of them.

In the 1930’s, the average lifespan of a person with a disability was 23. Today, we have a lifespan of 70, close to that of the general population. While far from the sole contributing factor, there is no doubt that single-use plastic straws have contributed to our increased lifespans. Attempts to completely ban single-use plastic straws jeopardizes those gains. Any meaningful action to reduce single use plastics must consider the needs of this often-forgotten community.


Olivia Babis is the Public Policy Analyst at Disability Rights Florida. She was born with a physical disability which necessitates the use of single-use plastic straws, and other assistive technologies, so she can live independently.

The Inn-side scoop on our Member of the Month

Our September Member of the Month is inn-spiring! Meet Anthony Sexton, owner of the Victorian House Bed & Breakfast in St. Augustine. Anthony is a member of our newest chapter, the Florida Inns.

While he’s always loved the hospitality industry, managing an Inn is his first time on the lodging side. Now a seasoned innkeeper with 8 years of experience under his belt, he has enjoyed every minute tackling his goals with his wife, Marilyn, by his side.

Anthony truly has a passion for the hospitality industry, and enjoys getting to meet every friendly face that walks through the door. As an “ambassador” of St. Augustine, he always makes sure guests are set up for a successful trip!

Take a look at Anthony’s highlight video!


Know someone you think should be our next Member of the Month? Nominate them today!