In line with the recent economic downslide for most restaurants due to COVID-19, takeout and delivery revenues have come under close scrutiny.
That’s why 17-year restaurant veteran Kyle Inserra has warned restaurants to be wary of delivery partners and suitors who are always on the lookout to offer their services and partnership to good restaurants, only to hurt their businesses in the end.
After graduating from college, Kyle started out working in advertising before moving on to work in finance and but eventually found himself in the restaurant business on a full-time basis. But after 9/11, he felt he needed to follow his passion for restaurants and enrolled in The French Culinary Institute.
After Culinary School, Inserra worked in several NYC restaurants and eventually as an Executive Chef for a hospitality group in the US Virgin Islands where he got a lot of exposure both in cooking and restaurant management. Afterward, he joined a friend to open a new restaurant named Polpettina, which they had for about 12 years, and is the co-founder of La La Taqueria.
Currently his full-time job is commercial real estate where he helps emerging restaurant brands expand their concept across the country. His entry into this side of the business has given him an opportunity to utilize his extensive restaurant operations experience into an advisory role. “The role of the tenant rep broker has evolved – you have to provide value beyond site selection. I see myself as part of my client’s team.”
Among the most pressing concerns is the industry’s focus on third party delivery. “Let’s start with the fact that some delivery partners are being looked at by the FTC,” Inserra said. “Operators need to understand that these companies are taking advantage of them in several ways, but I’m most concerned with how they are using their own customer data against them.”
Inserra went on to detail, how this phenomenon is taking place. “These delivery partner groups approach businesses to handle their deliveries, they give you a shiny tablet, they take high resolution photos of your food, and then next thing you know you’re now offering delivery. However, in doing this they acquire a ton of information -customer names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and even of more valuable, their customer’s interest and eating habits. Eventually, they begin to poach the business from the very restaurant they were partnering with.”
The veteran restaurant industry professional offered a solution. “Restaurants need to realize that they, and they alone, must connect with their customers digitally, they need to focus all of their marketing efforts on pushing customers to their own website and social media platforms and retaining that information. It’s all about owning the process, from the beginning to the end – and customer retention. Restaurateurs need to think like an online retailer – that customer data is vital in marketing, allowing you to do things like setting up an email list so you can market to them on a consistent basis. Having the ability to market to your customers outside the four walls of your restaurant is key, especially right now. You’ve done all that work to get the food to the plate, now you need to perfect the ordering and delivery process.”
Inserra also sees the need to reinvent the home experience and touchpoints that comes with delivery. “You still need to provide an experience. The great operators know how to deliver on not just the food – they provide an experience. Let’s say you used to offer cookies to the guest with the check, throw them in the delivery bag – it goes a long way in having the guest reconnect with the feeling of dining in your restaurant. “
In additions to his role as a commercial real estate advisor, his restaurant has been Inserra can relate, because he’s been in restaurateur’s shoes: “In addition to being the bookkeeper, the plumber, and the lead line cook and the bartender, you now need to run digital marketing arm too. Yes, you need to learn it – there is plenty of information out there on YouTube on how to get yourself up and running – don’t ignore it.”
Inserra further mentioned that although doing all of these may be a little difficult in terms of costs, and technical knowledge, but it’s doable and affordable. Make the investment in your digital media now, and build the lines of communication with your customers.
In working with restaurants across the country, Inserra is able to focus on the collective characteristics of restaurateurs that are getting it right. “Those are the operators that realize how important it is to realize the changes that are occurring in our industry. They realize it’s just as important it is to be on top of their digital presence, as anything else.”
“When it comes to site selection, they leave the emotion out of it. They dig into the data carefully looking for every aspect of their area. What are the psychographics? Why did the previous tenant leave? What are some other competitors in the market. What kind of numbers do we have to do to afford the rent? Do the demos match up with our other locations?”
Inserra expects to see more empty dining spaces because there will likely be a shake out of a lot of people who shouldn’t have been in the business. This presents an opportunity for skilled operators who have the infrastructure and means to take advantage post-Covid-19, he mentioned, and has put a mirror flat against the face of every restaurant’s owner, big and small, and forced them to honestly assess who they are and how they are performing.
Kyle Inserra is an Associate Director at Sabre Advisors and is available for concept growth and operational consultations, and can be reached at: @kyleinserra on Instagram or via email at email@example.com