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Editor’s Note: In September we announced that Skift was expanding into food and drink with the addition of the Chefs+Tech newsletter.
We see this as a natural expansion of the Skift umbrella, bringing the big-picture view on the future of dining out, being fanatically focused on the guest experience, and at the intersection of marketing and tech.
We publish C+T twice weekly.
The Not-So-Quiet Power of a Strong Restaurant Website
Last week when Adobe announced its plans to kill Flash, the internet responded with a whole lot of jokes about bad restaurant websites. And for good reason; there are plenty of restaurants with sites that are just plain awful — Flash design, auto-play music, and outdated menus included. Enter BentoBox, a service aimed specifically at restaurant owners that helps them build and maintain robust, well-designed, up-to-date websites that can also serve as revenue drivers. Founder and CEO Krystle Mobayeni, fresh off of the announcement of a $4.8 million Series A round of funding, shares her company, its vision, and the real difference a good website makes to a restaurant’s business — read the full interview on Chefs+Tech.
Uh-oh, Millennials Are Killing Restaurants again*
The good news for the restaurant industry: We all have to eat. The bad news: The way we eat is evolving, potentially taking market share away from restaurants, according to recent research. The Wall Street Journal reports “about 42 percent of millennials’ monthly food budget is spent on food prepared outside the home, more than any other generation.” On the surface, this seems like good news for restaurants, but in reality it’s the prepared foods aisle at the grocery store getting most of the love. The popularity of sitting down for a full meal is on the decline, as millennials admit to snacking far more than they have in years past. According to a Taco Bell exec quoted in the WSJ piece, they’ve picked up on the round-the-clock snacking trend, too, adjusting their offerings to include more snack food. And we’ve seen plenty of these headlines recently, at times alarmist (i.e., “Restaurants are dying!”), but this sentiment is also reflected in recent news stories about the popularity of food halls amid the decline of full-service chain restaurants.
Anecdotally, we see this playing out in dining establishments everywhere. Fast food chains are stepping up offerings for what is known as “shoulder times” — late afternoon hours before dinner, for example. The recent rise in all-day dining was labeled a “breakout trend” by Eater, but makes even more business sense when you consider these survey results. It’s better to keep the lights on in a restaurant all day to attract the young, snacking crowd at any hour that you can. Worth noting, too, that this isn’t millennials “killing” restaurants — this is the natural evolution of an industry that’s been deeply affected by technology and those who use technology. It could be any number of things: our terrible attention spans, our work schedules, our remote working lifestyle, or just the fact that we like food and eating so much we want to do it as often as possible. People have always been interested in the new and the flashy; it’s up to the big players in the industry to stay agile and adapt.
*This is a dramatic headline.
Pizza Hut Aims for Loyalty with New Rewards Program
Yum Brands revealed second quarter earnings early Wednesday, but it has already been making good on its promise to reinvest in its Pizza Hut business. Pizza Hut’s parent company pledged a $130 million investment aimed at revitalizing the brand in May. Since then, Pizza Hut has announced a plan to hire 14,000 new drivers, a new order tracking system, a new algorithm that promises to reduce delivery time, and now, a brand new loyalty program as it hopes to increase its share of the pizza industry pie. (Sorry. Had to.) The program, which is pretty straightforward, allows diners to earn two points per dollar spent on online orders — delivery fees included. If you sign up and order before October 1, you can get double rewards — four points per dollar.
By limiting its reward program to online orders only and including the delivery fee, Pizza Hut can work toward its goal of reminding people that it is, in fact, a viable delivery option. (According to some recent quotes from executives at the company, it appears they feel many customers may not realize Pizza Hut delivery is a thing.) Adding thousands of drivers will likely help that cause, as will offering free food for ordering online. Thing that also won’t hurt: a funny commercial featuring Kristen Wiig detailing all of these new initiatives.
Pizza, perhaps best known as the original delivery food for anyone who grew up in a suburb or ever attended a slumber party, has needed to step up its game in the face of delivery from just about anywhere. In that sense, Pizza Hut isn’t just competing with Domino’s and other pizza delivery companies; it’s competing against fast food like McDonald’s and independent local restaurants that now offer delivery through any number of new delivery companies.