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Finding business bright spots in a pandemic

COVID-19 has taken a major toll on business of all sizes, but with the global pandemic has also come silver linings. Businesses have pivoted in unprecedented ways, from virtual services to curbside everything. Communities have rallied and united to support local businesses, frontline workers, and each other. Among the bright spots to come out of 2020 have also been unexpected positive impacts on nationwide chains. We heard from three executives to hear about how they’ve dealt with the impact of COVID regulations and restrictions across their hundreds and sometimes thousands of locations. 

Adrienne Berkes, CMO of Pieology

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Pieology has adopted a number of changes that have helped us become stronger and more cohesive with more frequent dialogue between the restaurant support team, franchise owners,and customers. As a fast-casual innovator, the increased cadence and improved process of communication keeps us up-to-date and even ahead of shifting trends and emerging needs. The limitations set by COVID challenged us to be even more resourceful, adaptive, and creative, allowing us to quickly launch new communication channels, products, and modes of getting our pizzas to our guests.

Our new ordering options reduce contact and facilitate a safe and comfortable ordering experience, and this too has helped in facilitating more communication with our customers. We now provide contactless delivery, tamper-proof labels on to-go boxes, a hands-free QR code menu so guests can place orders from a safe distance, together with online ordering and curbside delivery. We are also engaging customers through expanded social media and heightened digital presence.

Britnee Nuehring, VP of Marketing at Crumbl Cookies

The COVID-19 pandemic presented the world with unique challenges. At Crumbl Cookies, we did our best to take those challenges and turn them into opportunities. Between March and November of 2020, we found a way to continue growing the business safely, opening 60 new locations in dozens of new states, establishing us as the fastest-growing cookie company in the nation. Within this same time frame, we released new products including 20+ new cookie flavor profiles, new beverages, and Crumbl’s very own ice cream line: Crumbl Cream. It was critical for us to get ahead of COVID-related needs in the market such as easy online ordering and limited interaction delivery. With the help of technology and those consumer needs in mind, we rolled out a seamless curbside pick-up and self-ordering kiosk service as well as enhanced our delivery and nationwide shipping experience during that time. We will be forever grateful to our Crumbl communities around the nation—and other locally-owned businesses— for supporting us during the COVID-19 pandemic and look forward to bringing friends and family together over the world’s best box of cookies in the years to come.

Dan Wheeler, CMO of Uncle Julio’s Restaurant Group

From the very beginning of COVID-19, our concerns have been focused on people: How would it impact our employees? How would this affect our guests? Our brand is a people-first brand, and so naturally, our first concerns were around keeping our team and our guests safe. Even before the pandemic had officially hit, we had started aggressively taking the precautions that are commonplace today. We were creating extra hand sanitizer stations, spacing out tables, expanding and evolving our to-go process. When the communities we serve had to shut down, we started immediately helping our furloughed employees through a dedicated employee fund, and, to satisfy demand to help from our customers, we found a way to allow customers to contribute to that fund as well. 

Then, we found a way to offer what we do best—authentic Mexican food made from the freshest ingredients—in a pick-up and delivery process that met or exceeded all guidelines for COVID safety. We got more than a few relieved smiles when we presented our guests with that piece of normalcy they craved during a truly difficult time. Yes, we handcraft high-quality Mexican food—but what we really do is create moments of celebration, of togetherness, of a way of living in the moment that our guests needed more than anything. They weren’t dining in our restaurants, but taking that little piece of Uncle Julio’s home to their families was more than just a good meal. We understand that. We’re also glad that their enthusiasm for what we do allowed us to put many of our team members—our family—back to work, doing what they do best. And now, with many customers back in restaurants, we are truly honored to see them again, and we hope they see our smiles behind our masks and the painstaking care we take in their safety behind every move we make. Serving them is both a great honor and a fantastic responsibility, and the standards we do this by are second to none.

In the midst of this pandemic, we also saw the opportunity to develop a virtual, delivery-only brand. Using our Uncle Julio’s kitchens to expand what we offer for those who need that fresh, authentic flavor delivered straight to them, we launched our newest concept, Savage Burrito. It’s fresh, the food is both chef-driven and customizable, and it’s delivered to wherever our customers need us to be. 

Finding ways to be a meaningful part of people’s lives through any of our brands in the Uncle Julio’s Restaurant Group is truly core to our mission. If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it’s that the fanatical dedication that our people have to our guests really does mean something. We strive to live up to that every day.

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