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5 Ways Restaurants Can Protect their Customers (and Profits) during COVID-19

11 min read

Unless you’ve been living in Antarctica for the last month — which is probably how some of us are starting to feel with these quarantines — the news of COVID-19 hasn’t escaped your notice. With economies worldwide groaning under the weight of a pandemic, businesses of all shapes and sizes are turning to e-commerce to weather the storm online: including restaurants.

In this post, we’ll look specifically at how restaurants can build and launch an online store to offer online ordering that protects their revenue, grows brand awareness, and opens new doors for connecting with customers during one of the most significant challenges we’re likely to face in our lifetime.

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Offer Food Delivery and Pickup

Now, more than ever, customers want restaurants to cater (pun intended) to their needs. Over the last several years, we’ve seen more food delivery startups like GrubHub and Eat24 popping up all over the world. Even before we were under siege from a pandemic, customers have been frothing at the mouth to get food at the click of a button.

In recent years, online food ordering has increased about 300% faster than dine-in traffic. What’s more: Online ordering in the U.S. is steadily outpacing orders placed over the phone, according to data from NPD Group.

As a result, restaurants have been actively putting online stores to work for their businesses in greater numbers than ever before. And that’s quadruply true during the dangers of COVID-19.

Cafe Moxo, for example, uses their online store to help customers order food online for delivery. This speeds up efficiency for customers needing to-go orders, as the cafe can prepare these delivery requests ahead of time. Their complete menu is available and clickable, and customized orders can be submitted and paid for right within the online store (or upon delivery.)

Cafe Moxo, food online delivery

Cafe Moxo
, food online delivery

The takeaway is this: Adding an online store empowers diners to place orders online for delivery or curbside pickup, making it easier to connect with your restaurant and schedule meals at a time when getting to a grocery store isn’t always the easiest (or most enticing) prospect. The easier it is for customers to get your food, the more likely they’ll be to order with you now and in the future.

Sell Gift Cards

Gift cards are a beautiful thing. Each year, customers spend more than $100 billion on gift cards. And what’s more, an average of 72% of shoppers will actually spend more than the value on those cards. Plus, gift cards are up-front revenue — when gift cards sell but don’t get used, your restaurant makes money with no strings attached.

Online stores allow you to sell gift cards to customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week to customers around the world. For example: Maybe an out-of-state aunt wants to send her niece a gift card to her favorite lunch spot. She buys a gift card online, emails it to her, and is able to say, “Hey, go get lunch on me today!” with just a few clicks.

Learn more about selling gift cards for your restaurant with Ecwid E-commerce.

Sell gift cards COVID-19 help to small businesses and restaurants

Gift cards in Ecwid

Selling Branded Merchandise

Got food your customers are crazy about? Maybe you just have a really great name? Whatever you’ve got, there’s a good chance you can spin it into some clever merchandise your regulars will love. Customers are surprisingly willing to rep their fave restaurants if given the opportunity.

As of this writing, I own merchandise related to my favorite small-batch soda company, a local brewery, and two local surf shops. Particularly if your restaurant is a must for visitors, customers will want some merch to remember their experience.

By selling branded merchandise online for your restaurant, you can increase brand awareness and profit off potentially high-margin products. Plus, branded merchandise makes for a great gift that can be mailed to customers around the world, meaning your potential market will grow from just hungry locals within driving distance to anywhere you’re willing to ship your products.

One example of branded merchandise sold by a restaurant is Northbound Coffee’s posters.

With Ecwid, it’s possible to start selling branded merchandise for your restaurant in just a couple of clicks. And the best part? Restaurant owners don’t even have to stock their own products. Because Ecwid is integrated with the #1 print on demand service, Printful, your Ecwid store will handle the whole process electronically. Whenever someone places an order in your online store, Printful will create that product on demand and ship it directly to the customer — all without you ever even touching it. Simply upload your logo or any other image you’re feeling, then select the products you want to offer. It’s that easy.

Sell merchandise drop ship and print on demand with printful

Some of the products available through Printful

And the online retail opportunities aren’t limited to clothing and accessories either. If your restaurant is known for custom food and beverages that are non-perishable (think jams, teas, etc.), you can sell those online too!

The possibilities are endless when it comes to the products you can add and sell online.

Learn more: Rules and Regulations for Selling Food Online

Order Pickup

Especially now with new COVID-19 regulations, allowing restaurant customers to pick up orders in store is an essential feature for restaurants and bars around the globe.

Here’s how this looks using the Ecwid pickup feature, which allows you to set multiple restaurant locations and pickup date and time:


There’s a positive side to moving your restaurant to online ordering: You don’t have to increase your restaurant’s physical space to accommodate the boost in orders. Take-out orders placed online mean you can move more food without running out of tables.

Curbside Pickup Scheduling

Even in a global lockdown, customers still want to plan their schedules — even if it’s just when they’re eating next. By adding scheduled pickup or delivery, customers can schedule to get food right when they want to eat it.

Panda Express, for example, lets customers book catering orders via their online store with a four-step process (location, time, order, payment.)

Panda Express's online ordering

Panda Express’s online ordering

With scheduled delivery or curbside pickup, hungry customers get the food they want when they want it, and you can avoid having customers standing in or around your restaurant spreading germs while they wait to pick up their order. Social distancing for the win.

And because customers can schedule their food when they want it, they’ll have one more awesome reason to order with you over someone else.

Learn more about Ecwid’s scheduled pickup feature to help you organize large and small orders just in time for your customers to pick them up from your physical location.

Order pickup for businesses and restaurants

Setting up scheduled order pickup in Ecwid

Other Ways Restaurants Can Use an Online Store

Now that you have some concrete ideas on how your restaurant can use an online store, let’s go over some of the other benefits.

  • It allows customers around the country to make a purchase without having to visit in person. Your restaurant keeps regular business hours, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could make money even when the lights are off? With an online store that’s open 24/7/365, you create an opportunity to make sales to customers around the globe whenever and from wherever they are.
  • Ecommerce marketing keeps the conversation going. When you sell products online, you have the chance to collect email addresses, run promotions, add your products directly to your Instagram feed, and advertise with flexible targeting options. It’s very difficult to do this within a physical restaurant space, but an online store creates a noiseless environment in which to stay in touch with your customers.
  • It creates an online sales funnel. Even when restaurant business is slow, you can count on your online sales funnel to keep the money rolling into your business. People typically eat meals at certain times of day, but online sales can happen anytime, day or night. With a strategy that keeps customers moving through the customer journey, you can make money even while you sleep.
  • There’s no additional space needed. Because an online store is completely virtual, it lets the business expand without having to purchase more expensive physical space. Depending on your strategy and business, you might have some startup costs associated with opening your online store, but in most cases those costs are pretty negligible.

Launch Your Restaurant’s Online Store

So here’s a quick recap of how your restaurant could use online ordering to protect your business and your customers during COVID-19.

  1. Food delivery
  2. Gift cards
  3. Selling branded products
  4. Order pickup
  5. Order scheduling

And these are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much you can do with just a few clicks. If you’re interested in making the move online, you can get started with Ecwid in just 5 minutes. Let’s do it.


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Sell online

With Ecwid Ecommerce, you can easily sell anywhere, to anyone — across the internet and around the world.

About the author

Jesse is the Marketing Manager at Ecwid and has been in e-commerce and internet marketing since 2006. He has experience with PPC, SEO, conversion optimization and loves to work with entrepreneurs to make their dreams a reality.

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