Investing in restaurants’ future
Open letter from Almir Ambeskovic, CEO of TheFork
March 2021 marks the year the world has changed. Still unknown just over a year ago, the Coronavirus has profoundly changed our societies. The drastic measures taken to deal with this unprecedented crisis have impacted the whole world in a dramatic and rare way in recent history. We all have these images in mind during the first lockdown where the world seemed to have stopped, with city centers deserted and restaurants closed for long periods.
Meanwhile, in all of our homes, children have moved their classrooms home, businesses have put in place solutions to enable employees to work from home, e-commerce has seen strong growth, and we have maintained relationships with those who are dear to us via our mobiles or PCs. This epidemic has accelerated the digital transformation of our societies exponentially. But what about our restaurants?
The restaurant industry was one of the most affected by the COVID crisis with closures across the globe, one of the measures taken almost unanimously by all countries. COVID has changed the way restaurant owners face the restaurant industry and how they are working. They had to reinvent themselves by offering delivery and takeaway options, even though that was not enough to cover their losses. Digitalisation appears to be one of the most effective weapons to survive. At TheFork, as pioneers in offering digital solutions for management booking and marketing for restaurants, we have been supporting restaurants in their digitalisation so that they get the most out of the digital technology, and optimise the management of their activity and their results.
Since the beginning of this crisis we were alongside restaurants and invested almost 25 million Euros to help them survive. Among the initiatives that we put in place are activities destined to reinforce the industry during closure, support the digitalisation of restaurants and boost demand:
- We launched the «Back to The Restaurant» campaign in September with 10,000 restaurants participating through Europe, to bring people back to restaurants and support the industry to recover by accelerating their business, investing heavily in this event through a major media campaign.
- During the first lockdown, we launched the Save our Restaurants platform initiative, which allowed restaurants to benefit from prepaid vouchers to maintain a flow of income during the temporary closure of their establishment.
- We are also providing some of our own services as a courtesy, such as access to our reservation management solution offering, TheFork Manager, or promotion of restaurants offering a delivery/take-out service on the TheFork website and application without extra cost.
- We are making internal investments of our resources to innovate with new solutions such as digital payment directly from the app thanks to TheFork Pay or with a set of new features like the display of anti-COVID measures implemented by each restaurant to respond to post-Covid new challenges.
2021 will hopefully be the year of the total reopening of restaurants. We will continue to be by their side in this difficult period, and to develop powerful solutions that meet new restaurants’ needs, such as TheFork Gift Card. This brand new product will support the restaurant industry by encouraging people to dine out as soon as restaurants reopen, and restaurant owners to benefit from the Gift Card revenue. This is the broadest offer to gift a restaurant experience ever and hence quite exciting news for the market. We decided to launch it, even though restaurants are still closed or opened only for lunch, hoping to push everybody to think positively and realise that soon we will be back enjoying great dining experiences in our favourite restaurants.
It is also an opportunity for partner companies to invest in and support Restaurants, using the Gift card as a tool to acquire new customers, incentivise sales forces, thank employees or all of the above. TheFork gift cards are money which can be spent only within the restaurants and is an unique opportunity to help the industry. We are now working on agreements with many companies on campaigns leveraging the gift cards to incentivise and helping the industry at the same time. We'll support those campaigns by giving it visibility to maximise the reach and bring additional income to the greatest number of restaurants.
This past year has taught us that the future is uncertain, that everything can change overnight, but we are positive and we will not give up the pleasure of good food and conviviality. We have confidence in restaurateurs who have shown tenacity, agility and creativity in this unprecedented context, but also in diners, who show resilience, and are looking forward to enjoying restaurant outings again and have shown solidarity for local businesses. Indeed during the summer we had a global level of bookings almost similar to that of the previous year, an encouraging signal for the industry. Going out to restaurants is anchored in our daily life and has demonstrated time and time again the desire to connect and share real-life experiences that is fundamental to our cultures.
To all restaurant owners, TheFork is with you and we will stay by your side, hoping we can enjoy and share more gastronomic experiences again soon.