Navigating COVID-19’s New Normal For Restaurant Operators
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In April 2020, SevenRooms CEO Joel Montaniel had the opportunity to sit down (virtually) with former Yum! Brands CEO Greg Creed to discuss what it takes for restaurants to be successful amidst a year filled with challenges and uncertainties. Yum! Brands is the parent company of some of the world’s best known fast casual brands such as Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC. Greg was involved with Yum! Brands for 25 years and now sits on the board of directors. Together, they dive into three main pillars of discussion: the world’s changing restaurant landscape, digital transformation and the importance of company culture.
SevenRooms’ CEO Joel Montaniel and Greg Creed
JM: How should hospitality operators in the industry be thinking about COVID to come out of it stronger?
GC: Habits are going to change, and they have definitely changed in response to the crisis. The big question is, will some of these habits be accelerated and sustained post the crisis? If the new habit is easier than the old habit, we will sustain the new habit and vice versa. For example, we have never had a walk up window at a QSR restaurant before. Taco Bell or KFC [only offer] drive through windows, dine-in service, carry out and delivery options. In the past, a walk-up window was considered a security issue. But in today’s climate, I actually think that a walk up window - a contactless solution - will need to be added as an asset. This is an easier habit that people will feel safe doing moving forward and will be a more viable option than older methods.
JM: What role does technology play in our industry today and moving forward?
GC: This COVID crisis has been a technology accelerator for the hospitality industry. Technology is playing a major role [now]. For example, I am reading stories about 70 year old people who are now doing their grocery shopping online. They have never used it before in their life. Will they continue to do this after the pandemic? Grocery stores now have to think about how to market to a different audience, too. Also, the entire idea of contactless is not only here today, but will definitely be here tomorrow. I think you will start to see brands develop what I call the “contactless restaurant of the future.”
JM: Can you talk a bit about culture and leadership during a time of crisis?
GC: Personally, I am a huge believer in the fact that culture fuels results. Everyone wants to work in an organization where the culture is great. A lot of people think culture means it's a nice environment with good friends that we collaborate with, but it's proven that when a company fosters better culture, they deliver better results.
To make the point, at Yum! we introduced a concept beyond a performance rating, giving people a culture score. Employees get two scores: a performance score and a culture score. What we were able to determine was that the people who scored as culture “leaders” delivered the best results in their business units and across the world. It is abundantly clear to me that great culture delivers superior results. And let me also add that the more diverse that culture is, the better the results are as well.