- Photos: Olmsted
More and more restaurants rely on delivery services and e-commerce to reach their customer base in the wake of the pandemic.
The restaurant industry has suffered heavy losses during the past 15 months, between lockdowns and curfews. In the US, according to the National Restaurant Association, 110,000 restaurants had closed down by year end. In New York, 92% of eateries couldn’t afford their full rent in December 2020 (New York City Hospitality Alliance). But it was there in the Apple, a city hit particularly hard by the pandemic, that many restaurateurs’ entrepreneurial spirit had begun to stir already back in spring 2020.
One such is Greg Baxtrom. For six years he’s been running Olmsted, a farm-to-table restaurant in Brooklyn that has won awards as the city’s best neighbourhood restaurant (NY Times, Eater). At the first wave’s height in May 2020, Braxtrom was already establishing his own e-commerce platform, Olmsted Trading Post, to sell products directly without having to pay commission to a third-party platform. It was marketed under the slogan: “Order direct and help us cut veggies – not corners.”
On Olmsted Trading Post, guests and fans can order numerous ingredients from Braxtom’s kitchen, entire preparation kits, for example for an at-home cocktail party, and curated foods from third-party suppliers – almost 100 products in total. In April 2021, Braxtom expanded into frozen food through a cooperation with Mosaic Foods.
In Germany, flexible restaurant operators are following similar paths, such as Billy Wagner from Nobelhart & Schmutzig. The Berlin restaurant now offers prepared meals for final assembly at home under the label “Home”, and dishes and ingredients from its own kitchen as well as from hand-picked partners on its website, under “Homemade”. Wagner says he will continue to rely on the e-commerce offer, which grew rapidly during the closure, even after the pandemic and a full restaurant opening (see interview below).
Currently, there’s no valid data on how many restaurant operators plan to further expand their business models with e-commerce and delivery services during our “new normal”. But initial surveys by Winsight Analytics Food & Beverage and McKinsey show that those who do will benefit in the future. It will be interesting to see if this marketing-driven e-commerce model can become a true profit driver for restaurants, which distribution channels will hold their own, and where collaborations with larger players can help restaurant brands reach broader audiences.