How Your Pie Responded and Adapted to COVID-19
Like many other businesses and restaurants, Your Pie was forced to quickly adapt and adjust many of its operating procedures as the COVID-19 virus spread across the country earlier this year. While these changes were quite challenging, the nature of how Your Pie responded reflected its ongoing support of its franchisees, service to its customers and vision for the future of the brand.
Last year, Your Pie upgraded the technology platforms in its restaurants by installing new POS systems, introducing a new online ordering platform and a new loyalty rewards program. Company officials felt good about the strategic plan they developed for 2020 before being forced to scrap everything by the end of March.
Here are some of the ways in which the franchise navigated through those difficult times and continue to deal with the challenges of operating a business during a pandemic.
Reacting Locally to a Global Pandemic
During the first few weeks of the outbreak of the virus, precautions and business operations were changing daily. Your Pie management gathered this information and adapted to the evolving situation as quickly as possible. Their top priority was to communicate and support the franchise owners throughout the system.
“There is no such thing as over communication” said Your Pie CEO Dave McDougall, who discussed Your Pie’s response to the coronavirus on the MODRN Business Podcast. The first conversations focused on helping franchisees seek financial assistance through PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) or EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loans) applications.
The PPP loan was a lifeline that helped many franchisees continue business, while the EIDL covered operating expenses and assisted in refinancing the business. Working with landlords and handling rent has been the most demanding issue, and company officials had many calls with franchisees to help support them with this matter.
Helping Businesses Recover in Difficult Times
After the initial stage of quickly reacting to the business impact of the coronavirus, Your Pie shifted to a period of recovery, which is where things stand today. Although there have been surges of positive cases in certain areas of the country, there is now more of a sense of normalcy and predictability.
Almost all Your Pie restaurants have remained open, but depending on location, they were not allowed to have in-restaurant dining or were restricted in the number of on-site customers. These changes forced Your Pie to pivot from an operational model of 80-85 percent dine-in business to now more than 55 percent takeout, delivery or curbside service. That had a major impact on the flow of the line and how things worked in the back of the house. It forced the restaurants to come up with new operating procedures and methods to best serve its guests.
Your Pie also used this time to introduce limited time offers and creative menu offerings. It recently launched the Chicken Al Pastor pizza promotion, which comes after the successful Peach Prosciutto Pie special from the spring. The franchise will continue a cycle of introducing a new pizza, side item, gelato or featured beer every eight weeks.
As Your Pie shifted to accommodate more online orders, it wanted to make the process as seamless as possible for its customers. The franchise also increased its focus on digital marketing and is currently developing a strategy for that area.
“One thing we’ve tried to pay close attention to is the digital guest experience,” said McDougall. “Is it frictionless? What are the pain points when a guest tries to order online or tries to pick up curbside? We believe that is part of the business that is here to stay, and we have to get better in executing it.”
Reimagining the Future of Pizza Franchises
The final phase of this process involves envisioning what the Your Pie brand will look like in the future. The current situation will lead to some long-term changes in the business model, and Your Pie executives are examining how to incorporate new aspects to attract customers and increase franchise sales.
These changes include enhancing the guest experience, increasing digital marketing efforts, examining curbside pickup and delivery service and introducing family meals and take-and-bake options. Your Pie is currently helping its franchisees get through this difficult time while positioning itself for a strong future on the other side.
“For those who have the wherewithal and the available capital, there will be some good opportunities ahead,” said McDougall.