Yunindita Prasidya, Jakarta – Restaurant owners are finding new ways to serve customers as they prepare new protocols to ensure safety for when they reopen for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to shutter, upending income.
The Union Group, which oversees gourmet restaurant Benedict and bakery and bar Union, plans to introduce new safety protocols to be implemented soon when they reopen for dine-in customers.
"We are trying to find a system where people that come in for dine-in will have to check-in with a QR code," Union Group founder Jennifer Karjadi said during a webinar on June 4. The restaurants would need customers' cooperation to make it easier to conduct tracking when deemed necessary in the name of public safety, she added.
The Union Group's safety protocol upon reopening would start with sanitation measures, body temperature checks for both staff workers and customers and reduced seating capacity. It would also integrate contactless protocol throughout the dining experience, from a contactless menu in which customers order from their phones to cashless payments.
"Right now, we are preparing meticulously. To be honest, we are still not ready because we feel that there are so many new protocols that we need to prepare and carry out," Jennifer said.
Jakarta is in the process of relaxing large-scale social restrictions (PSBB), with restaurants allowed to operate at under 50 percent capacity under certain health protocols, as stated in a new health ministerial decree.
Astrid Suryatenggara, chief marketing officer of MDA Restaurant Group, an establishment that manages a number of foreign brands, including AB Steak and Animale, said the group was "preparing a new layout entering the new normal".
"With us being a lifestyle restaurant, we have to change our business model. We are trying to adapt," Astrid said.
AB Steak's delivery, take-out and home services would continue to be offered even as their stores resumed dine-in services. But to stay true to its steakhouse dining experience, AB Steak is now offering a private dining service in which the AB Steak team serves its signature steak at customers' homes.
Restaurant and bar Animale has launched a special take-out menu and ready-to-cook service, Animale To Go, to adapt to the changing consumer preference for homemade meals.
"So far, we have been surviving by cutting costs left and right and finding other revenue streams so that we can keep our employees," Astrid said.
MDA Restaurant and the Union Group opened their online stores on Tokopedia to adapt to the rising trend of deliveries.
Jennifer of Union Group said the company was still trying to adjust to delivery-based services as Union was more accustomed to serving dine-in customers, but the shift was necessary to prevent any layoffs of its 1,200 employees.
"We are trying to keep them by carrying out those measures," she said. "Since the PSBB, we have been pursuing a lot of new approaches that we had never tried."
Aside from the 20 percent discount for its food items and free delivery for orders of at least Rp 350,000 (US$24.70), the Union Group's bars, Cork&Screw, Roma and Union, are offering their signature cocktails in bottles, as well as vacuum-packed cocktails that customers can make on their own after delivery.
Jeo Sasanto, operations and marketing director at PT Sarimelati Kencana, which operates the Pizza Hut brand, said the current situation had forced the company to innovate to survive, saying that "new ideas that were unthought-of emerged".
The restaurant now has pick-up points where customers can pick up their orders after ordering from its app.
"We are quite fortunate because we have been doing delivery for a while. With the current conditions, what we are doing is strengthening [our service]," Joe noted in the same webinar.
Pizza Hut, a pizzeria with over 500 outlets in Indonesia, has had its own delivery brand, Pizza Hut Delivery, better known as PHD, since 2007.
The concept of grab-and-go is already ingrained within the business model of Let's Go Chicken, a fried chicken restaurant, yet the company still saw sales across over 200 of its outlets drop during the pandemic.
Wika Saputra, founder and chief executive officer of PT Inspirasi Kuliner Indonesia, a company that oversees the brand, said its shops' revenue declined by around 30 percent in March before dropping further during Ramadan as a result of customers' dwindling purchasing power.
"We are pushing our delivery service. We developed our own independent delivery where customers can place their orders through our WhatsApp service," Wika said, explaining that the brand now offered ready-to-eat frozen seasoned chicken that customers needed only to reheat.
Consumer spending, which accounts for nearly 60 percent of Indonesia's GDP, is expected to contract this year to its lowest level in decades, economists predict. Consumer confidence nosedived to a 12-year low, according to a Bank Indonesia consumer confidence index survey in April.