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Leveraging technology to survive the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria’s QSR industry

In a recent interview with Patrick McMichael, CEO of Eat ‘n’ Go Nigeria, a franchise company that includes Domino’s Pizza, Coldstone Creamery and Pinkberry Frozen Yoghurt, he spoke on the Nigerian Quick-Service Restaurant (QSR) industry surviving the COVID-19 pandemic by leveraging on technological solutions, specifically the measures put in place by the Eat ‘n’ Go franchise in Nigeria.

Prior to the pandemic, customers had dine-in, online order and pick-up or delivery options, but with pandemic restrictions, dine-in areas have been closed and the company has been required to change marketing. The business has changed, from 80% of sales coming from dine-in sections to an over 100% increase in deliveries and pick-up services, changing the business’s revenue channels and the way stores are staffed. Unlike many businesses, Eat ‘n’ Go had to hire staff such as delivery drivers, to accommodate for the increased need for delivery services. Like most companies however, it is trading down, and experienced up to 60% decrease in revenue at one point during the lockdown. The situation has improved, despite the company still experiencing depressed trade, but they are implementing changes to be more effective and build a relationship of trust with their customers.

The company has also worked to provide assistance to front-line workers in hospitals, police stations and fire brigades, and has been delivering products to workers on the streets like traffic police, and to the Yaba Isolation Centre and others, having realised that many of these workers are very busy and do not have time to eat. Eat ‘n’ Go has aimed to directly impact people through these efforts and deliver moments of happiness, and has given away up to ₦35 million worth of products, free of charge.

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The company started preparing for the pandemic since January, as the numbers rose in Asia and suspicions grew that it would spread to other countries. It put measures in place to ensure that IT infrastructure was decentralised, to allow the administrative business to run from outside the office. Realising that it was a privilege to still be in business and interact with customers, marketing strategy was also changed, from pamphlets and free samples, to dialoguing with customers to build trust in the business. They focused on sharing information on protective measures that had been put in place such as masks and gloves for employees, store safe zones, and compulsory sanitation, masks and temperature monitoring for anyone entering their stores. In addition, information was shared on how to order online, opening hours, available offers, contact-free delivery and cashless payments, ensuring that customers had a safe experience and staff were kept safe.

As the world transitions post-COVID, the company plans keep customers and staff safe while learning to live with the virus within the community. Several newly-instituted practices will likely be permanent, even in the event of a vaccine, such as using hand sanitizers, wearing masks and temperature monitoring. Marketing will likely move away from touch points to focus on more effective digital methods, since strategies such as handing out leaflets will not be well accepted in the future.

This is also now the era of delivery; customers will want services brought to them. The delivery aspect of the business is set to keep growing and hiring drivers, since working hours will increase as curfews are lifted and customers will want to enjoy products from their homes. Eat ‘n’ Go has also partnered with Jumia to leverage on their technology to develop and enhance delivery for the business’s cold products from Coldstone Creamery and Pinkberry Frozen Yoghurt. The company will also open more stores to reach more customers, since deliveries are only made within a certain radius, to ensure product freshness. Customers will likely only want to be around other people within trusted zones. Businesses will have to earn their customer’s trust and must ensure their safety, using technology to be as efficient as possible in safety monitoring and communicating safety measures and strategies through open, easy dialogue with customers.

Businesses that have developed systems to safeguard themselves, if they follow through with them, should be in a good position, regardless of the pandemic.
The Eat ‘n’ Go franchise will continue to grow, invest and develop in a smart manner: 5 new stores are set to open in July, a major manufacturing facility in Lagos to supply dough to all stores will soon be fully built, a major warehouse has been built in Ogun state to supply all businesses nationally, and the company has submitted plans for reopening to the Lagos State Government.

Eat ‘n’ Go’s partnership with the Slum2School NGO began 3 years ago, to help provide children from slums with education. Fortunately, despite the pandemic, the company has been able to maintain its commitment to Slum2School to get 1200 children into schools, although it will likely have to re-evaluate how best to help the children if schools will not be open for some time. The company hires local talent and provides training and upskilling, because educating staff and providing a career path is part of the company’s DNA. They believe it is important to maintain CSR commitments, especially as they have weathered the hardest part of the pandemic, and will continue to work to maintain profitability to allow them to honour these commitments.

Maintaining staff numbers has been a very challenging situation that the company has needed to closely evaluate. No member of staff has been let go during the pandemic, but the company has shuffled salary levels as the leadership team, board of directors, head office team and non-utilized staff have had their salaries dropped, while those working full time receive salaries and bonuses. Patrick believes companies should try to retain staff, but acknowledges that it is not an easy feat and companies should not be judged if they have to let staff go. The COVID-19 pandemic is a 1-in-100-years event, and companies will have to survive it. Eat ‘n’ Go remains grateful to their customers, and dedicated to keeping people safe and providing great products and customer service.

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