How a start-up mindset can help restaurants through COVID-19.

Sophie Slowe
Sophie Slowe 05/01/2020·3 min read
Mask Wearer Outside Restaurant

Article syndicated from Compass and RA Group.

Last week our CEO & Co-Founder Julian Mills was invited by our clients, Compass and RA Group, to a roundtable webcast on the outlook for the hospitality sector. The idea was to bring some agile start-up thinking to the problem, and the panel also included Marc Zornes, Founder & CEO of Winnow; Riya Grover, Founder & CEO of feedr; and Ian Braithwaite, CIO & start-up expert for Compass UK. Watch the full webcast here, watch the clips below, or scroll down to read RA Group’s summary of the highlights.

Coronavirus means that all the cards have been thrown up into the air and will land in a different way. Start-ups are go-karts, and can move very quickly to respond to situations like this.

Julian Mills, CEO & Co-Founder Quorso
A new view.

Entrepreneurs are known for thinking about things differently - are there new opportunities and possibilities that this crisis has made you think about, and are you considering new directions?

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The outlook for data.

You work heavily in the world of data - are we going to learn to be more focused with it, or will we head the other way into data overload?

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A start-up mindset.

How do you think restaurants should be thinking differently at this point?

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Here are four new opportunities that our entrepreneurs see coming out of the current crisis.

1. 18 different types of yogurt… (do less, win more).


Like with wartime rationing, we are going through a mentality shift with more tolerance for more pre-planning, more pre-selection, and comfort with fewer options. In the past we have been way too used to seeing 18 different types of yogurt. That excessive choice is where most of the waste happens.



Choice has previously been important as a source of competitive advantage. What we can now see is that smart businesses are focusing on a few core lines. It’s now less about choice and more about the operational execution. I may not care if there are 18 types of yogurt, but I do want there to be a yogurt on the shelf when I go in there. I do want that restaurant to have everything on its menu even if that menu isn’t huge. 

For most businesses, the defining characteristic coming out of this is: Can you really deliver an excellent experience when sites and supply chains are disrupted? Operational excellence will be key.


2. Be safe and sustainable.


Given where we are today, you have to look at it first from a health and safety perspective. There will be more disposables. But think about sourcing and recycling as a way to mitigate. A common theme I’ve seen is a doubling down in clients wanting to solve environmental issues. When you have uncertainty – like now – systems are inefficient. Sustainability is another lens in doing things in a more efficient way. – How do you source better? Minimize waste? Buy food rescued from farms?


This crisis has thrown out a lot of questions about our use of excessive amounts of food, respect for the environment and the way workers are treated…we support an eco-friendly delivery fleet and we work with our vendors on waste reduction because respect for environmental practices is increasing, even with coronavirus.

3. Break the boundaries between home and out-of-home.


We have seen a 2000% increase in the number of users accessing our digital systems at Compass. I do believe this will be the new norm and people will realize it’s got some real benefits. That said, interacting on video is really intense, work-life balance is disrupted and people are shattered.



We’ve gone from 6% to over 50% working remotely. We think a lot of those won’t go back to working full time in the office. This creates opportunities to redesign and reengineer how we work as organizations. How can we use data in a rich way to help run our organizations, rather than having managers running around?


We’ve seen flexibility as the norm among the tech community, and now it will become more of the norm among traditional workplaces. We built our food delivery system with flexible organizations in mind. Flexibility is really important when we have no idea if we are going to see 1,000 or 300 people in the workplace…

Now we think we will see the reach of the workplace experience into home life. We will see home delivery kits and new ways for workplaces to support wellbeing, even when employees are at home. Companies are going to re-think the boundaries of where their involvement is in employees’ home lives. We have a role supporting these workforces not just when they are in the building, but their broader wellbeing and lifestyles outside of work as well.


4. Reinvent social interaction.


Lunch is a very social occasion and the heart of how people interact with others. We need to think about how we use tech to bring back interaction… For example, integrating digital workplace chat into lunch offers, sharing ratings and favorites – and building conversation into our products even where we’re not allowed to stand near each other.

What would they do in your shoes? – Here’s how our entrepreneurs would encourage our clients and partners to think about the post-COVID-19 world.

Marc – Think through a two-phase future.

Phase 1: Post-lockdown world. Even without government restrictions, people will want to continue to distance themselves quite a bit. Be prepared for that. When people come back to the office, how do you make it the most collaborative environment that it can be? 

Focus on gathering data. Observe and understand what it is that people are doing differently when they come into the office? What are their unspoken needs? What do we have to build in order to make this work?

Phase 2: Post-vaccine world. There will be a desire to get back face to face. People will want to gather. Trends pre-coronavirus will be accelerated. There will be more working from home. Health will raise in importance now that people are at home cooking and investing in their fitness. Digital collaboration tools will get better. How do you take advantage of these trends and tools, even when people are back in the office?

Julian – How do I reopen brilliantly?

Plan now for how you are going to reopen better, faster, and more flexibly than anyone else. How do you create a safe, healthy, amazing experience that is going to get out there faster than anyone else and suck up any demand that is out there? 

Comparisons to last year and budget are out the window. You need to get much quicker at picking up what’s going on the ground quickly, finding people who are doing a great job in this part of the business and scaling it out across the rest of the organization. That nimbleness and that forward thinking is what you need to be doing.

Riya – Really collaborate online.

Embrace technology and get people in your company connected digitally. In the past we have seen that organizations are reluctant to get employees signed on to systems where everyone is connected, but now we are doing this, and it’s shown us how adaptable, resilient, and flexible workforces can be. 

Understand how your org can align and collaborate online far beyond just web, video, and chat tools. Really collaborate online. Start getting people into that because it’s going to be a long time before we have a lot of flexibility choosing where we work and the way we work, even post-vaccine.