A Letter from the President | How the Daily Jam Team Emerged from the Other Side of the Global COVID-19 Pandemic

May 29, 2020 12:59 am

Making Lemonade Out of Lemons: A Letter from Daily Jam President Berekk Blackwell

At Daily Jam, we’re not only in the business of food – we’re in the business of people. We strive to go above and beyond each and every day to take care of our guests, employees and team members, whether we’re navigating a global pandemic or just another typical week.

Every industry has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in some capacity. The restaurant industry has certainly faced its fair share of challenges, so when we were mandated to shut down our dining rooms by local government, we did our best to make lemonade out of lemons. I’d like to reflect on the winding road Daily Jam has taken as we’ve worked up to re-opening to the public on Monday, May 11.

Similar to most of the country, we were forced to close our dining rooms and solely offer takeout and delivery with relatively short notice – less than 24 hours in some cases. When we were hit with the news, we knew that in order to survive, we needed to be open-minded, creative and act fast. Below are some of the adjustments we made as a brand within the first week:

1) Early on, one of the main things we were focused on was our people. We wanted to do everything we could to secure employment for as many of our team members as possible. We made the choice to extend our operating hours from our usual 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. This was an important step in being able to consolidate and keep our core team members together as we worked to boost sales and cover our expenses. Sure, some hours were slower than typical unit level economics would allow, but we stayed busy working on the rest of our strategy.

2) We shifted gears quickly to channel our focus on takeout and delivery, all while having to create a whole new set of standard operating procedures – there’s no playbook for navigating a global pandemic! We took everything into consideration, including how our restaurants would accept orders and where our customers would come to place them or pick up.

3) Internally, we had already been working hard on launching two new “ghost kitchens,” CinnaSwirl and Mindful Bowls. Our ghost kitchens operate within the same Daily Jam kitchen, with no outside signage, during the same hours as Daily Jam. Customers are primarily ordering through third-party delivery platforms. These ghost kitchens provided additional offerings that go beyond Daily Jam’s typical menu, capturing a whole different market by tapping into the dessert sector with CinnaSwirl and the core lunch and dinner traffic with Mindful Bowls. These ghost kitchens alone accounted for an increase in sales of more than 20%.

4) Our response also included a number of deals and special promotions designed to serve our communities as best we could while also keeping everyone safe. These included:

  • A BOGO gift card sale allowing people to support us even if they didn’t feel comfortable eating out. This initiative was critical in generating cash flow to support us with operating expenses, including our labor expenses,
  • A kids eat free promotion to support those whose schools had closed and were now left to provide meals for their children,
  • Free coffee and a 35% discount for first responders, including nurses,
  • And, a 25% discount to all guests who ordered online.

5) We didn’t stop there. We also took the initiative to roll out several new offerings to meet our customers’ changing needs, including the Brunch From Home (BFH) Kit. And, Daily Jam was given permission by the state to distribute alcohol to go, so our DIY Mimosa Kits were a big hit. Other offerings like our frozen breakfast burritos created a one stop shop for Daily Jam guests to pick up their next meal and stock up on breakfast food over the next few days.

The results spoke for themselves. We were able to drive net sales by putting our customers, communities and employees first. The reaction ended up driving higher frequency of visits for our loyal customers, while continuing to keep people safe.

Our main goal with these promotions and additional menu items was to drive enough traffic to keep as many of our team members working while still supporting those who needed convenient food options.

When it came to our employees, we wanted to make sure that they all felt as safe as possible. Instead of having customers come into our restaurants, we utilized a flip-up patio window that kept a safe distance between them and our staff. A plentiful stock of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes were always on deck, and we also provided masks and a steady stock of gloves as we rolled out additional safety measures. It was essential that our employees felt safe coming into work every day and continue to feel that way.

Our entire corporate support team has been and continues to run shifts at our restaurants, putting in as many shifts as everyone else. By doing so, we wanted to signal to our staff: “We’re here, we’re present, we’re truly all in this together.” We see our staff, we see them putting in the hours and taking that risk, so it was important for us to give them the recognition and support that they deserve.

While at times it felt like there was no end in sight, we prioritized clear communication with our staff about our plans moving forward. We wanted them to know what we were thinking and always remained available to address any questions or issues, personal and work related. As we received information from the state and the federal government, we ensured that our staff was kept up on the latest news and information – including everything they needed to know about our re-opening on May 11. Looking forward to this date played a huge part in keeping up employee morale, as it signified that there is going to be an end date to this time of uncertainty.

The community response to the actions we’ve taken here at Daily Jam has been incredible. Everyone generally knows how difficult this time has been for restaurants, so us being open and doing our part to help serve the community has been well received. Tips have been one strong measurement of our community’s gratitude – many of our guests have been supporting our team and their families through generous tipping contributions.

Not to mention, the amount of first responders that have taken advantage of our deals and discounts is also fun for our staff to see and be a part of. Whether it be police officers or nurses stopping by for their morning coffee or to pick up a free kid’s meal for their children, the number of people redeeming these offers and expressing how thankful they are has truly lifted the spirits of our team. We plan to continue offering these deals to first responders during this time.

From a business standpoint, our new offerings, menus and extended operating hours have allowed us to create a lot of buzz among our fan base and attract new customers. Our most loyal customers tried dropping by every day because they wanted to see Daily Jam make it through to the other side. These people are really excited to see us thinking outside of the box and have appreciated how much energy we’ve put into creating a safe and comfortable experience.

Times may still be uncertain, but what we do know is that while no one could have predicted the extreme challenges and hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic, we tried our best to make lemonade out of lemons. Nothing is more important to us than the safety and wellbeing of our staff, guests and communities, and we’ll continue to jam on – one day at a time.

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