Sunday 7 March 2021

Costa Rica restaurant owners envision 2021 with a strong accent on digital business

The sector intends to implement new menus at more accessible prices, have more promotions, as well as rehire staff to meet the demand

QCOSTARICA – The big franchises and casual dining restaurants in Costa Rica hope to have a more favorable outlook by 2021. To achieve this, they aim to strengthen their digital channels and face fewer restrictions from the Government, which mark a clearer future for the business.

They also ensure that to stand out from the competition, next year, they intend to add new dishes to their menus, at more accessible prices; more promotions every week to encourage customer service, as well as the rehiring of staff to fill its range of services.

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Six months ago, the Costa Rican Chamber of Restaurants and Related Products (Cacore) reported that at least 7,980 restaurants had to close due to the impact of the pandemic, according to data from a survey carried out in April by the Chamber. This represents 42% of the sector.

For Andrés Gómez, general director of CRB restaurants and operator of the Chili’s chain for Costa Rica, they will start 2021 with the same percentage of decrease in sales in 2020, if no external variable occurs such as a second wave of cases that may directly affect the premises.

In these last months, restaurants have prepared their premises to receive people with strict cleaning protocols to prevent the spread of covid-19, but they have also adapted their services to the new digital business to take care of their sales and continue to grow in the gastronomic market of the country.

Many have made great efforts in delivery or express services and pick-up (pick up the order), innovating their presentation and a different menu with more accessible prices to adapt to the new digital business.

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Most of the restaurants consulted indicate that they prefer to have their own express service to lower operating costs, however, they cannot deny the great support and coverage that other platforms represent, such as Glovo and Uber Eats.

Their concern is about the manipulation of their products when they send express with delivery companies, not sure that the food will arrive intact to the customer, which they pay up to 30% for the service.

“The main strategy is the value of the food, good prices, promotions, quality and good times. Clearly the digital trend has made us rethink everything. We have to seek consumer convenience through express platforms,” said Gómez, adding that Chili’s online sales business was not that strong before covid-19, but with the arrival of the crisis they had to develop their own digital platform to receive orders, serve customers, and even for special quarantine orders, such as family catering services.

For its part, at the Friday’s restaurant, after the recent reopening of its iconic premises formerly located in the La Bandera roundabout, in San Pedro de Montes de Oca, it is committed by 2021 to a greater recruitment of personnel to attend the demand for growth, strengthening its alliances with suppliers and expanding promotions and offers on its menu.

“One of the challenges in the context of the pandemic has been the strict management of the product inventory. Our philosophy at Friday’s San Pedro is to always have 100% of the products we use on our menu,” said Carlos Felipe Huezo, owner of Friday’s.

In their virtual channels, restaurants implement the digitization of their menu, make use of platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp to receive orders.

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