Stories from the Covid-19 Front Lines: Berekk Blackwell, President of Daily Jam
Name: Berekk Blackwell
Brand: Daily Jam
How has Covid-19 affected your brand?
One of the biggest differentiators of our brand is our excellent customer service. We built our business on going above and beyond, even in a fast casual environment. Typically, customers order at the counter, sit down to modern tableware with attentive waitstaff refilling drinks and pampering guests. Like many industries and restaurants, we’ve had to pivot our operational approach.
Second to excellent customer service, we also rely heavily on our delicious food. We pivoted to incorporate other approaches, focusing on off-premise ordering, low-contact pickup, and delivery. While we shifted our focus to limited-contact service, our employees are still top-of-mind for our team. We adopted an employee-first mentality to keep our workers – and our guests – safe. Our goal was to find a happy medium to ensure our front-line workers are safe and comfortable as they continue serving the community.
What are your franchisees doing for their customers?
In March, when our locations were forced to close dine-in service, we wanted to help some of those who were hit hardest by the shutdowns: first responders and families with children. With so many first responders going above and beyond to protect the community, we offered them free coffee and a 35% discount off our entire menu. It was our small way of saying thanks for all that they do. Additionally, we know that many families with children depend on getting their weekday meals from schools, and busy parents were in need of a quick solution – so we offered free meals to kids from March to May, no questions asked.
We provided the same great food from our same great kitchen, but the important part was creating as much convenience as possible for our guests. Many businesses had to cut hours, but we extended ours. We were trying to make ourselves more accessible in the safest way possible. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey mandated that restaurants must operate at only 50% capacity in July; we were already operating under those guidelines since May.
How are you working with your suppliers?
Everyone is fighting the same fight, and we’ve been very honest with our suppliers. In fact, our business-to-business relationships have strengthened through the pandemic. With everyone rallying together, we’re all focused on making sure that we all pull through at the end of the day. You may hear the term “Shop Local” thrown around more and more. This might seem like the antithesis of franchising to some, but not to Daily Jam. Since the beginning, each of our locations has been locally sourced with all our ingredients coming from suppliers in the general area.
How do you see the future of your brand, operations, market, etc. post–Covid-19?
Even before the pandemic, the restaurant industry was shifting toward more off-premise dining. In early March, we were in the trial phase of two ghost kitchens to cater to a more off-premise dining experience. While the rise of off-premise is accelerating with the pandemic, that doesn’t mean that dine-in is dead. There will likely be a resurgence.
Operationally, cleanliness will be a huge concern. Yes, everybody knows that you have to wash your hands, but the standards will change. Restaurants have always had higher standards in terms of hygiene compared with other industries. People care about the safety and quality of their food – as they should. Restaurants will likely be held to an even higher standard post-Covid.
Finally, the digitization of menus will likely become part of the new normal. With almost every smartphone having a built-in QR code reader, the menu might not be where it stops. There’s room for more digital messages with QR codes strategically placed throughout the restaurant.
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