Restaurants Pivot Operations During Pandemic, Ponder Future Plans to Maintain Business

Mike Tillis was recently hired as VP of Operations and Support for Your Pie, a national fast casual pizza franchise.  Tillis is a veteran of the restaurant industry, having spent more than 30 years in franchise leadership roles with Honeybaked Ham and Checkers Drive-In.  He joins Your Pie at a time which many restaurant executives are adapting their business model in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and trying to establish a roadmap for future operations.

Your Pie was built as an in-store dining concept, as customers could select their choice of favorite toppings and be able to enjoy a fresh brick-oven pizza within minutes in the company of friends or family.  A year ago, 80-85 percent of its business came through in-store dining.  Today, more than 55 percent of the chain’s business comes from off premise.

The pandemic forced most restaurants to completely go away from in-store customers for a time.  Even as dining rooms slowly reopen, Your Pie has been forced to pivot to new methods such as online ordering, third-party delivery services curbside pickup.  They have had to transition their operations on the fly to handle a much higher volume through those channels.

The challenge for Tillis and other restaurant executives is how to maintain and grow these new methods of business as they prepare to welcome customers back to their stores as dining practices gradually return to normal in the coming year.  What can they do to strike the operational balance in cultivating the roots of the traditional dining experience while catering to a growing audience that has become reliant upon eating at home?

“The history of Your Pie has emphasized the in-store experience of the guest and the culture of the company,” said Tillis.  “The key is maintaining and protecting that experience while we also grow the off-premise customers.  These services were a growing trend before the pandemic, but now it is the new normal for a lot of people.  It may be a long time before they shift back, and some people may never come back in that capacity.  They have become so accustomed to third-party delivery or curbside pickup that some people may stay with that forever.  We need to be prepared to keep that restaurant experience and authenticity alive and well while growing the new sales channels.”