3 Ways This Small Business Is Surviving—and Thriving—During the Health Crisis
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From loss of income to sudden remote work, things are changing fast and small businesses across the U.S. are being forced to adapt due to the global spread of coronavirus. One business that has pivoted and seen superb results is New York City-based Junzi Kitchen.
The management team at this fast-casual Chinese restaurant chain began strategizing for survival in mid-February. While other restaurants eventually closed their doors or shifted to take-out-only operations, Junzi transcended these common measures with creative ways to keep revenue coming in amid uncertain economic and social circumstances.
“What this pandemic does to the restaurant industry is a total and abrupt disconnection between the demand (the diners) and supply (the restaurants and chefs),” says Nicky Chang, Head of Design and Strategy at Junzi. “People’s dining rituals all of a sudden shifted from a restaurant-centric experience to a home kitchen and refrigerator-centric experience. We realized from very early on that our product experience and maybe our entire business model must adapt to that shift.”
The first Junzi Kitchen was founded in October 2015 near Yale University in New Haven, Conn. Today, the brand includes three more brick-and-mortar restaurants in New York City as well as a delivery-only “ghost kitchen” in NYC’s Tribeca neighborhood. When foot traffic at their restaurants began to disappear several weeks ago due to social distancing, the team at Junzi came up with some creative ideas.
Here are three ways Junzi is surviving and even thriving during the health crisis.
Dining together, yet apart, over social media.
When restaurants were only allowed open for curbside pickup and delivery, Junzi quickly switched its product line to a select menu including larger portioned items for customers to stock up on or share with their family. Like other restaurants, they started a program for customers to donate money to help feed frontline health-care workers.
But what set Junzi apart from the competition was its creation of Distance Dining. Each Friday, Junzi offers a three-course dinner delivered contact-free to customers who log onto Instagram Live to dine together, yet apart. Every week the menu has a different theme and Junzi collaborates with other area restaurants to expand the reach.
“Through Distance Dining, we want to demonstrate that ordering Chinese food can be an exciting event to look forward to,” Chang says. And it seems to be working. Junzi sells 150 to 200 meals per Distance Dining service, and pre-orders typically sell out within the first 48 to 60 hours after the menu is posted, she says. They’ve served more than 400 guests via Distance Dining—many of whom are return customers.
“The project really stems out of a sense of optimism that through creativity and collaboration, we can bring positive change amid crisis,” Chang says.
Timely website updates thanks to a powerful partnership.
With customers staying at home, Junzi’s website became its foremost communication and sales tool. But throughout March and April, the team was constantly busy testing new products, resolving sourcing issues, fundraising, and adjusting operations to adapt to daily changes. There was little time to spend working on the website.
Luckily, Junzi had already built their website using Squarespace. Drawn initially to Squarespace’s design-driven philosophy and capabilities, Junzi designed their site to reflect their brand and beautifully communicate with customers. During the crisis, Chang and her team leaned on Squarespace’s capabilities to update the site quickly. Visitors to Junzi’s website can immediately see that Junzi is open for business and learn about what they’ve been doing in response to COVID-19.
“Throughout the crisis, we were constantly prototyping and iterating to find new ways to connect to our customers, and every step of the way, Squarespace feels very much like that partner who always has our backs,” Chang says. “For a small business like ours, having a beautiful and easy-to-use platform like Squarespace means spending less time battling with technology and more time doing what’s most important to us: finding new ways to cook, serve and share food with those who need it now more so than ever.”
An eye on the future.
Many businesses right now are rightly focused on short-term goals such as generating revenue fast, paying employees, and implementing social distancing safety measures. Junzi is as well, but they’re also focused on the weeks, months, and even years ahead.
Distance Dining provides a glimpse into what’s to come, Chang says. “There’s enough evidence to believe that the future of dining is a blended experience between tangible products and virtual experiences,” she says.
That’s why Junzi has created a pop-up delivery service called Nice Weekend. It’s an online menu of rotating food items where customers can order ahead for a contactless delivery over the weekend. The pre-order page is built and hosted on Squarespace and operates more like an e-commerce platform than a traditional food-ordering page, Chang says.
“With delivery fees skyrocketing, our food-on-demand economy is going to change, and digital experience is going to become far more critical to future restaurants’ survival and success,” she says.
Click here to read more stories of how Squarespace customers have adapted in response to business challenges posed by social distancing. Interested in learning more about how Squarespace can help your personal brand or small business? Get started with a free trial today and use code: ENTREPRENEUR for 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain.