Movers & Shakers

The initial shock of COVID-19 has finally started to decline. The virus doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon, but restaurants and retailers have largely stopped the decline that started in early March. Nevertheless, there are several trail blazers that have stepped up their innovation to reimagine their businesses thriving in a COVID-19 world. To showcase some of these superstars, CSG has assembled a list of the top 5 innovators. This week we will take a look at #5 & #4 as part of our countdown through the end of the month.

Source: Wally Gobetz via flickr

#5 – Nathan’s Famous Inc. is legendary for their customizable hot dogs and long lines. The latter of which became quite the problem during the COVID-19 shutdown. Nathan’s had already primed itself for success by being a quick service chain and having their products available in many grocery stores, but they faced a steep hill over closed tourist attraction restaurants. The chain did not have the most well-developed delivery system, but they pivoted quickly and leaned on an industry trend that was poised to explode, ghost kitchens. Ghost kitchens, or virtual kitchens, utilize open kitchen spaces to prepare food and deliver it. The catch with these restaurants is that the food is delivery only and a customer cannot visit the location to place an order. Nathan’s utilized this concept to quickly expand their digital footprint and reach new customers in areas where a brick and mortar restaurant did not exist. The move also helped offset some of the lost revenue from closed dine-in spaces. Nathan’s went a step further than the competition by partnering with REEF neighborhood kitchens and reaching a deal with Ruby Tuesday to utilize their closed dining rooms as ghost kitchens.

Source: Instacart

#4 – Next on our list is grocery delivery service Instacart. Grocery chains saw the opposite of restaurants and retailers with a surge of customers when COVID-19 hit. Shoppers wiped shelves clean and created supply chain disruption while driving the need for alternative shopping options for those who did not feel safe. Instacart saw the demand for their product and stepped in by hiring new employees at a time when unemployment was skyrocketing as-well-as began new partnerships with companies like Costco. The sudden expansion caused some logistic issues as employees expressed concerns over new COVID-19 safety measures and even began to strike. Instacart corrected course and offered employees enhanced benefits including sick days and personal protective equipment. Recently, Instacart announced a new partnership with Walmart that will allow customers to shop all of Walmart’s aisles virtually and will offer same-day delivery. The new partnership will begin in four test markets before launching nationally. The move pits Walmart squarely against Amazon’s Whole Foods Market Inc. delivery and gives Instacart another impressive addition to its portfolio of partners.

Nathan’s and Instacart are two of the innovators who have reacted swiftly to make the best of a bad situation. The success of these companies can be found in their willingness to partner with others and step outside of the usual comfort zone to serve customers and drive revenue.

CSG is the leader in industry research and digital marketing leads for the retail & foodservice industries. Learn more about how our CONNECT platform can get your products and services in front of the buyers & decision makers of companies like Nathan’s, Walmart, Whole Foods, and thousands more.