What Large Companies Can Learn From a Local Taco Joint

Posted by Libby Randolph

There is no shortage of businesses who are doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and adopting new approaches to taking care of their customers, employees and the rest of the general population while keeping their own business healthy. During these times, communication is key, and the health and safety of the public should be a top priority for businesses. 

I’ve lived in St. Louis for eight years and have a lot of love for this city. It’s been heartbreaking to see the restaurants that had to close because they could not sustain their business through online orders and curbside pick-up. One of my favorite neighborhood spots is a place called Taco Buddha. It’s just a block walk for me, and I’ve shared many meals and good memories there. 

As people who are able to are trying to support local businesses, they are concerned about the safety of the food and the way it’s prepared. For local businesses to quell any anxieties or hesitations to ordering curbside pick-up or takeout, it is essential they communicate all the measures they are taking to keep their staff and customers safe. Taco Buddha has done an incredible job with this – and here’s how and why these methods work (proven by science!).

On March 11, I received my first COVID-19 related email from Taco Buddha. The email was from the founder, Kurt, and his team at Taco Buddha, explaining the measures they were taking to protect their customers and employees from the spread of the disease. 

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A couple of days later, I got another email. This one explained how they were going to continue to operate as more information became known about the virus.

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Finally, they made the decision to close their dining room and switch to curb-side pick-up and takeout only. This turned out to be a good decision as later that week St. Louis issued a stay and home order and only allowed restaurants to stay open for take-out and pickup. 

Again, Taco Buddha delivered on making sure their customers had the information they needed to make the ordering process as safe as possible. They put together the following chart to keep people safe and informed: 

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Of course, for the purposes of this blog post, I had to try out their online ordering system for myself. You know, for research purposes. I placed an order on their website last week. I was told the time it would be ready, got in my car (yes I know it is only a block away – just trying to follow procedure), and pulled up to the cones they placed outside for curbside pick-up. I texted that I was there, along with the make and model of my car, and within 30 seconds I had my food. The employee who brought my food to me wore gloves and expressed an immense amount of gratitude for my order. 

So, now for the science part. Here are a few behavioral science principles that show why their approach works and will help them weather these tough times:

Social Proof

This principle relates to the idea that people follow the behaviors others are doing around them. It is especially impactful when individuals are in new and unfamiliar situations. I think we can all agree that this new normal is an unfamiliar situation. Supporters of Taco Buddha have been posting photos of their experience with curbside pickup on social media, and Taco Buddha has been re-sharing the images to their own account. This influences others to do the same and support local businesses.

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Operational Transparency

Individuals prefer being able to see the physical or mental effort being done while waiting for work (or food) to be delivered. By communicating all the aspects of their food preparation process, Taco Buddha is ensuring customers have all the information they need to feel comfortable and safe ordering from the restaurant. 

Implementation Intentions

Prompting people to plan when, where and how they will complete an action makes following through more likely. During these uncertain times, it is nice to know exactly how to handle a new process that may otherwise cause angst. Many are struggling with how to conduct business or how to structure their days. Understanding how to pick up their take-out becomes one thing they can manage.

Taco Buddha’s communication ensures that customers know exactly what to do when they arrive at the restaurant, making them more likely to place an online order. 

Other organizations can learn from this example, whether they offer delivery services, are a corporation that sells products to other businesses, or a financial institution operating primarily online. During these times of uncertainty, people want to feel like they are making a difference, staying safe and adding value to their community or the company they work for. Taco Buddha is giving their customers the tools to do just that.

Update

Due to the increased spread of the virus, Taco Buddha closed for business on April 4th and reopened for curbside pickup on May 5th. 

 

Topics: Behavioral Science