15 tactics to keep your food business running during COVID-19

A 6,000-word playbook for food business owners in Nigeria and Ghana. Here's how restaurants and bars in 8 countries are boosting sales during COVID-19.

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Photo by Rumman Amin on Unsplash

Food businesses such as restaurants and bars have been some of the hardest-hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this 6,000-word deep-dive, we'll explore 15 tactics that have kept food businesses across the world in business, with specific examples from South Africa, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ghana, and Nigeria.

We understand that the challenges faced by food businesses in Africa are unique in many significant ways. Kindly consider this article to simply be a convenient, comprehensive reference of interesting ideas to potentially explore.

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A 6,000-word playbook for food business owners in Nigeria and Ghana. Here's how restaurants and bars in 8 countries are boosting sales during COVID-19.

Offer online ordering, delivery, and pickup

When customers can’t come to you, you go to them. This is the most obvious strategy for selling during a lockdown, and we’ve seen several businesses, from the Eko Hotels and Suites in Lagos, to storied fine dining establishments like Chicago's Alinea, pivot to selling online and delivering directly to customers.

When it goes well, some businesses can make a significant percentage of their pre-lockdown sales through online ordering and delivery, as is the case with Alinea, which is making up to 75% of its regular revenue through online orders.

Chefs at Alinea
Photo: Chefs at Alinea Restaurant

But there are big questions to think about. If you’re a food business in Ghana or Nigeria that’s new to selling on the internet, how do you get started? Do you piggyback on the discovery and delivery networks of third-party platforms like Jumia Food, or do you cut out the middleman and sell directly to customers? Here’re some broad factors to consider.

Listing on food delivery platforms vs. self-delivery

Here are some pros and cons of using a third party delivery company as compared to owning the delivery process:

Pros of third-party platforms

  • A food delivery platform gives you unparalleled distribution. Their apps and websites see a lot of traffic, and they could give you access to a broader audience, thereby increasing your chances of receiving orders
  • You get to focus on your domain expertise — making food and drinks — while you outsource the expensive business of deliveries to an experienced establishment
  • You could theoretically spend less energy on customer acquisition because the ordering platform does a lot of that for you already

Cons of third-party platforms

  • A delivery company sits between you and the customer. As a result of this, they own the customer relationship, not you. If you owned your delivery, you could potentially collect these customers’ contact details, and build enduring relationships over time
  • Once the food or drinks leave your establishment, you no longer control the customer's experience. How long does it take to get the food delivered? How courteous is the delivery person? How well does the meal travel, and is the food still in good shape when it arrives?
  • You pay a commission that could be anything from 10 - 30% per order to the delivery platforms. Depending on your profit margins, this could be expensive.

From a broad point of view, a lot of the decision making boils down to: can you afford to invest the resources necessary to build the infrastructure that allows you to own the entire customer relationship, or do you want to plug into an established system that gives you almost instant distribution?

Here're a few of our favourite podcast resources to help you make a considered decision:

How to list your food business on Jumia Food

If you're a food business in Ghana or Nigeria, Jumia Food is one of the most popular food ordering and delivery companies to consider.

To get started, send an email to the Jumia Food vendor acquisition team, informing them that you’d like to list your food business on their platform. You should share the following details with them:

  • The name of your food business
  • The location of your food business
  • The types of food you sell
  • A contact address — phone number and email address.

Here’s a sample email you can copy and use for yourself:

-------

SUBJECT LINE: Looking to list {YOUR RESTAURANT NAME} on Jumia Food

Hi team,

My name is {YOUR FULL NAME}, and I'd like to list my restaurant on Jumia Food.

Name of restaurant: {NAME OF RESTAURANT}

Location: {YOUR BUSINESS' ADDRESS}

Type of food we sell: {LIST ALL THE TYPES OF FOOD YOU SELL}

My contact phone number: {YOUR PHONE NUMBER}

My contact email address: {YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS}

Warm regards,

{YOUR FULL NAME}

-------

If your food business is in Ghana, send the email to: [email protected]

If your food business is in Nigeria, send the email to: [email protected]

According to the Jumia Food team, you should receive a reply within 7 days. In Ghana, they're operational in Accra and Tema while in Nigeria, they have a presence in Abuja, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, and Lagos.

A list of delivery companies you can partner with

If you’d like to manage delivery yourself and build a direct relationship with your customers, here’s a list of delivery companies in Ghana and Nigeria you can use.

GIG Logistics (Nigeria)
For Android users: download the GIG app on Google Play →
For iOS users: download the GIG app on the App Store →

Gokada (Lagos)
Text: 0802 726 1647
For Android users: download the Gokada app on Google Play →
For iOS users: download the Gokada app on the App Store →

OyaNow (Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Kaduna)
Phone call: 0906 254 7779
Website: oyanow.ng

Kwik Delivery (Lagos)
Website: kwik.delivery
WhatsApp/Phone call: 0809 064 2991

Delivery Guys (Ghana)
WhatsApp: +233 54 012 8281 or +233 54 012 8282

Shopnaw (Ghana)
Place a delivery from their website: shopnaw.com

Mmirika Courier Service (Ghana)
WhatsApp: +233 55 380 3116

Sell meal kits

With people self-isolating they're visiting the grocery store less and preparing more meals themselves. Food businesses have noticed, and some have succeeded in pivoting to take advantage of the trend by selling meal kits.

In what Bloomberg describes as "soaring business for meal-kit firms," meal kit companies like Blue Apron (USA) and Berlin-headquartered Hello Fresh have seen their stock value increase dramatically as people on lockdown embrace the meal kit model.

Meal kits — what are they and how do they work?

Blue Apron meal kit
Photo: Blue Apron Meal Kit

Say a customer wants to prepare a large meal for their family of four. They see that a meal kit company is featuring a chicken, roasted potatoes, and green bean dinner. The company would send this customer a box containing all the ingredients and instructions needed to prepare that meal.

As more restaurants shut down and grocery stores shorten their operating hours, many people are meeting their fresh food needs with meal kits. Here're some reasons why meal kits are becoming so popular:

  • They're convenient. Meal kits take away the need for grocery runs, and you get every single ingredient you need for a particular meal delivered to you
  • Meal kits come pre-portioned, so whether it's a meal for one, two, or for a bigger family, the ingredients in the kit are portioned to make the perfect meal for a set number of people
  • Many people on lockdown are looking for ways to keep active and occupied. Meal kits fill that need, and they give many home cooks the excitement of making their own masterpieces out of "lego blocks" of fresh ingredients

Get inspiration from other businesses selling meal kits

Here's a look at 2 food businesses that now sell meal kits, with notes on the things that make their approaches effective.

Shake Shack (USA)
Shake Shack is a popular American restaurant chain known for their burgers. They've leaned into the meal kit trend and started selling a kit that makes 8 Shake Shack burgers, complete with their trademark sauce. The thrill for many customers, especially those who already know the brand, is making their own Shake Shack burgers at home.

To get the word out about this new offering, they did a number of things well:

  • They leveraged their social media presence to announce the meal kit
  • They partnered with a popular food marketplace, Goldbelly, to make distribution across the country easier
  • They published a fun and instructive 5-minute video that shows you how to make a Shake Shack burger right at home.

Lazy Dog (USA)
Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar is a California-based restaurant that serves classic American food and drinks. Something they did really well was to brand each meal kit with a fun, organizing theme.

For instance, the Brunch Kit comes with eggs, bacon, whipped cream, fresh orange juice, and pancake mix.

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Photo: Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar's Brunch Kit

The Backyard BBQ Kit, meanwhile, includes angus beef steaks, hot dogs, buns, and red potatoes.

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Photo: Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar's BBQ Kit

This makes it easy for customers to pick a meal kit based on mood or time of day.

Things to keep in mind when selling meal kits

If you're considering experimenting with meal kits, here's some thing you could consider.

  • Whittle down your menu to your crowd favourites and attempt to build meal kits around them.
  • Theme your meal kits in a fun way to capture attention and make it easy for customers to choose
  • Include simple cooking instructions to appeal to a broader audience, including people who're not yet very savvy in the kitchen
  • Don't forget to let your past customers know that you're now selling meal kits! These are some of your biggest fans, and they'll want to support you.

Invite your community to sponsor meals

One of the hard things about this period for food businesses is that with fewer orders coming through the door, it can be hard to keep employees on the payroll. Eventually, some business owners might need to make the painful decision to lay off members of their team.

To prevent this, some food businesses have found creative ways to keep their kitchens busy: they invite the community to sponsor a meal for others, such as frontline healthcare workers.

Delivering sponsored meals to hospitals in Harlem

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Photo: Fieldtrip restaurant's Chef JJ

Fieldtrip is a Harlem-based restaurant owned by Chef JJ that sells bowls of rice. When the lockdown in New York began, CNBC reports that the restaurant's sales dwindled. One day, JJ's wife, a healthcare worker, came back home very hungry from a long shift — she hadn't eaten all day. The next day, he took 40 bowls of rice to a neighbourhood hospital and gave it to the workers for free. He also shared it on Twitter, and a movement was born. People wanted to contribute and donate so he could feed more people.

Fuelled by the donations, he was able to hire back 70% of his workforce, and he made it such that customers could include a small donation to feed healthcare workers when placing an order for themselves.

Lazy Dog's "sponsor a meal" programme

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Lazy Dog's Sponsor a Meal Programme

California-based Lazy Dog also did something similar. Every time a customer places an order, they get a small nudge to buy a meal for a healthcare worker. Customers can also go to a dedicated page to sponsor meals without necessarily placing an order.

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Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar

Back in Ghana and Nigeria, this is a model that could also work. Identify hospitals or communities that need help, and let your customers know that there's an option for them to help their communities while supporting your team. Given a reason to help, it's likely that people will rise up to the occasion to support a noble cause.

Create a simple donation page

Use Paystack Payment Pages to create a simple page through which well-wishers can make a donation through multiple payment channels.

Find out how →

Sell custom cocktails and private label drinks

With most bars closed, people are eager to experiment with new ways to get a drink. If your establishment is known for unique cocktails, it might be worth exploring how to deliver your customers' favourite drinks to them.

Quacktails' cocktail delivery goes viral

Lagos implemented a four-week lockdown as a response to COVID-19. A few days into the lockdown, two 9-to-5ers launched Quacktails Cocktail Delivery, a cocktail brand that sold cheekily-named drinks in colourful pouches.

The brand blew up, seemingly overnight. They soon saw their sales spike from about 30 pouches per day in the first week, to more than 250 a day in their fourth week, and it became common to see people sharing the now-iconic Quacktails pouch on Instagram Stories.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Quacktails founder Dare, and here's what we learned about some of the tactics behind their viral success.

  • They packaged their cocktails in fun, unconventional plastic pouches that many people were excited to take photos of and share online
  • Their impeccable customer service earned them loyal customers, 70% of whom became repeat customers. Additionally, about a third of customers went on to refer other customers.
  • While most businesses attempt to cultivate customers on Lagos Island, Quacktails found some of their most enthusiastic customers and referrers actually came from the Lagos Mainland
  • They iterated on their product quickly. They initially assumed that the choice of base spirit (gin, whiskey etc) would drive decision-making, but from careful observation, they realized that the flavour profile (sour, sweet, spicy) had a greater influence on choice. They quickly updated their menu to organize the drinks by flavour profile, instead of by base spirit.

Haus co-creates apéritifs with restaurants

California-based direct-to-consumer apéritif brand Haus is collaborating with a number of American restaurants to co-create custom apéritifs that reflect each restaurant's culinary approach. 100% of sales go directly to the restaurant to support them during these challenging times.

For fans of these restaurants, this is a unique, exciting value proposition they're likely to be excited to support.

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Photo: Haus' The Restaurant Project

If you own a food business in Ghana or Nigeria, consider reaching out to local microbreweries, such as Tema's Django Brothers, and Abuja's Bature Brewery, to co-create unique experiences for your customers.

Mission Taco goes private label

Mission Taco Joint, an American restaurant chain, adopted a similar model. With affordability in mind, they partnered with a distillery, and designed a private label drink that fit their flavour and cost profile.

Mission Taco Drink
Photo: Mission Taco's Private Label Drink

For restaurants, private label drinks are a creative way to leverage your brand to create special experiences your customers will love. They're also a good way for your customers to stay connected to your brand while supporting your business.

Sell cookbooks

Restaurants and food businesses have a wealth of intellectual property locked up in menus. Cookbooks are an evergreen revenue stream that allows your most passionate fans to deepen their relationship with your brand.

Dishoom's magical Cookery Book

Shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year 2019 award, Dishoom's From Bombay with Love is an incredible example of a restaurant-authored cookbook.

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Photo: Dishoom Cookery Book by APE

Dishoom, which has eight locations in the UK, is inspired by the old Irani cafés of Bombay. The restaurant enjoys a passionate community of fans who stand in long queues for a taste of the restaurant's bold, spicy flavours. With the Dishoom Cookery Book, fans are able to revisit over 100 classic Dishoom recipes even while the dining halls are closed.

Beyond the recipes, the book shines with Dishoom's characteristic quirky wit, with maps, travel guides, and historical photos of the city to which the restaurant pays homage. One customer described it as "A love letter to Bombay told through food and stories" and another described it as "Part travel guide, part history, part food manual, this reads like a personal diary with a stonking recipe collection as a bonus."

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Photo: Dishoom Cookery Book by APE
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Photo: Dishoom Cookery Book by APE

Dishoom has been forced to close its doors due to the pandemic. Unable to offer dining room service and unable to make delivery and pickup work, Dishoom's Cookery Book has become a financial lifeline for the restaurant.

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Photo: Dishoom's Home Page

The Pandemic Pack - a joint cookbook by 16 restaurants

In Wellington, New Zealand's capital, 16 local food businesses brought an interesting twist to the cookbook idea. They jointly published The Pandemic Pack Collaborative Cookbook, an 86-page cookbook with 41 recipes from all the participating restaurants and cafes.

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Photo: The Pandemic Pack Collaborative Cookbook

Where Dishoom published a paperback cookbook, The Pandemic Pack is an ebook, which makes it more affordable, and faster to bring to market. The restaurants also made it available at a pay-what-you-can price while recommending a base price of 10 NZD. All proceeds from the sales are then split between the contributors.

While it might be very difficult for you to publish a physical cookbook during the pandemic, consider publishing an ebook either solo or jointly with other food businesses in your community. Whatever you do, definitely take a leaf from Dishoom's book, and let your brand shine through.

Offer a meal subscription service

Subscription plans are a great way to lock in recurring revenue and provide convenience to your customers.

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Photo: Plated Convenience

South Africa's Plated Convenience, a fresh food company, does this well. Customers subscribe to a 7 to 30-day plan, pay once, and Plated Convenience receives their payment in advance and as a lump sum.

How to set up subscriptions

If you're a food business owner in Ghana and Nigeria, you can set up a subscription plan using Paystack, in a few easy steps. Every week, or every month, or at whichever cadence you specify, your customer is debited automatically, and you get paid.

Set up automatic recurring billing in 5 mins

Paystack lets you set up automatic recurring billing without a line of code.

Find out how →

Become a butcher's shop

This strategy is similar to pivoting to grocery sales, and it works for food businesses that sell food that's made from meat, poultry, and fish. If your food business fits this profile, you can borrow a few ideas from restaurants such as H20 at the Hilton Pensacola Beach, and El Che Steakhouse & Bar.

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Photo: El Che Steakhouse & Bar

H20 at the Hilton Pensacola Beach is a Florida-based restaurant attached to the Hilton Hotel. They got the idea to start selling beef when Omar Torres, H20's Executive Chef, decided to sell out their Wagyu beef stock at a discount to avoid waste.

In 30 minutes, they had sold out, so they ordered even more beef and produce from their suppliers. This simple yet effective pivot has made it a win-win for everyone — the suppliers, whose demands from restaurants had dried up, are now selling more, the restaurant is keeping staff on the payroll and boosting sales, and customers get access to rare and premium beef cuts at a significant discount.

Similar to H20, El Che, a Chicago-based restaurant with Argentinian influence, made a similar pivot. They collect beef orders, put customers on a waitlist, and then reach out to the customers for pick up once they're stocked up.

If you're a food business owner in Nigeria that sells beef, poultry, or fish-based meals, you too can adopt this model, leverage your supplier relationships, and invite customers to place orders online for delivery, or for drive-by pickup.

Pivot to grocery sales

Fusian is a 10-year old, Ohio-based sushi chain with 10 locations. In March 2020, when the government asked all restaurants in the state to shut down, their operations came to a complete halt. This was until one of the founders had the idea to turn their stores into a part-time grocery delivery service.

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Photo: Fusian

Why it makes sense for restaurants to sell groceries

  • With many grocery stores experiencing long queues and running out of stock, restaurants can leverage their relationships with their own produce suppliers to serve as an alternative grocery location. Restaurant suppliers are also eager to meet this need because many of the restaurants they supply have shut down.
  • In some cases, the lockdown left restaurants sitting on large supplies of perishable produce that was at risk of spoiling. Instead of throwing the produce away, they were able to rescue the situation by selling the produce directly to customers.
  • Restaurants often source extremely high-quality produce and cuts that might not be easily available from traditional supermarkets or grocery stores. Customers are excited by restaurant pantries because they know they'll get great deals on very high quality produce.

Frisch's Big Boy, a US-based restaurant chain, also leaned into restaurant pantries in a big way. They opened up 100 out of their 120 locations, rebranded them as Big Boy's Markets, and invited locals to shop for everyday grocery items. Like Fusian, they leveraged their relationship with their suppliers to stock their locations. They also made it possible for people to order their groceries online.

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Photo: Frisch's Big Boy

Over in Canada, Earls Kitchen and Bar is doing same. Across its 68 locations, Earls is selling grocery bundles at various price points (from $30 to $99) available for pickup and delivery.

As a food business, you might have access to restaurant-grade ingredients and products that people can't usually find. Think Fusian's organic tofu, for example, or King's Seafood's aged top-grade steaks. These rare offerings and competitive prices make restaurants-turned-grocery stores attractive to many buyers.

In some other cases, the lockdown left many restaurants with large piles of supplies they were unable to sell-off. King's Seafood, a 75-year old, USA-based premium seafood and steak chain had this challenge, and they simply converted one of their stores into a grocery store and invited locals to shop. The pivot was such a hit that they've kept the operation running.

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Photo: King's Seafood

Offer family and group meals

Schools around the world are closed, leaving parents attempting to navigate a high-wire act of working from home while taking care of children. Smart restaurants are meeting the specific needs of families by offering family-sized portions on their delivery menus.

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Photo: Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar

Families love it because they enjoy volume discounts when making relatively large orders, and there's been such a surge in demand for family-sized meals that restaurants that don't sell them are leaving money on the table.

Lazy Dog added five family meal plans to their menu to meet this demand. Each pack serves four to five people, and for every family meal a customer buys, they donate a meal for free.

Consider throwing in a few photocopied colouring pages in each meal pack for the kids. This gives parents a tiny extra reason to purchase from you over another restaurant.

Restaurant suppliers can supply directly to customers

When the effects of COVID-19 broke out, many restaurant suppliers saw a sharp decline in orders from restaurants and a spike in orders from everyday home cooks. A few of these suppliers leaned into the trend and made their products more retail-friendly.

Burlap & Barrel sells spices directly to customers

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Photo: Burlap & Barrel

Burlap & Barrel, a New York-based spice supplier experienced this same phenomenon. First, they saw their orders from restaurants crash. They then experienced a dramatic increase in orders from two home cooks.

To meet the demands of this new type of customer, they made two significant changes.

  • Burlap & Barrel source for spices from more than a dozen countries. To hedge against delays and production backlogs as a result of the global lockdown, they increased the size of each order
  • Chefs tend to cook in large quantities and add spices with a large spoon. Home cooks, however, typically sprinkle spices. When Burlap & Barrel started selling more to home cooks, they perforated the tops of their spice containers so their new customers could sprinkle away!

Similar to Burlap & Barrel, if your food business primarily supplied restaurants and bars before, explore the possibility of selling directly to consumers by making a few strategic changes to your product.

Sell custom condiments online

Many restaurants serve specially made condiments to go with their meals. Examples close to home include the amazing green pepper sauce you enjoy at Accra's Front/Back or the bottle of shito sauce you can add to your order at most Chicken Republic outlets in Nigeria.

These condiments are usually popular with customers, and if you're a restaurateur in Ghana or Nigeria, there's an opportunity to package, market, and sell these condiments online.

But first, how do you package the condiments?

Packaging your condiments

The way your packaging looks can be just as important as how your condiments taste. Glass jars are a great way to package most condiments, so here are suggestions for two glassmakers in Ghana and Nigeria you can partner with.

Selling your condiments online

If your restaurant is already listed on a food ordering platform like Jumia Food, you can add your condiments to the list of available products.

Otherwise, consider using a simple tool like Paystack Payment Pages to sell your product online.

Start selling with Paystack Payment Pages

Payment pages are the fastest way to collect payment Create a simple page to sell your condiments and products online. You don't need a website and you can set it up in minutes.

Find out how →

Sell gift cards

Selling gift cards is one of the more popular ways food businesses around the world are trying to stay afloat. The premise is simple — a customer buys a gift card today, and sometime in the future they exchange the card for products or services at your establishment.

Here's why many food businesses are selling gift cards

  • Since the pandemic began, gift cards have been a way for food businesses to immediately raise cash and keep operations running
  • Selling gift cards could also be a form of marketing. When customers buy them and gift them out, the recipients experience your brand, possibly for the first time, and you get an opportunity to convert them into repeat customers

Important things to keep in mind

Gift cards are effectively a type of no-interest microloan. They can work...as long as multiple customers don't attempt to cash in their cards at the same time. In the United States, some restaurants have halted gift card sales entirely due to the concern that selling gift cards is a short-term bandaid that only delays the pain. Some are also concerned about what would happen if they go out of business and their fans are left with gift cards that can't be redeemed.

As if that weren't enough of a headache, in the United States, escheat laws carefully regulate what happens with unredeemed gift cards. It's important to find out if similar laws exist in your country.

If you take this path, it's important to do so with a clear-eyed understanding of the risks.

How to make and sell your gift cards

As an alternative to physical gift card, you could create a simple design with Canva, a popular design tool. Here're several free and customisable gift card templates on Canva you can choose from.

Once customers pay for your gift cards online, you can send them their gift cards via email or WhatsApp. When they come to redeem their cards in the future, they simply show you the gift card from their phones, and you check their names against your record.

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Photo: Suregifts

If you're a Ghanaian or Nigerian food business owner, you can sell gift cards directly on your website or a Paystack Payment Page.

If your business is in Nigeria, you can also list them on a third party gift voucher platform such as Suregifts. To get started, simply reach out to their team via any of the following channels, and inform them you'd like to list your food business:

It's free to list your business on the platform, and the Suregifts team designs the graphic that appears on your gift card too.

Teach cooking classes online

Food businesses, chefs, and cooking instructors are taking to the internet to host paid cooking classes.

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Photo: Mike Greenfield on Teachable

Mike Greenfield, co-host of a popular YouTube cooking, show leveraged his popularity and expertise to start a paid cooking class on his personal website, and on Teachable, an online platform where people pay to learn new skills. On both websites, he teaches home cooks how to bake sourdough from start to finish.

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Photo: Airbnb Online Experiences

Airbnb Online Experiences also lists several cooking classes hosted by cooking instructors from all over the world. Each cooking class is a practical and immersive session where participants learn everything from making Japanese Mochi to Portuguese Tapas.

There are several other platforms such as Udemy, Skillshare, and Instructables, where cooking instructors host their classes. Like Teachable and Airbnb Online Experiences, these platforms often charge a small percentage of each instructor's earnings in exchange for hosting and marketing their classes.

Consider leveraging your expertise by offering paid courses that allow people to level up in the kitchen.

Make hand sanitisers from your distillery

South Africa placed a ban on alcohol sales when the lockdown was introduced. The alcohol industry came to a halt overnight, and many distilleries were left with a large stockpile of alcohol. Because hand sanitisers have an alcohol base, several liquor companies such as Inverroche, a popular artisanal gin brand, made a quick pivot to start producing hand sanitisers instead.

In Inverroche's case, they had to apply for special licenses that allowed them to be recategorised as an "essential business," and they were soon underway to turn alcohol into sanitisers.

Amass, a USA-based distillery, also leveraged their know-how and access to alcohol to make sanitisers. They put a hold on their vodka and gin production and committed to producing 15,000 bottles of hand sanitisers.

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Photo: Amass

If you own a small distillery in Ghana or Nigeria, chances are that you have easy access to alcohol and the know-how to produce hand sanitisers. This might be a good opportunity to drive sales and to contribute to the fight against this pandemic.

Offer concierge services

To create work for employees, several businesses are offering concierge services where they collect grocery lists from customers and help them shop, for a fee.

The team at All Together Now, a Chicago-based restaurant, is one of the many businesses that launched a version of this business model. In their case, customers call them for wine and cheese recommendations, and they go out to get it for them.

Food businesses are ideal for this because they have strong relationships with different suppliers, so they know where to quickly get many types of items.

How to transition your food business online in under 30 mins

If you're thinking of taking your food business online, and you should, we wrote a comprehensive guide that shows you how, in clear and detailed steps.

How to transition your business online

This is a comprehensive guide to everything you need to go to start selling online.

Start selling online →

Bringing it all together

A lot of the ideas in this guide fall into one of three themes — aggregating demand, going online, and building direct relationships with customers. Let's take a closer look at each theme.

Band together and aggregate demand

There's strength in numbers. When you partner with other businesses in your community, you're able to leverage each other's strengths to reach more customers, sell more, and hold each other up. We already saw how 16 food businesses in Wellington came together to publish the Pandemic Pack Collaborative Cookbook.

Australia offers another example of food business owners supporting each other. Popular baker Alisha Henderson (she goes by @sweetbakes_ on Instagram) rallied the professional baker community around the hashtag #cakemailaustralia, where they could highlight their goods by tagging it with this tag. She drove her community to the hashtag and highlighted some of the best entries on your Instagram Stories.

And in Ghana, Thrive Together offers yet another incredible example of community in action. It's a community of independent Ghanaian brands who have come together under one banner to not only survive the pandemic but to thrive beyond it.

During this period, it is critical to join forces with other businesses in your community to aggregate demand. Don't go at it alone.

Bring your business online. That's where your customers are.

Without an online presence, your business is limited only to customers who walk through your doors. Taking your business online immediately removes geographical barriers because customers from almost anywhere in the world can purchase from you.

To go online, you could start by creating simple Facebook and Instagram pages and pairing them with a Paystack Payment page, so customers can find you, and also pay you. You could also set up a website, and integrate it with Paystack. Here is a comprehensive overview of how to do this.

Build a direct relationship with your customers

The food businesses who have the best chance of making it through this challenge are those who have invested in building a deep relationship with customers.

While social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook are important, it's even more important to maintain a contact list of all your customers. A customer's phone number and email address mean you're able to give them a sense of an ongoing sense of how best they can support you.

This is yet another area where collecting payment online works better than cash: by default, every online transaction automatically builds up your database of customers and their contact information. During moments of crisis such as right now, that contact list is gold.

We're here to help

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Photo: Paystack Squad

Paystack is a technology company powering growth for businesses in Africa through our collection of simple, powerful payment tools. For many businesses, the internet is new territory, but we're here to help. Over the years, we've helped over 60,000 businesses in Nigeria and Ghana start to accept payments and do business online.

Selling online might look like a very big change from what you're used to, but you'll come to see that it opens you up to even bigger opportunities for growth. You can reach us via email at [email protected] and by live chat when you log into the Paystack Dashboard.

We wish you and yours the absolute best, and please reach out if you have any questions about transitioning your business online!

Sources and references

To produce this deep dive, we looked around the world for interesting ideas we hope food entrepreneurs back home can borrow. Here's a long list of articles, videos, and podcasts we sourced many of these ideas from. Thank you to the reporters and content creators.