Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, The Honey Baked Ham Company’s® simple, adaptable food retail franchise model helped many HoneyBaked franchisees pivot and thrive in new ways. By strengthening community connections, implementing curbside pickup, taking advantage of technology or some combination of the three, HoneyBaked franchisees tapped into their creativity and relied on HoneyBaked franchise support to find success in a challenging year. Read on to hear them tell it in their own words.
How was your business affected by COVID?
John Midget, HoneyBaked Franchisee: “The immediate impact was felt during Easter. My store was down over last year and not long after Easter we were closed for 2 weeks due to local rules. That was the most stressful time of the year because we went right into summer without the Easter boost in revenue.”
Mike Cisco, HoneyBaked Franchisee: “Our business has three major avenues: Lunch, Catering, and Retail. When COVID first came about, our lunch and catering business essentially shut off. Since we’re considered essential, we were able to continue our food retail business, and that part of the business made up for the temporary loss of the other two. We actually saw an increase in food retail sales over the prior year. As people returned to work, our catering picked back up as well as lunch. Most of our lunch sales are about 70% take-out and 30% dine-in anyway.”
How did you adapt and overcome?
JM: “Once we were allowed to reopen, my team and I put together a curbside model that worked out well. We brainstormed over a weekend and implemented the shift that next week. We also brought on 3p delivery and began taking orders from day 1 with DoorDash and Uber Eats. HoneBaked corporate provided great resources for the onboarding process that made it easy.
Aside from the curbside model we limited all items to to-go only and reorganized the lobby to allow one person in-store at a time. We focused on making sure the team and customers all felt safe and could still provide the best experience as we could.”
MC: “We responded as quickly as possible and followed the CDC, state and local officials, and guidelines that our corporate office put into place. HoneyBaked has always had very strictly regimented quality control and cleanliness guidelines, even before COVID. We continued those, as well as increased hand washing, cleaned high-contact surfaces more often, and all employees wore masks.
We also made an increased marketing effort through window signs, yard signs, and social media to let customers know that we were open, and what safety measures we were taking.”
How did your customers respond to those changes?
JM: “Fortunately, we were able to open our lobby up according to social distancing standards while allowing for increased traffic. The customers responded well to those practices and were overall very kind. They loved the changes and noted several times about how they felt safe shopping with us and that noticeably encouraged my team. Several loved the curbside pickup and we continued to use it in our non-holiday periods.
Customer loyalty was still strong to HoneyBaked during the most crucial times and our sales were up for Thanksgiving! Christmas was also as strong as ever, to my surprise. With our core season being almost even sales-wise to last year, I have strong faith that we will rebound in 2021.”
MC: “The biggest challenge during the holidays is the high volume of people in a short time period coming into the store to pick up holiday orders. It creates lines on any normal year. With this year in particular, we let the customers know that we were social distancing and would only allow a certain number of people in the store at a time so, if they did see a small line, it would go quick because there were less people in the store.
We are very thankful for our customers’ support during the challenging time. They were grateful that we were taking all possible measures to keep them and the employees safe.”
What Does this Mean for HoneyBaked Going Forward?
JM: “In its own way I think COVID forced us to catch up to an already growing demand from our customers on speed and ease of ordering. Our sales models had remained the same for so long we had to completely rethink some of our strategies.
I am really excited to take the knowledge I gained from navigating 2020 and apply it to 2021. I think it will make us stronger overall as a brand and secure that loyalty even more.”
MC: “It’s always important to make the customer feel comfortable and safe inside your business, so we will continue to maintain a clean and safe environment as we always have. The advertising we did to tell our customers we were open helped keep us top-of-mind, so we’ll continue to use that through the pandemic and beyond.
As always during the holidays, we try to get the customers in and out without having to wait very long in line and we will continue to find ways to speed that process up without sacrificing the quality and customer service that sets us apart from other establishments in the area.”
Own a HoneyBaked food retail restaurant franchise and see for yourself how our adaptable model helped our franchisees shift to meet changes in the market during a challenging time for restaurant businesses. Get in touch today to find out how.