June 21, 2021
How rethinking customer needs and industry inspiration helped Seamore’s pivot their operations.
Seamore’s operates four locations across the New York City area, offering up some of the best sustainable seafood options the city has to offer. Like most restaurants, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Seamore’s revenue streams with halted on-premise operations. And like most restaurants, online ordering was critical to staying afloat.
With the onset of COVID-19, Seamore’s was forced to take a step back and reevaluate their customer’s needs and desires while also figuring out how they would continue to stay open. Anna Vagner is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Seamore’s. We spoke with her on how Seamore’s adapted this past year by implementing direct online ordering and getting creative with at-home meal kits and virtual events.
For restaurants like Seamore’s, delivery wasn’t a large focus prior to the pandemic. But as it came to be known, delivery would turn out to be essential. Anna admits, “I will say that a lot of our focus switched to delivery at the onset of COVID-19.”As a higher-end seafood restaurant, customers never really thought about Seamore’s as a delivery-focused business. And as many restaurants began to pivot operations, thinking about customer needs was the first step, as Anna notes. “The way we thought about our customers pivoted also. We had to really think about why people order a certain item with us when they come in to dine. When you're sitting at home and you think of delivery, you think Chinese food, pizza or Indian cuisine. You're not really thinking of higher-end seafood. But how do you change that and how do you create that part of the business [delivery] that really wasn't driving your sales in the past? So it was a huge priority to retain those customers that know and love Seamore’s, but don't necessarily think of us as a delivery business.”
When it came to delivery, Seamore’s was already using third-party marketplaces like Seamless and Grubhub. But as it’s come to be known, third-party marketplaces take 30%+ on each order, severely eating into profit margins at the most fragile of times. It was clear to Anna and her team that they needed a more direct solution.
Anna knew that direct online ordering systems were more beneficial for restaurants financially and provided a clear way for loyal customers to support their favorite businesses. Having already been a BentoBox customer since 2015, setting up online ordering would be simple and quick. But it wasn’t just online ordering that needed a solution and implementation. Anna and her team quickly realized that diners were looking for more ways to support restaurants and other restaurants were getting creative with their offerings.
Using BentoBox’s catering store, Seamore’s sells their “Finish @ Home” meal kits such as “Lobster Rolls (Options for 2 & 4)
“We started the meal kit conversation in May or June [of 2020]. Our CEO, Jay, was seeing all these things pop up — specifically from The Smith. They had a pretty large marketplace that sells both frozen goods as well as meal kits and large format family-style meals. He got a lot of his inspiration from them. We didn’t have much time to ask ourselves, “Hey, is this going to work? We already felt like we were kind of late to the game.” BentoBox’s catering store would also be a clear and easy solution for offering at-home meal kits for guests to preorder for pickup at any of their locations.
“We had a fair amount of success last month, for example, about 40% of all of our delivery sales were transacted through BentoBox versus a third party. Whereas, in the very beginning of the pandemic, it was closer to 10%. So I've really focused on driving home the importance of supporting local and cutting out the middleman. That’s become a huge focus of ours.”Part of driving home the importance of supporting restaurants by ordering direct is by also attempting to elevate the delivery experience itself. “We also put a huge focus on the packaging for our delivery orders, making sure that there was no detail spared and that every order that we received was treated as if the customer was coming into our restaurant and getting the full Seamore’s experience.”
Over the next few months, while online ordering started bringing in sales, the next item of business was launching at-home meal kits. “Within two weeks, we had our first initial meal kits developed and all of the R&D was done in terms of how it traveled. We started selling our first kits in late September, early October of last year. Over the holiday season, they sold over $15k worth of at-home meal kits. Apart from online ordering and at-home meal kits, the website itself is an important tool to keep guests informed about changes and new offerings at the restaurant. When asked how BentoBox has helped Seamore’s during COVID-19 to date, Anna replied, “Things are changing on a daily basis due to COVID-19. Whether we’re changing hours or menus, those kinds of small edits, I can just hop in there and get it done fast. On our end, it’s super straightforward and easy to navigate.” If you’re interested in learning about how BentoBox can help your restaurant online, get in touch with one of our specialists today for a free online demo.
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