By: Jim Roddy, VP of Sales & Marketing at the RSPA
Resellers and software developers dedicated to the restaurant industry aren’t medical staff, but they are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis in other ways. VAR and ISV tools don’t include stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs, but their assistance – such as setting up restaurants for online ordering and delivery – is life-sustaining to gobsmacked merchants who need all the support they can get.
Our industry has banded together in an unprecedented manner to navigate through a pandemic that’s affecting millions physically, emotionally, and economically. Earlier today, the RSPA launched an effort titled Restaurant Rescue, a list of member companies providing online ordering solutions and related technologies that can help VARs and ISVs provide solutions quickly to merchants in need. Many of the products listed are being offered at a significant discount for a limited time to assist restaurants in distress.
Restaurant Rescue is easy to navigate, listing company names and a link to their most relevant web page. The list is organized by business type (ISV, ISV/VAR Hybrid, VAR, Vendor, and Distributor) to help solution providers and merchants connect with the companies that can meet their particular needs. To obtain a copy of the list and connect with the best contact, email Membership@GoRSPA.org.
In this RSPA Blog post, our sixth on the coronavirus crisis, I’m sharing excerpts of the email feedback I received after distributing the RSPA’s COVID-19 resource links to my subscriber list Saturday morning, March 22. The volume of comments was incredible – over 50 executives replied over the weekend to share their stories and feelings about this crisis. While some detailed actions their company has taken, many emails were simply solution providers venting their emotions.
Feelings usually aren’t a central focus of a business-to-business blog post, but I think it’s important to know you are not alone when you’re frustrated, scared, disoriented, sad, or all of the above. That’s why for everyone who has reached out to the RSPA, we have replied with a personal message and oftentimes directions to additional resources. Personally, I spent much of the weekend communicating with members from my new work-from-home “office” in the corner of my attic. Pennsylvania ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses to close March 20, so I grabbed what I could out of my west Erie office park desk and created a makeshift work area next to our Christmas decorations.
In these excerpts, I’ve redacted company names to protect the anonymity of the writer and I lightly edited comments for length and clarity. After reading these 13 email excerpts, you’ll better understand the pulse of the channel at this moment of the COVID-19 crisis.
Vendor Executive: I probably worked more last week on vacation than I usually do while not on vacation. [Redacted], like others I am sure, is scrambling to figure out how to help customers yet not destroy themselves in the process. It is a mess and no relief really in sight right now. I think the aftermath is going to be really ugly. I commend the RSPA for assembling the info and boiling it down so people can understand it.
VAR Executive: Nothing felt normal this week. I found it difficult to even remember what day of the week it was! We’re all working remotely, fortunately we were well prepared for this. There were a few minor glitches but all went really smoothly. I am super proud of my team. We spent about 90% of our time on the phone with customers to see what we could do for them. I felt that we had an advantage because we had a strong CRM system set up and could quickly identify and contact those that needed to be helped. Customers that already had online ordering set up were well ahead of the game. But I estimate that we probably helped get at least a couple dozen more set up online. We were very creative and my team worked tirelessly. Once this is all said and done, I think we will be stronger than before.
VAR Executive: Feels numbing. We have our restaurants closing and calling about POS-as-a-Service financial relief, and our grocery stores tripling their business. I am in the twilight zone!
VAR Executive: We focus mainly on grocery and wine/spirits businesses, so our customers are hanging in there. Personally I think many restaurants are going to need to pivot to survive, for example by becoming “grocerants,” a hybrid of grocery and foodservice with both online and in-store sales. That would bring people back in the store and shift back some of the revenue that’s all being swept up by grocery now.
Canadian VAR Executive: Tuesday or Saturday, not much of a difference in those times, even more chaotic. Bewildered … I think that is probably the right word. Chaos, confusion is also probably as accurate. We service grocery, c-stores and those are keeping us very busy. General retail, mostly slowed to close, and restaurants in this province are closed; only drive-thru and pickup works. We are too late to really have a take on the online ordering for many of them. We tried pushing this this week, with limited reaction because they are busy or keeping their $$$, they do not want to invest at this time and I get it. Right now we are servicing and maintaining remote support. The rest of our business is almost down to 0. Our government is providing some very basic support and this is slow to get here. I spent part of Thursday and Friday figuring out what I am eligible for and figure out how to get it.
ISV Executive: This past week was very surreal. I spoke to many dealers. Some were actually performing installs. Some were already planning to work from home starting Monday. I have many training sessions scheduled for the upcoming week with my dealers. Everyone is trying to cling onto some sort of sense of normalcy.
VAR Executive: Trying times and it looks as though we will have to lay off employees unless they come through with the zero-interest loan which converts to a grant for payroll and rent that they are discussing.
ISV Executive: It has indeed been a unique week. We have seen things go two ways: There’s the obvious, restaurants closing down for now, however, we have seen a more positive development also, which is new restaurants signing up with us because we provide a hygienic, no-touch payment option that is safe for staff and guests alike. We also make local delivery, curbside pick-up, and to-go sales models easier because servers can take a check with a QR code to present the guest to pay.
Vendor Executive: Chaos is the word of the day, every day.
ISO Executive: This moment in history is going to change how we conduct business going forward.
ISV Executive: It did not feel like Monday-Friday at all. Virtualizing the office in the middle of the week did not help and now that everything is at home it is really hard to separate work from home.
VAR Executive: It has been a crazy time for us here. A majority of businesses have been shut down to prevent the spreading of the virus. We have seen employee layoffs and long-standing businesses close during this troubling time. We have put all of our technicians on a “work from home” status. We understand that our employees have debts to pay off, so whether they service a client or not, we have committed to pay them a 32-hour work week minimum. We have also waived monthly fees for a few of our contract customers. In the short-term, we take a hit, but our employees and clientele have been with us for a such a long time that it’s the least we can do.
Author’s Note: I saved my favorite email reply for last because I thought it captured the spirit of the hard-working, in-earnest, happy-to-help POS reseller.
VAR Executive: As I was speaking with [my ISV Channel Manager] last night, I told him I was having a beer at my office (self-quarantined) programming pizzas for a restaurant to deliver today. His words were probably “one of only a few POS installs in the country in a restaurant in these turbulent times.” But they were opening for tomorrow on a local golf course. Serving take out and to go. The American spirit will prevail!
These are scary times with no comparison. As I’m editing this article, a link from Bloomberg News popped up on my Twitter feed that the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis president predicts the U.S. unemployment rate may hit 30% in the second quarter with a never-seen-before 50% drop in gross domestic product. Restaurants are likely to be one of if not the hardest-hit industry.
Remember, as these email excerpts show, you are not alone in this struggle. Additionally, the RSPA team has paused our daily activities to reach out to members to share what we can. We can’t manufacture sterile masks, but we can provide resources that our members need. We don’t have thermometers, but our keyboards and phone lines can provide relief, support, and information to those who need it.
Like I wrote last week on one RSPA Blog post, leading VARs and ISVs are coming to grips with their emotions and then taking action – today. Let’s lean on each other and follow through on the next best action we can to help our customers, employees, and our organization.