June 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Online Ordering in the COVID Era

Grocery shopping pre-COVID was an experience in itself. Browsing the aisles and thinking about what delicious “healthy” options one could make was something I used to do.

As I have written in the past months, I invested in “cookware” (pots and pans are not current jargon). I also got new knives and two amazing items—a super-strong magnet that you can place all your knives on for easy access and a pole with hooks where I have hung all my utensils and pots. Really convenient.

There are so many great websites to choose from that you can use to turn a modest kitchen into a gourmet restaurant. I will boast a bit because my wife and two daughters often ask, “What new items are you making tonight?”

I was turned on to the style of prep work called mise en place, which means weighing, cutting up, preparing and measuring all the ingredients in advance. Then, when you need to cook it’s a no-brainer.

What I also learned is fresh ingredients are key to making good food. I haven’t mastered replacements or recipes, so I follow every line to the exact requirements.

So it’s 8:00 p.m. on a Saturday night and I realize I don’t have close to the amount of tomatoes needed for the Middle Eastern dish I plan to make. So what are my options? I could run to the few stores open on Saturday night (which means actually wearing real shoes and pants, not jogging pants and slippers). Or looking online, who will deliver?

My compliments go out to all the kosher grocery stores such as Glatt Express, Grand & Essex and Cedar Market. They accommodated the community during these trying times with many delivery options through their website or by phone ordering, though Saturday night I don’t expect them to be open.

If you haven’t heard of ghost kitchens, this was almost a thing before COVID. These are kitchens that make food for delivery only.

So we seem to have four of them: Burger Boss, Taco 185, Buckets Chicken (these three all deliver out of the same ghost kitchen) and Jerusalem Express. All of these are based in Englewood and deliver throughout the region. Who’d ever believe right after Shabbat, you can order pizza from an app and have it delivered in under an hour? Of course there are fees to order this and it comes with the service; it’s the same or less as a tip you’d pay your server in a restaurant.

I am a big Amazon fan as my readers know. I had heard about Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods being available via Amazon Prime. I browsed the virtual aisles on Amazon Fresh and not only found super fresh veggies and fruits, but also Amazon’s own brand, Happy Belly, which has all the common popular kosher certifications. Please check to see which ones are kosher (some are not).

After I load my Amazon Fresh cart I am given a delivery window of 2 to 4 hours. I couldn’t believe this would actually happen. Sure enough, two hours later, I had the whole order on a Saturday night. (A special bonus is that it was dropped off in paper bags to save the environment!)

Restaurants and POS (point of sale) systems have also changed in this era. Pre-COVID, a “mom and pop” place could get away with no phone orders and dine-in only. Even not offering delivery was OK. Today, everything has changed. The pizza place with three employees: Mom on the cashier, Dad on the prep and the chef making pizza, is long gone.

Now an owner/manager is highly reliant on internet and VoIP phones. For the most part, “working from home” for most of us our customers will get the same service/product. But for restaurants, their food must be made on site. The ability to fill/deliver orders online is key.

I am not recommending one POS over any other. My company is a stone’s throw away from about 10 outstanding restaurants on West Englewood Avenue in Teaneck. The frantic calls we get now are “my order tablet is not connected to the network.”

For most restaurants, their setup is:

– Internal web based POS

– Very strong WiFi

– Online order system that matches the POS items

– Three to four workstations, usually iPad- or droid-based

– Tablets for the servers to take orders if dine-in is allowed.

Then there are at least four tablets from UberEats, Seamless and DoorDash, all of which must be online to receive orders. The owners have to do this sort of dance between their restaurant and the multiple systems running. Printers alone is a challenge. Today it’s very common for owners and managers to be super tech-savvy as well as food-savvy.

I wanted to give a shout out to the manager at Senders Smoke Joint, Gabe Gilbert, who is both a trained chef as well as a semi-expert at the POS systems. The manager and Shalom Yehudiel, the owner at La Cuchina di Nava, invested in their wiring, POS and tablets as well as purchasing items to make delicious food. Chickies has not only an outstanding POS based on the Droid system but also has VoIP phones and an office to handle in-store orders.

Doni Secemski from Glatt Express migrated over to a new POS after 20 years with the older one, as he wanted to ensure he could meet the growing needs of his customers.

Now restaurants must have the internet; You can’t do the “work from home thing” when you are making food. To ensure service, we have installed 4g backup routers; some of our businesses are creating their backup plans.

My company doesn’t really do POS work, though this might change. These places are our GCG office neighbors and seeing them deal with the challenges, I truly got to see a side of how difficult yet important it is to run a restaurant in the COVID era.

Yes, these online ordering systems are easy to use, but it feels good to use them to support our local business owners, who have risked their health making changes to their food-delivery styles to meet our community’s needs.

Please make it your business to find something that you need and support our local food merchants.

If no one has called all of the owners out and clapped for them, here it is! To our local food merchants, applause, whistling, and clapping! Thanks for all that you do!


Shneur Garb is the CEO and founder of The Garb I.T. Consulting Group LLC, which specializes in education and medical cloud-based solutions. Questions can be sent to [email protected]

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