*This is sponsored content provided by ShiftPixy*

As restaurants of all kinds rush to find new pathways to keep the lights on amid the COVID-19 pandemic, gig economy employment provider ShiftPixy has rolled out a two-pronged approach to help restaurants spin up native digital ordering channels and convert existing employees to delivery drivers who are able to bring meals directly to customers without the financial hit that typically comes from traditional third-party delivery.

ShiftPixy co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Scott Absher said, like most businesses, his California-based team is currently hunkered down and working from home as it scales up outreach to restaurants that are looking to immediately change their business models. The end goals are similarly twofold, surviving the current crisis and better positioning their restaurants for the time when restrictions lift and normalcy and customers return to dining rooms across the country.

“Some of the calls we’re having with restaurant operators are heart-wrenching,” Absher said, noting that his team is hosting hourly demonstration conference calls to get restaurants set up with native delivery as quickly as possible. “We’re now seeing some really aggressive attitudes toward change.”

With city- and state-wide lockdowns forcing many brands to confront industry changes that have been gaining steam for years now, Absher noted that customer behavior shifts that were already in motion have more urgency now that delivery and curbside pickup is the only way forward for many restaurants, especially in large metropolitan areas.

Put simply, native delivery allows restaurants to use their own proprietary channels, like their websites and mobile apps, to generate curbside and delivery orders. Restaurants can then use  either existing staffers for delivery fulfillment, which can fulfill delivery orders without taking the typical 30 percent commission hit for restaurants outsourcing both customer acquisition and actual deliveries from national providers like DoorDash or Uber Eats.

ShiftPixy’s native delivery push is boosted by its partnership with various POS systems. Restaurants already up and running with specific POS systems can get their native delivery programs up and running very quickly by simply downloading ShiftPixy’s mobile application suite.

“There’s no financial decision to be made,” Absher said, noting that ShiftPixy views its new delivery offerings as a benefit to customers already using the brand for its employee-sharing functionality. “It’s really a rethinking of their operation, and sometimes those are more painful than writing a check.”

While a lot has been made of direct delivery integration into existing point-of-sale systems in recent years, ShiftPixy is advising newly native clients to manually enter online orders into their existing systems and push off more sophisticated software integrations until the pandemic crisis has passed.

“We’re saying don’t worry about integration today, just use it as it is and you’re up and running literally in a matter of hours,” Absher said. “We can make you operationally functional on delivery now and as your volume picks up, then we’ll go back and build those bridges and API interconnects.”

To convert existing third-party delivery orders to native channels, Absher said a simple note from the restaurant thanking the delivery customer and informing them about direct ordering options can be an effective way to build native volumes, while lessening the commission impact on their bottom lines.

Independent restaurants tend to have unique challenges compared to franchised systems or large, multi-concept restaurant groups. ShiftPixy estimates that half of independent operators still don’t have their own online ordering platforms, which increases both the urgency and potential profits for brands launching native order functionality for the first time.

Native orders are typically easier to manage than third-party delivery orders, and many restaurants are now finding success in promoting curbside ordering options, as well, which Absher said is proving to be “a lifesaver” for smaller restaurant brands.

“We’re urging everyone to take immediate action, because you don’t know how long this is going to last, and you need to be prepared to emerge from this with a new perspective and a new sense of urgency about technical engagement. “Let’s get going, and let’s get moving right now.”

Outside of delivery, restaurant operators are also fearing the impact of temporary closures and furloughs on staffing once the pandemic has passed. Such concerns are especially vivid when brands like Walmart, Amazon, Instacart and major grocery chains are hiring new employees by the thousands to meet current demand.

As shared staffing is the core of ShiftPixy, essentially leasing back human capital to restaurants allows them to also cover insurance coverage for existing employees who transition to part- or full-time delivery drivers.

With the technology gulf wider than ever between large national restaurant chains and smaller restaurant brands, ShiftPixy is focused on helping restaurants clear the two biggest hurdles in the current landscape—staffing turnover and pivoting to higher off-premises volume, which is a trend that’s likely to accelerate in coming years.

“We built this solution to be an elegant way to solve a couple big problems for restaurant operators,” Absher said. “To me, it’s like a bridge is out and we’re running up the hill to warn everybody to stop. It’s sad that it’s taken a crisis like this for people to really wake up and say we do need to aggressively rethink the way we engage with employees and the way we engage with our customers.”