- Toast POS
- Online Ordering
- Reporting and Analytics
Buoyed by Data, THB is Staying Afloat
THB is a 20-year-old, family-owned business, since they'd recently switched to Toast, they were able to pivot their model to meet the challenges of COVID-19.
For many, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a family affair. Across the world, people are doing everything they can to stay home, protect their communities, and wade through the uncertainty of this year together. For the owners of Maryland-based THB Bagelry and Deli, however, family time has taken on an entirely new dimension.
In 1999, first-generation Italian immigrant Tony Scotto, along with his siblings and cousin, opened Towson Hot Bagels in a Baltimore-adjacent college town. They worked towards the goal of connecting with the community through food. With only 15 seats in the original Towson location, customers were treated to the same vibrant family feel that defined the Scottos’ experiences growing up in Italy’s restaurant industry.
As Towson Hot Bagels evolved into the THB brand, their approach was rewarded by Towson University students and locals alike, repeatedly winning Best of Baltimore accolades. According to Tim Warfield, THB’s Lead for Branding and Strategic Marketing, the landscape was looking good.
“We just celebrated 20 years in business, with four total locations spread across the greater Baltimore area. In fact, we had plans in the works for two additional stores. Sadly, those had to be put on hold due to the disruption of COVID-19.”
Like so many of their peers, the THB ownership saw activity – and revenue – come to a grinding halt as shelter-in-place orders went into effect in March. In a three-week period, THB experienced a 75 percent drop in sales. This was further exacerbated by the transition to remote learning by many of the local college students. A major demographic was suddenly returning to their homes, away from campus, indefinitely.
“There was just so much uncertainty during that period,” Warfield explained. “We were still learning about the virus itself, and people were stockpiling supplies and preparing for the worst. That continued for about three weeks before we first identified the opportunity to turn things around.”
In early April, THB’s digital team began to see a spike in online traffic. With the initial shock behind them, patrons cautiously researched which local restaurants were still operating. From THB’s perspective, revamping its digital capabilities and optimizing the contactless experience was suddenly a matter of survival.
“THB has been a Toast customer for about eight months, which on paper, is certainly not a lifetime. But, that was exactly why were shocked at the level of insight we were able to glean from its data resources. For example, we used Toast to identify our most popular items and revamp the entire digital ordering experience accordingly,” said Warfield.
Since April, data has been the crux of THB’s COVID strategy. Through a combination of online orders, Toast-enabled self-service kiosks, as well as third-party delivery options, THB has built a robust pipeline of purchasing data to help inform decisions and stay ahead of customer trends.
THB is able to closely monitor which items are driving the lion’s share of revenue and which items should be removed from the menu entirely.
The transition has played a pivotal role in stabilizing, and growing, THB’s business amid a global pandemic. Following the initial drop in sales, THB has returned to pre-pandemic revenue levels despite the loss of core patron demographics. Compared to January, when the most active location was averaging 110 online orders weekly, THB was averaging 650 weekly online orders in August.
“We’re highly fortunate to be in a place where we can think about how to apply the lessons of COVID-19 to a post-pandemic environment,” said Warfield. “We’ve learned how to be agile with a relatively small amount of data from Toast – but having another year? Two years? Armed with that information we can really deliver on our brand promise of customer-centricity and community, without a second of delay.”