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Webinar Recap: Waze Presents — What’s next for shopping and dining?

Check out a recording of the session here.

Waze knows the challenges and joys of hitting the road. Much of what we know is informed by Wazers, our Map Editors and incredible partners from the public and private sectors. When we wanted to explore the question of what will happen “when the world starts moving again” we turned to our partners, leaders and experts in their fields, for insights into not just what they think, but what their companies and agencies are actually doing. And of course, we invited our entire Waze community to join us.

Our fourth When the World Starts Moving Again webinar focused on the topic of Shopping and Dining. It was moderated by Waze Head of Public Sector Partnerships, Dani Simons, and featured insights from:

Chris Lutick, Director of Public Affairs, UPS

Jenny O’Connell, Program Manager, National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)

Becca Parrish, CEO, Becca

Daniel Shlossman, VP of Growth, Sweetgreen

The Context

Waze and our partners alike have seen huge changes to our businesses since the pandemic began. As governments put in place mobility restrictions to protect public health, people stopped driving. Now, as some countries have loosened restrictions, driving is rebounding, while in other places driving levels are mirroring the “dance” of restriction loosing and re-tightening. Waze is helping people track these trends with a publicly available dashboard.

The first few months of the pandemic were a time of both enormous uncertainty and innovation.

The Conversation

NACTO is a professional association of 80+ transit and transportation agencies. Jenny O’Connell from NACTO talked about how cities moved to allocate more space for pick-up and drop-offs, outdoor dining and open streets. NACTO is helping their members document these practices on an ongoing basis, sharing best practices as they evolve.

Becca Parrish, CEO of Becca, works with some of the nation’s leading chefs and noted that she sees her clients and others in the industry embracing outdooring dining — but that’s not the only way they’ve had to adapt. New safety protocols and heightened attention to both working and diner safety has led to new ways of operating. And the economic crisis has led to the industry finding ways to make more visible the work they do to help the communities they serve with efforts like ReThink, which helps restaurants transform excess food into meals that nourish community members in need. Becca also noted “The restaurant model is so obviously broken, you could be the best restaurant in the world or the mom and pop red sauce joint around the corner, we’ve all been so hard hit by COVID.” She said that more aid would be needed, and campaigns like Save Local Restaurants are calling on the US Congress to pass the RESTAURANTS Act of 2020 to provide funding to help independent restaurants and their employees get through the pandemic.

Many larger scale restaurant chains have struggled through the pandemic as well, but as Daniel Shlossman, VP of Growth at Sweetgreen shared, some were a bit ahead of the curve. Sweetgreen already took 50% of its orders via their website and app prior to the pandemic, so the transition to a digital, order-ahead world was less dramatic for their business. What did have to change was one of their newer business lines, Sweetgreen Outpost, which was designed to provide customers at large sites — namely big office buildings — with a more affordable way to order Sweetgreen for lunchtime delivery. Daniel noted that “During the pandemic, Sweetgreen stopped all of their office sites and pivoted to “Impact Outpost” and served over 375,000 bowls to hospital workers via donations.” They are now experimenting with Outpost for large residential buildings to feed the legions of people now using their dining room tables as their offices. This can help reduce the number of delivery vehicles and potentially overall drives to their locations.

At the same time, overall deliveries are up. Chris Lutick, Director of Public Affairs, UPS noted that e-commerce was already seeing double-digit growth in the US year over year. But it’s growing faster than ever, Chris said, “Today we’re delivering paper towels, ketchup, mufflers, mattresses, rugs, I even saw an in-ground pool in one of our warehouses the other day…COVID has thrown us into overdrive.” The changes that cities have made to their streets to enable more outdoor dining and “slow” or “open” streets has made deliveries even more complex. Chris estimates that in a place like New York these changes add four minutes a day to a delivery. He noted that UPS still strongly supports measures to help local restaurants and businesses, but it’s an example of some of the lessons we’re learning as we start to adjust to the reality of this extended pandemic.

Jenny from NACTO said that their member cities are starting to glean lessons from their early efforts as well. She said that many are now taking a step back to understand more of the nuances of what communities and businesses alike need to get by in this time, recognizing for instance that some communities might prioritize more outdoor space for biking and dining, while others may value having more space for deliveries or outdoor classrooms.

So what will be next for the future of their industries? Our speakers had a few inspirational ideas to consider. Becca said that she and her industry are fundamentally optimistic “People have realized that restaurants are about connectivity and pleasure and we’re all really missing that.” Chris from UPS explained that as they’ve geared up to deliver more goods to people’s homes, they’re simultaneously preparing for the next unprecedented logistics challenge: how to deliver millions of doses of vaccines as soon as they arrive

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