Easy to learn, hard to master.
Like your favourite version of PacMan, takeout & delivery services are a large departure from the traditional dining experience that are, in theory, easy to implement, but have many subtle nuances that make them very difficult to master.
And these channels are here to stay — research shows that off-premise dining is expected to hit $154.34 billion by 2023.
So, how do you provide the same quality that you provide in-person in this uncharted territory?
Take it from the experts: here are DineEasy’s 5 steps to 5-star takeout & delivery services.
- Revisit your menu
Wait, I need a new menu too?
Well, maybe. It might seem natural to hold your menu constant in this time of uncertainty, but it’s a good idea to refine your menu to allow for speed, accuracy, and quality in the context of delivery and takeout.
The truth is that some dishes just don’t travel well (cold fries and melted ice cream, anyone?), and some items may need to be modified so that they can travel well — i.e. whipped cream instead of ice cream. Other items may, sadly, need to take a slight hiatus from your menu until they can be offered in-person.
And your customers value speed. Offering a special takeout & delivery menu helps streamline your kitchen and ensures that you’re not sacrificing the quality of your offerings.
If you’re licensed to do so, offering alcoholic beverages through takeout & delivery is also a great avenue to explore when curating your off-premise menu. Not only do alcoholic beverages like bottles of wine typically have great profit margins, but they also save your customers from having to make another stop — a convenience that many will be very grateful for.
2. Select appropriate takeout packaging
Takeout packaging is how you deliver value to your customers; it is at the heart of all issues with takeout & delivery, and has the power to make-or-break your customers’ takeout experience.
Take care to use appropriate packaging for each item, whether it necessitates being spill-proof, insulating, moisture-resistant, grease-resistant, etc. This ensures that your customers are receiving their food exactly as intended, and reduces the chances of receiving complaints of the food quality due to delivery delays.
Other important considerations are choosing packaging that complements the brand of your restaurant, and finding ways to include ample napkins, utensils, and condiments along with each bag.
Read more about takeout packaging in our other blog post, entitled “Takeout Packaging: the Hidden Secret to Gaining and Retaining Customers”.
3. Safety first
This nearly goes without saying, but customers want to feel safe when they order from your restaurant, now more than ever. Take extra care to ensure that staff and customers alike are using all proper PPE and are actively working to limit food handling and contact between people.
It also goes a long way to ensure that the takeout packaging used is secure and tamper-proof to defend against accidental slips and wandering hands. An excellent, but cost-efficient way to do this is to add a sticker to each takeout bag that is not able to be removed without damaging the bag or the sticker itself.
4. Constantly review your processes
Each restaurant’s situation and environment is different and constantly shifting. No matter the number of tips and tricks that we, or anyone else, gives you, the only way to gain a competitive edge in your specific competitive environment is to adopt a mindset of continuous improvement and be constantly looking for ways to better your operations.Customers and employees alike have deep wealths of ideas on how to improve your business processes — the challenge is to tap into these reserves in a constructive way.
Actively create avenues to ask your guests, “How could we improve our takeout or delivery dining experience?”, whether it be verbally, via e-mail survey, or over the phone.
Similarly, regularly give your employees opportunities to provide you feedback on what is, and isn’t working in the restaurant. Not only will your employees appreciate being heard, but you gain insights directly from ground zero.
5. Promote Yourself!
Keeping in touch with your customers virtually while people are spending more time at home is crucial to building and maintaining relationships.
But don’t worry, time spent on connecting with your customers is time well spent. Studies have shown that coupons and promotions from restaurants change 83% of customers buying behaviour, and customers that use coupons or another form of promotion spend, on average, 24% more than customers who do not. Not only will offering promo codes or discounts to your customers increase traffic to your website, but it will also increase your sales — a win-win!
But the line is thin: 51% of US survey respondents say that they are loyal to brands that interact with them through their preferred channels of communication, but 81% of the same respondents feel loyal to brands that are there when they need them, but otherwise respect their time and leave them alone.
Customer engagement in 2021 looks more and more like hands-off methods of marketing: platforms like Instagram are great for interacting with customers on their own terms and can be used to promote giveaways, promotions, new items, specials like Happy Hour, or photos of your products — after all, people eat with their eyes, not their mouths.