The global COVID-19 pandemic turned a bright spotlight onto restaurant’s takeout and delivery services. As customers became accustomed to eating restaurant food at home and restaurants began to focus on takeout and delivery services it became clear that these services were less than perfect.
Turning what had been, at best, an ancillary business into their main source of revenue meant many restaurants had to scramble to wrap their head around all the elements involved in running successful takeout and delivery programs. On the other side of the coin, customers began eating the foods they loved from their favorite restaurants in their own homes, often with mixed experiences.
We’re now more than a year past the forced changes of the pandemic and things have evolved for both the restaurant and the customer. Customer’s have had a myriad of experiences with these services and now have a much clearer idea of what they expect from them. Restaurants have adapted and loyal customers have been lost and gained. Moving forward, how can a restaurant further improve their takeout and delivery programs to create exceptional customer experiences which make and retain loyal customers? Restaurants around the globe are also wondering how to increase delivery orders.
Enhance The Ordering Experience
This means both orders placed via phone or, more than likely, orders placed via a digital platform. If we’re discussing analogue, phone based ordering it is best to have someone who can give the customer their full attention, i.e. without restaurant distractions, so the customer on the phone feels that their business is valued.
The world is increasingly digitizing itself and digital ordering is the way forward in a post-pandemic world. Digital platforms need to be as fluid and as intuitive as possible to ensure that the customer has the best possible experience. This is one of the many reasons Google Food Ordering is a great option for restaurants because the look, feel, and workings of the platform are already familiar to a vast majority of the general public, because they are already familiar with the Google platform through their other services.
The most important thing is that the digital platform enhances and facilitates a positive customer experience. After more than a year of using a wide variety of different ordering solutions, customers have come to know that these platforms work, and will quickly leave an ordering platform which is clunky and ill-functioning.
Limit Menus for Takeout and Delivery
Some locations have tactically limited their menus to increase order volume without compromising speed of service. This is an intuitive idea which can certainly increase dollar-amount sales, but it falls short of the customer service focused mantras heard all too often throughout the industry.
Other locations are tuning their takeout and delivery menus to ensure that the items on these menus fit the purpose of takeout and delivery. That is to say that, be it on the dinner table, coffee table, or even into the lap of whomever may be consuming them, the dishes left on the menu will be as close to restaurant perfect as possible when they’re finally consumed. Focusing on items which will continue to stay fresh in the packaging helps to ensure customer satisfaction.
If the pandemic showed the restaurant industry anything about takeout and delivery it is that, previously, it was a second thought. The generic containers used by almost everyone to package food prove that. Not only did the pandemic bring to light how much waste comes out of takeout and delivery food, but it also brought to light how terrible -for most foods- the generic packaging is.
Since the pandemic new forms of food packaging that keep the foods inside them fresher for longer have surfaced. Many of these were available before the pandemic but were often shunned because of higher costs.
Now the tables have turned and restaurants are clamoring for packaging that will stop fries and sandwiches from arriving soggy, keep wings crispy, and prevent that added protein option from coating the salad underneath it with lukewarm condensation.
These innovative packaging options are allowing locations to put items back onto their delivery and takeout menus that they had previously removed. They’re also severely enhancing the customer experience. The simple move of switching to more suitable or sustainable packaging can create a loyal customer out of a single order.
Label Each Box
It seems simple but so many restaurants fail to undertake this step. Writing what is inside each container on each container is a simple customer service trick missed by many restaurants. It is attention paid to details like this which shows customers that a restaurant cares about them. This can cause them to feel even more satisfied with the meal in front of them.
Personalized Print Marketing
When food is presented on a plate in a restaurant it is combined with the decor, the music, the interactions with staff, and the overall ambiance of that moment to produce an experience which can keep customers returning again and again. How does that experience compare to food pulled from generic boxes, plucked from a generic bag, eaten at the same table as every other meal? It doesn’t compare. So how can you recreate the experience?
Personalized print marketing allows a restaurant to connect with the customer without being there at the dining table with them. During the pandemic some locations went as far as to include handwritten notes from their employees in each takeout or delivery meal. This is not always necessary and a simple sticker with, say, a logo and the words “please enjoy!” may simply be enough to help spark that connection.
Similarly, personalized print media can be used to entice order recipients to place future orders or leave feedback. A simple leaflet explaining how much their feedback can help a restaurant, along with a QR code or a phone number could provide invaluable feedback. There are many creative ways personalized media can help a restaurant up their game and build a better connection with their off-premises customers.
Delivery times are being factored into the decision of ordering food much more frequently than they were pre-pandemic. With so many options, why should a customer wait longer for their food?
If a kitchen gets overwhelmed by takeout and delivery orders it is not only going to affect the customers placing the orders but it is also going to affect those dining at that location. To begin with, utilize a knowingly manageable region for delivery orders and then, once the system is up and running smoothly, the program can be reassessed and potentially opened up to a larger area. Delivery zones can always be expanded, but if they’re shrunk someone somewhere is going to be irate.
Last week we put together the pros and cons of using third party delivery services to cover last mile delivery, alongside the pros and cons of running a proprietary delivery service, check it out here!
Dedicated Takeout Parking and Pickup
Facilitate the takeout customer’s experience by providing VIP treatment. Dedicated spaces for takeout or curbside pickups right outside a location can make customers feel like VIPs, and it also stops them from trawling the block for 10 minutes whilst their order waits.
Furthermore, don’t make the customer wait. Make it clear inside the restaurant where they go to pick up their order. Making this experience as seamless as possible means that the customer, as well as the employees, will enjoy the fluidity of the process.
It is well quoted that customers who have placed an order online visit the restaurant 67% more frequently than those who haven’t. Therefore, these off-premise functions are an excellent avenue to help generate greater on-premise business.
Off-premise restaurant dining is still about the experience. If a restaurant takes every step possible to improve that experience, and continues to work to enhance the experience, they will increase customer satisfaction and, potentially, build customer loyalty, and increase delivery orders to that location.
Finally, whilst takeout and delivery are a great means of creating new customers they also offer the dangerous opportunity for restaurants to lose customers without ever knowing it. Finding a connection and bridging the gap between your location and their home is critical to receiving feedback and building long lasting relationships.