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Transitioning to take-out or delivery service? Read these expert tips

Phone OrderingAs the world struggles to contain the Coronavirus, many restaurants are turning to takeout and/or delivery to stay afloat. And that conversion may be somewhat challenging for businesses that have previously relied on dine-in trade.

The good news? In a survey by the National Restaurant Association, one-third of U.S. consumers called buying restaurant takeout an essential part of their lifestyles. And online food delivery service has grown so exponentially in recent years that pre-Coronavirus estimates had the market reaching $200 billion by 2025.

“Takeout can increase your business without significantly raising operation costs or forcing you to expand your facility,” notes the same report. “With thorough planning and execution, your takeout business can have an exciting impact on your business.”

In that spirit, here are tips from industry experts and eateries that have already mastered that segment of business.

Market your new capabilities

Promote your new capacity on social media, and consider print, digital and/or TV or radio advertising to let others know you’re open in a new capacity. QSR Magazine attributed a 100% spike in traffic at Popeye’s Chicken last year largely to its skillful marketing, including social media promotion of its new fried chicken sandwich.

Plan your mobile menu strategically

Choose popular items from your regular menu, at different price points, that can be transported easily without losing taste or losing texture. Include different price points, and offer several add-on items. “When ordering in the comfort of one’s own home from a website menu, customers — particularly millennials predisposed to customization — can add extra protein, guacamole or extra cheese without a second thought,” notes Rewardsnetwork.com. “It’s the genius pizza delivery services have mastered over the years. No server to upsell? Let the menu do it for you.”

Stock up on tools

Order extra take-out bags, food and beverage containers, utensils and napkins, focusing on materials that will remain sturdy, shut securely, keep food at proper temperatures and enable reheating. You may also want labels with instructions for storing and reheating your food and/or stickers with “use-by” dates. Choose designs that align with your brand.

Train staff carefully

Don’t assume your regular staff knows how to professionally handle new procedures. Walk them through order taking, order fulfillment, payment, order delivery and other key tasks. Efficiency is extremely important for take-out and delivery. Just ask the founders of In-N-Out Burger, who attribute much of the chain’s continued success to its fast, friendly, roller skate-enabled service.

Make ordering easy on the customer

To reach the largest customer base accept orders by phone or online, ensuring your online order system is mobile-friendly. Consider establishing an app that can maximize appeal to teens and young adults. Domino’s attributes much of its recent growth to an emphasis on online ordering, which now includes an iPad app featuring a 3-D pizza builder.

Prioritize order accuracy

Diners may not ever return if they drive off with the wrong food. Point of Sale software can help keep order details straight, and trained staff could double check everything from presentation to correct temperatures to sides to drinks to napkins.

Consider pre-payment only

Asking customers to pay ahead via credit card minimizes the extra contact required for handling (notoriously germ-ridden) credit cards and paper money.

Minimize contact during pick-up

If you can’t offer a drive-through window, ask customers to text on arrival so their orders can be walked out and delivered through car windows. Americans have always appreciated convenience; note that Chipotle strengthened its stock prices this year partly by creating “Chipotlanes,” drive-through windows designed for digital orders.

Start a take-out customer database 

Track all new contact info and start custom-tailoring offers and promos to their preferences and habits.

Skillfully implemented, your new take-out or delivery venture could open up whole new opportunities for your restaurant during this otherwise challenging time.

“Guests who typically frequent experiential options, like polished casual, food halls, or fine dining, might turn to quick service in the interim,” predicts Danny Klein in QSR Magazine. “Consumers in urban markets who don’t want to leave the house and don’t have easy access to grocery stores, or simply want to avoid the fervor, could dial up delivery for a brand they wouldn’t have considered before.”

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