4 May 2020
Take-Out: The New Normal for Restaurants
It’s an unprecedented time for restaurants and one when failure is not an option, but change is required. Fortunately, restaurants in most cities and states are being allowed / will be allowed to offer take-out & delivery. Certainly, that’s much better than just being required to close doors for the foreseeable future.
Essentially, restaurants will become ghost kitchens. Even if operators have already offered take-out & delivery, it’ll be a challenge to shift the entire focus on what has previously been just a small percentage of business for most restaurants. Well, take-out & delivery will be the new normal and the only chance of survival would be to view this as an opportunity, not only to survive but also to build an additional profit center for the future.
That said, a shift toward take-out & delivery must have full commitment to deliver top quality food and service. It may even require more focus on delivering a positively memorable experience than ever before. It’ll be imperative to pay attention to detail, act with a sense of urgency and follow up AND follow thru.
Listed below are some suggestions & recommendations to successfully shift to this new normal:
- Evaluate your menu for the items that travel and heat up well to look and taste as they do as if the customer is dining in your restaurant.
- Outline reheating instructions and include with all orders.
- Create value-added specials for families such as dinner for four — appetizer, salad, entrée & dessert.
- Offer bottled soda as a drink offering.
- Be prepared with proper packaging including utensils, napkins and condiments. Don’t skimp on bags and boxes.
- Create a thank-you item (or items) to be included such as a low-amount gift card for a future order, a higher-amount gift card for when full dining is available, a hand-written note expressing thanks for their business, a freebie (a small order to taste another menu item)… Be creative but keep in mind, a little goes a long way!
- Be certain to include a business card from the owner or general manager with a note outlining steps should customers not be satisfied. If, and when contacted, act promptly and courteously.
- Pay special attention to order taking AND checking of orders upon completion to ensure accuracy.
- Ask about special food preparation requirements.
- Add a personal touch by making sure customers know the name of person taking their order.
- Phone calls must be answered as promptly as possible, and in a professional manner — Thank you for calling (name of restaurant), this is (name), how may I help you? — and upon taking the order, Thank you again for calling (name of restaurant), please contact me, should you experience any problems with your order, we do appreciate your business, again thank you.
- Pay attention to how the menu items are placed in containers to ensure they look attractive when the customer opens the containers.
- Include extra containers of sauces & dressings, as when reheated, many menu items tend to dry out and a lot of customers just like extra sauce & dressings.
- Be sure to track all orders and hold accountable all delivery drivers.
- Follow up with all customers later that day or at the latest, the next morning.
- A good rule of thumb for managing expectations is to under-promise and overdeliver.
- Include a list of future specials and of course, the take-out & delivery menu with all orders.
- Utilize the restaurant’s loyalty program to communicate with and market to the database of loyal customers and offer specials specifically to this list.
- Create a simple frequent diner program — for example: every fourth order receives a $10 or 10% off discount.
- Build order tickets by offering a multi-meal discount — for example: place a second or third-order at the same time and receive 5% and 10% off respectively.
- Offer an additional entrée with orders over a certain amount — for example: spend $50 and receive an order of spaghetti & meatballs at no additional charge.
- Market on social media with pictures of menu items, specials, etc.
- Market on social media with video of owner showing cleanliness of the kitchen, food preparation, personal message of care and thanks, etc.
- Document all processes and methods regarding take-out & delivery to incorporate into restaurant operations to enhance business when the restaurant is open for dine-in customers.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate with staff on changes AND progress. Celebrate small wins!