Modern living often leaves little time for cooking at home, especially during the week. Restaurant and delivery takeout services offer a welcome alternative to working people and parents who want to relax at home but are hard pressed to make their own meals. In fact, National Restaurant Association research shows that about one-third of consumers say that purchasing restaurant takeout is an essential part of their lifestyle. In addition, nearly half (46 percent) of adults – and 61 percent of millennials – say an important factor in choosing a tableservice restaurant is the availability of takeout or delivery options.
Quickservice, casual and even fine-dining restaurants are all capitalizing on the benefits and possibilities of takeout and delivery services. Takeout can increase your business without significantly raising operation costs or forcing you to expand your facility.
If you’re close to starting or growing a takeout business, consider the following as you package a successful enterprise.
Facilitate easy ordering
Be familiar and adept with ordering methods that appeal to your customer base.
The most common ways of ordering takeout include phone and online. Many restaurants are equipped to receive text-message orders and orders through restaurant apps from mobile devices; this is especially popular with teens and young adults.
Drive-thrus are no longer limited just to fast food either. Independent operations such as the Black Sheep Coffee Café in South St. Paul, Minn., are utilizing drive-thrus for takeout ordering and pick-up.
Put thought into the menu
An easy-to-read and audience-centric menu is just as important to takeout as it is to a main dining area. The menu should include all food choices that can be transported safely and easily. It should also feature variety and affordable price points.
Set up a takeout area
Consider having a separate counter or parking area for takeout customers. Treat it as its own business with clear, proper signage. If there’s not enough space for a separate area, you might use the end of the bar.
You have one chance to get the order right; otherwise, the customer might not return.
Utilize an accurate order-entry system, such as Point of Sale (POS) software. Train staff to complete their tasks correctly and efficiently the first time.
Check for accuracy during and after order production. Ensure the food is what the customer wanted. Verify that every item the customer expects is present, including bread, sides, napkins and utensils. Whenever possible, go over the order with the customer at the point of pick-up.
Use sturdy packaging
Takeout packaging must maintain the quality and integrity of your restaurant’s food. Containers should be durable to prevent leaking and resist breaking. Food items and utensils should be correctly packed and stacked in bags or boxes. Packaging that allows for reheating is another big plus.
Maintain food safety
Hold food at safe temperatures until the customer picks it up. Keep hot foods separate from cold ones. Ensure food will remain at safe temperatures during transport as well.
Provide customers with clear instructions for how to store food and reheat food. Placing “use-by” date stickers on all packages and containers is helpful, too.
Assign the right personnel
Schedule staff appropriately. Depending on your resources and requirements, you might assign specific roles for taking orders, processing payments, monitoring quality control and, if necessary, delivering orders.
Customer-contact personnel should be prepared to address questions and concerns, as well as advise on how to store and reheat food. Delivery drivers should be professional representatives of the business – honest, respectful, personable and responsible.
Grow through branding, marketing, sales
Takeout provides a great opportunity to market your brand and your business – as well as to increase your sales. Define your audiences and consider how you’ll promote your takeout both on-site and to the surrounding area.
Consider branding your takeout packaging with your company logo and tagline or marketing messages. Market and promote the service on your website as well.
Keep track of all contact information for customers who order online and by phone and mobile device. Maintain a contact database and market directly to those existing customers. Tailor offers and promotions to their habits and preferences.
With thorough planning and execution, your takeout business can have an exciting impact on your business.