Offering takeout at your restaurant or bar can be an effective way to drive sales, increase profits, and gain more customers. Given the way the world has changed amidst COVID-19, offering takeout and delivery is the only way many restaurants are staying in business during social distancing. Additionally, customers are happier than ever to have options – if you’re offering takeout, they’re willing to support you (especially because you might also stimulate the gig economy!).
But if you’ve never offered takeout before, what are your options? How do you get set up? And what are the best practices when it comes to COVID-19?
Below, we’ve got your answers.
Diving into The Takeout Market
Prior to COVID-19, the U.S. was expecting a 12% food delivery increase over the next five years. With the shelter at home orders influencing a surge in food delivery, when the dust settles, this number might be larger. Why is this important? Because even if you’re just now setting up takeout, it’s an investment in your future.
To that end, below you’ll find a list of logistics to consider when offering takeout:
1. Can Your POS System Handle It?
Every restaurant has some sort of point of sale (POS) system, even if it’s entirely manual. Yet, the benefits of a powerful POS system are unignorable and, when it comes to takeout, they become glaring. Why? Because a centralized and intelligent POS system can:
- Help organize and facilitate delivery options
- Integrate with online ordering (how most customers are buying food right now)
- Keep up-to-date customer information
- Retain operational control
Lastly, certain POS systems can integrate with popular third-party delivery apps (we’ll touch more on this below).
The bottom line: If your takeout offering becomes a success, you’re going to want to be able to handle the influx of sales, or else you might lose customers on their first order.
2. To Deliver or Not To Deliver, That Is The Question
Do you want to offer delivery, or just pickup? Is this more about offering takeout options for customers that come to you – or do you want to open your doors to all delivery services?
These are important questions to answer, as they’ll change the way you structure your takeout offerings. Here are a few logistical things to consider:
- If you’re hiring your own drivers, train them – No longer is your restaurant the only “face” of your company. Now, locals are going to experience your brand with the courier. In which case, if you hire drivers, be sure to train them extensively on how to handle communication, safely transport food, and uphold proper etiquette.
- If you’re using a third-party delivery service, protect your business – What happens when an unreliable carrier decides to keep your dish in their car for an hour prior to delivering it? Now, the food is spoiled. In fact, it could make someone sick. Liability is a huge concern, here. Be sure that you’re not locking yourself in a contract that puts you at risk.
- If you’re not delivering, where are the locals coming from? – The reality is, if you’re not delivering, you need to be in a location where people can get to you. Is your restaurant easily accessible? Are there enough locals in your area that will be interested in takeout if you’re not offering delivery?
3. Create a Takeout Menu
If your menu is robust and multifaceted, consider simplifying what you’re offering for takeout. If a customer has to rifle through tons of items, they might feel overwhelmed. Starting simple, pointed, and with your best foot forward is highly recommended. Choose your best items across different parts of your menu and work to simplify it.
- Takeout tip: Be sure to consider food that could get too hot, cold, soggy, or that doesn’t sit out well. Don’t offer food that could spoil its integrity on the way home.
4. Delivery Supplies
You’re not going to be sending your food out with your own cutlery. You need functional delivery supplies. Depending on your takeout menu, consider:
- Takeout containers
- Pizza boxes
- Insulated food delivery bags (if you hire your own drivers)
- Disposable utensils
Your customers are going to remember the packaging their food came in. You need to pretend as if these locals have no other way to eat their meal aside from what you’re providing them. And you need to ensure the supplies you purchase are tailored to the specific items you’re selling. Think spoons for soups and saucy dishes, and knives for meat and larger vegetables.
Also take the time to consider: What’s the best container for each item?
5. Create a Delivery Space
You don’t want your delivery process to spark slowdowns inside the restaurant. If both locals and couriers alike are filing in a single line to complete their order, you might suffer from traffic jams. If you have the space, then designate an area for delivery. That way, delivery drivers can bypass the main line and you can increase efficiency.
COVID-19: During this time, there’s a lot of fear surrounding takeout. Understandably so, as customers want to avoid exposing themselves to the virus. Since restaurants can only offer takeout and delivery, we encourage you to create a safe, sanitary, and clean place for your takeout orders.
Now is the time to go the extra mile:
- Wipe and sanitize your packaging
- Create a protocol to wash down the area between deliveries
- Use safety products (gloves, masks, etc.) when dealing with the takeout items
- Use disinfectant products where applicable
Keep the above in mind once you reach the “Market Your Takeout” section further down. Showcasing the strides you’re taking during COVID-19 can put locals’ minds at ease, prove that you’re being diligent, and encourage people to place an order.
6. Consider Third-Party Delivery Services
With Uber Eats, Postmates, DoorDash, and countless other platforms installed on millions of smartphones across the U.S., is using a third-party delivery service the way to go? If you’re looking at it solely from a profitability standpoint, probably not. But there’s a lot to consider when it comes to convenience and exposure.
Being that many POS systems integrate seamlessly with third-party delivery platforms, orders are streamlined, trackability is viable, and it can be a breeze to get started. Additionally, while you may not have a strong takeout customer base, just being on these apps alone can create a ton of exposure. If you’re selling delicious eats, your customers will remember you – even if you’ve left the app.
The bottom line: Creating your own online ordering system, hiring your own drivers, and taking control of the process – end-to-end – poses higher risks and higher rewards.
COVID-19: With an influx in food delivery, setting up your restaurant right now might prove difficult. Be sure to shop around to see what company is willing, helpful, and excited to partner with you. And be wary of unscrupulous practices or companies trying to gut your profits during this time.
7. Market Your New Takeout Platform
Your menu looks so delicious it’s nearly edible itself. The logistics of delivery are sorted, the supplies stocked. Your station is sanitary, efficient, and ready for action. What’s left? Marketing your new takeout offering!
Marketing tip: Today, people are looking to their communities for answers, resources, and guidance. Carol Krakowski, director of insights at PowerReviews, says:
Ratings and review content is having great impact on consumer behavior in the COVID-19 era, providing the validation and social proof necessary to drive sales.
What your locals have to say about your restaurant is more important than ever before.
Nextdoor is built on the power of local. It’s the neighborhood hub that connects local businesses and communities, helping them share goods, information, and services. By utilizing your free Business Page, you can connect with locals in your immediate area, share your customer recommendations, and market your new takeout menu. Given the times, people are looking to local businesses that help empower the community. By signing up, you can:
- Grow your local presence and support your community
- Create authentic and valuable connections with locals in your area
- Target specific neighborhoods that could benefit from your new takeout offering
- Leverage your great recommendations to showcase your delicious items
The community is currently standing together to weather this storm. By connecting with them, you’re not only marketing your offering – you’re joining them in this fight.
If you have a social media presence, post about your new takeout offerings. To tie this back to #5 “Create A Delivery Space,” this might be a great platform to show how much care you’re putting into your product. Show your follower the safety practices you endorse, your takeout menu, and how easy it is to purchase a tasty meal!
COVID-19: Locals are looking to businesses that are leading with compassion. You might want to consider – with your new takeout offering – what you can do to give back to the community. Perhaps, for 24-48 hours you match every order and donate a meal to healthcare workers? Or you could give to those in need in your immediate community. This is merely food for thought.
At the end of the day, how you decide to market your takeout is dependent on what mediums you have available. Update your website. Create a Business Page on Nextdoor. Post on social media. Send out emails. And use whatever channels you have available to get the word out and stay connected to your customers.
Nextdoor, Supporting The Community
Given that 70% of our users turn to word of mouth from their friends, family, and neighbors when it comes to discovering new local businesses, and Nextdoor is able to directly plug you into those conversations. With COVID-19 upon us, consumer interactions with review and ratings content has more than doubled. The community is seeking the community for answers. And if you’re offering takeout, they want to know.
When it comes to how to offer takeout options at your restaurant or bar, remember to:
- Address your POS system
- Choose between delivery or pickup
- Create a takeout menu
- Stock your delivery supplies
- Designate a takeout space
- Consider using a third-party delivery service
- Market your new offering to your customers
Once you’re ready to go, sign up and claim your Business Page on Nextdoor. From there, add your takeout offering for all your neighbors to see.
If you are a local business, claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. Resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers during coronavirus, pertinent news affecting businesses, and more, are available in our Small Business Guide for Coronavirus Relief.