Adjusting how you get your menu items in front of customers could help curb the drop in your sales numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As many restaurant operators transition from dine-in service to delivery and takeout service only, there are many operational decisions to make. The first decision, especially for restaurants in states and localities where dining in is currently banned, is whether or not to make the transition to a takeout/delivery only model or temporarily shutting the doors until the pandemic is over.
There are many financial and operational factors that you must consider before making these business-altering decisions. However, if you determine that pivoting to a takeout/delivery only model is the best business move for your restaurant business, these 12 tips could help ease your transition.
Update your website’s home page
When your customers want to know if they can still get your delicious menu items through takeout and delivery service even if they can no longer dine in, the first place they’ll check is your website. Make sure your takeout and/or delivery service is prominently displayed on your home page. Also display your takeout and delivery hours, especially if they’re different from your normal dine-in hours.
Promote your delivery service through digital channels
Promote your delivery service through your mobile app and email lists, especially if your restaurant is not known for delivery and takeout. Use social media to post photos and videos of your meals and successful takeout/delivery operation. If your current budget allows it, promote your delivery and takeout service online through social media ads and remarketing ads. Remarketing, which you can execute on Facebook, Instagram or Google Display Network, is a way to connect with people who interact with your website or mobile app. Before you use remarketing ads, you must first have your web provider place a small, unobtrusive piece of code on your website (referred to as a pixel). The pixel is unnoticeable to your site visitors and won’t affect your site’s performance.
Additionally, tailor your ad messaging for these uncertain times so that your customers know these are fresh ads reflecting your current operating model, e.g., “We know Taco Tuesday is a family staple, but even though you can’t dine in, make it an event at home.”
Require that takeout be ordered and paid online
Handling all transactions online promotes social distancing and protects both your customers and employees from handling cash. If this process varies from your normal takeout service, hang a sign on your door welcoming customers to order via their phones outside your store so that you don’t lose sales from those customers accustomed to ordering inside and paying in person.
Provide curbside pickup
Make pickup of orders as easy and sanitary for your customers as possible. Adjust staff responsibilities accordingly. Use your servers and other front-of-house employees to facilitate your takeout service. Require that employees wear gloves to deliver food to cars, helping to engender confidence of proper food handling among your customers.
Use staff for delivery
Before repurposing your FOH staff for delivery, check with your insurance carrier to ensure that you’re covered for off-premise activity. If you’re properly insured for delivery, you can keep your servers, bartenders and other FOH staff working during this uncertain time. You can also bypass third-party delivery commissions and fees, keeping the delivery fees in house.
Work with delivery services that are waiving delivery fees or offering discounts
If you’re not insured for staff delivery, make sure that you work with third-party delivery services that are temporarily waiving or discounting commissions or other fees. While there is some confusion surrounding how some third-party delivery marketplaces are adjusting their business relationships with restaurants in response to the coronavirus pandemic, work with your accountant to ensure you’re working with the service or services that offer a financial arrangement that works best for your restaurant business and your customers.
Trim menu offerings in the short term
Reduce your menu items to focus on high margin/low labor menu items to help make up some of the difference in slow numbers and to keep your inventory low. Dive into your recipe costing and offer specials on your high margin/low labor menu items. Cut under-performing menu items to reduce over-ordering and focus on selling fast-moving items with high profit margins. Limit your menu to items that are easily replicated, travel well and can be made with multi-purpose foods. Work with your vendors to ensure that inventory for items on your delivery/takeout menu will be available.
Offer takeout and delivery deals on perishable items
Wasted inventory is a top concern among restaurant operators in the current climate. Offer specials on salads and other menu items that you want to move quickly through takeout or delivery before they spoil.
Add family-style meal kits to delivery and takeout menu
Create uncooked meal kits. These kits make it easy on customers to put together an already prepped meal. This works especially well with such items as pasta and freshly made sauce but could also work for other types of meals or uncooked pizzas that customers can buy for the week and freeze.
Communicate your food sanitation protective measures
Let your customers know about the protective measures you’re taking. Send the message via your email lists and post on social, including videos showing deep cleaning of your kitchens.
Include serving best practices with every takeout and delivery order
Create a restaurant-branded card or note with every meal reminding customers that food sanitation doesn’t end once they take possession of their meal from your employee or delivery driver. Communicate to your customer how to serve, reheat and store their meal. Also remind them to wash their hands before opening the bag.
Limit hours of operation
Control costs by staying open only during busy lunch and dinner delivery and takeout times.
Offer coupons for dine-in service
Encourage customers to come back for dine-in service when the restaurant industry comes roaring back by including coupons with every takeout and delivery order.
If you’d like more information on moving your business to a delivery model, watch the roundtable discussion featuring industry experts from Restaurant365, FTR Hospitality and All Systems Hospitality, Inc.