To truly capitalize on your to-go system, you have to optimize. Here’s how…
You’ve got a restaurant that people adore. The next step is often an expansion or another location—but those are two very costly options. Franchise restaurants like Applebee’s and Chili’s recently found success with adding to-go ordering to their dining options. Sometimes customers just want your food without the full restaurant experience. A smooth to-go system offers additional revenue and flexibility that customers appreciate. It may seem like all you need is a working phone line, some order slips, a pen, and wait staff near the phone, but to truly capitalize you have to optimize.
Optimal Online Ordering Systems
People buy everything online these days. Ordering dinner is no different. Many franchise restaurants have nationwide systems that allow customers to order food via computer or smartphone to be delivered hot and fresh whenever the customer arrives for pickup. GrubHub offers small restaurants a chance to get online with minimal costs and time spent getting up and running. Web presence is important to gaining new customers. GrubHub is known to food lovers who might give your place a whirl just because they love GrubHub. Because the site has restaurants in over 900 cities across the U.S., it can even help you increase your tourist business, especially if your restaurant is near or part of a hotel.
Restaurants looking for an all-inclusive approach may want to consider Olo. Olo handles all the important parts of ordering online, available on an open platform and from on every device. They handle payment with major credit cards. They manage the menu and automatically remove items that are no longer available. Finally, the service provides analytics and data so you can track purchases. This choice is a bit more involved, but restaurants that want to appeal to younger customers will be at an advantage by allowing them to order from smartphones as easily as from their computers.
Quick Food Order Prep
Take a look at your menu to see what food can be prepared quickly and easily. Most customers might assume you provide your full menu to-go, but you may want to start out with a smaller to-go list. Consider what menu your restaurant might have if you owned a food truck. This works as a good starting point to determine what will still maintain its quality when prepared for consumption elsewhere.
A smaller to-go menu to start also means less supplies to take food elsewhere. While more orders can mean more revenue, it also can mean more overhead in take-home containers, plastic utensils and other things people expect in the carryout bag. Take a lesson from those restaurants that do takeout for a living: include only what’s needed. Make sure food prep for new orders has a solid procedure in place before you begin offering the service. Fast food is often wasteful food, so having procedures created that your team can easily follow keeps your food waste down.
Efficient Curbside Delivery
Once the food is ready to go out the door, you’ve still got to make it easy for customers to get it. The bar often becomes a default waiting area, but if your bar gets crowded, set a specific area aside for order pick-up. Be aware of how your customer arrives to your restaurant. If they take public transport, make sure your orders are well-packed. If you have a parking lot, set aside a space near the door to allow customers 10 minutes or so to pick up their food. If you have street parking, consider having runners ready to dash an order out to a waiting car.
Be clear to your staff: determine who is in charge of handling to-go orders on every shift. Making the hand-off as quickly and clearly as possible means a satisfied customer. Diners don’t want to come into a restaurant and wander around looking for their food. They’ll likely check with whoever you have working front of house, which makes that front person the default choice for who might handle to-go orders. Having a backup to-go person available during peak times is also a good strategy. If you don’t have someone hosting, the bartender may be a good choice.
To-go orders expand your business, but if you’re going to offer this service, be sure to do it well. Online ordering widens your customer base. You can either keep things basic, or dive in and appeal to a smarter customer from the beginning. Decide if you want to offer your full menu or if basic, speedy offerings are more your style. Put thought into how your meals will travel and how much you’re willing to spend on disposable but vital supplies. Adapt your external space to be friendly to customers picking up meals. Be sure there’s a designated employee role for to-go order responsibility. You can expand your restaurant better by letting your customers take home your best meals. To-go for it!