While many of the country’s restaurants are celebrating reopening their dining rooms, there is a segment of diners who won’t feel ready to dine out yet. These customers are affectionately known as the Pickup Patron, because they will only order takeout or delivery until they feel safe.
Now more than ever, restaurants must be willing to pivot to offer a streamlined method for takeout or delivery. This is a major undertaking for eateries that didn’t before offer to-go services, but will be essential to their survival.
Your foodservice operation is scrambling to keep up with ever-changing health and safety standards. How well is it meeting and exceeding the expectations of the Pickup Patron?
This post will outline best practices to keep this customer group happy, so you can maintain their loyalty into the new year.
1. Setup a curbside staging area
When you opened your restaurant’s doors, you may never have intended to offer curbside pickup. Now, there is a learning curve to create a pickup service that can move drivers through your lot with ease, without disrupting foot traffic.
It is a delicate balance, but one that is more easily achieved with ample signage and instructions about where patrons can park or pull-up to receive their order. Another method is to block off parking spaces. Be sure to include hours of operation and list a phone number for patrons to call to notify staff of their arrival. Or, use a camera to monitor when customers pull in the designated spaces.
2. Maintain social distance
A fraction of customers may not want to eat in your dining rooms, but they still want to eat. It is important for your restaurant to create a plan for navigating mealtime rushes so social distance can still be maintained.
Do you want take-out customers to wait outside or in their car until their meal is ready? Or can you mark off space in your bar or dining area for them to safely stand six feet apart while waiting for their order? Other tricks to reduce contact include encouraging mobile orders so payment is placed ahead of time or dropping food into empty car areas like the trunk or passenger seat for a contactless hand-off.
Remember to never allow staff to lean into a car when delivering a to-go order and to always require masks in the dining room or when customers interact with staff members.
3. Create a separate to-go menu
Your kitchen is likely working with reduced staff and changes to food inventory. Simplify your operation by creating a standard take-out and delivery menu. Include only your best-selling dishes, or the ones that travel well. For even greater efficiency, build your menu around customer favorite speed-scratch dishes. Crafting a take-out menu requires forethought, as food has to retain its quality, temperature and texture by the time a customer eats it at home.
Do ingredients need to be packaged separately so the dish doesn’t become a soggy mess? Can you convert any of your entrees into self-assembled kits to maintain freshness and quality? Many restaurants have opted to sell assemble-at-home taco and burger kits for an upleveled at-home experience. Have fun translating your menu for the Pickup Patron – and don’t be afraid to experiment with your offerings.
4. Invest in high quality takeout boxes
Your operation has a chance to rise above the competition by investing in a consistent customer experience through your takeout packaging. There is nothing worse than paying for restaurant-quality food that suffers in quality and presentation because of cheap or faulty takeout packaging. The Pickup Patron is paying attention to restaurants that go the extra mile to make sure hot food stays hot, cold items stay cold and liquids stay contained.
Tamper-proof packaging is also in high demand to ensure food has not been mishandled. How does your to-go packaging measure up to the competition?
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