3 tips for curbside pick up restaurant operations

Pandemic has altered the way the restaurant industry operates. Today, more than 50% of customers that make purchases at the restaurant site, prefer to either takeaway or interact with the curbside facility confirms Larry Henis, the owners of Indie Restaurant in Minneapolis. “We have never seen such a surge in the demand for curbside orders, but the pandemic has dramatically changed the way the industry works, and I feel it’s going to remain the same way for many more months to come”, he adds.

With dine-in restrictions all over the states, a majority of restaurants equipped their site with a curbside facility to stay afloat, but today it has become the most popular choice amongst customers craving for some good meal. From a customer’s perspective, Curbside is not just a safe way to interact with restaurants, but they find it convenient to grab their meal. According to an article published in QSR Web, Curbside is one COVID-19 innovation for restaurants that's not going anywhere. Therefore, it has become important more than ever for restaurants to create strategies to enhance the customer experience for curbside operations. Let’s dive in and see how brands can accelerate growth and profitability with this significant curbside business-building opportunity.

What is Curbside Pickup

So before we proceed with the tips to set up a successful curbside experience, let’s first discuss what exactly it is and how it works.

McDonald’s Drive-thrus have always been a popular choice for travelers, students and even working professionals looking for a quick grab-and-go meal. Even before the pandemic, many QSRs, mostly chains would thrive on this concept. But the pandemic accelerated the demand for such facilities and forced even fine-in restaurants to start providing curbside pickup services to their customers.

At its basic core, Curbside Pickup is a facility provided by any restaurant to deliver food directly to the customer waiting in the car, which is parked at the curb or at another pickup spot. During the lockdowns, this order, and delivery model was considered the safest and convenient way for customers to pick up takeout orders from restaurants as it allows everyone involved to maintain a safe distance from one another.

So how does it work?

It’s a no-brainer model. All you need is direct access from the kitchen to the curbside deck, a place from where the staff attending customers can take orders, and deliver at the pickup point.

Now how would customers place orders? You all have at some point in time in our lives used ‘buy online, pick-up in store’ (BOPIS) service, also referred to as “Click and Collect”. Most giant retailers provide this facility to add value and convenience to their customers’ experience.

Well, curbside pick-up works in a similar way.

First, your customer places an order through your restaurant website or mobile app and selects the location from where they’d like to pick up their order. The pickup time is communicated via the ordering portal itself. Most portals also allow customers to track their order journey from being received in the kitchen to packed for final delivery.

Restolabs Online Ordering System also provides customers the convenience to pay online in advance, with their most preferred payment method.

Once the customers complete the transaction on the website, the order details will be received by the restaurant for further processing. Once the order is ready, the customer then arrives at the pickup point to collect their order. You may opt to have staff on hand at the curbside to put it directly in their car, or they can collect it from the store if they prefer.

Meaningful Benefits for Curbside PickUp for Restaurants

According to National Retail Federation’s Spring 2020 Consumer View survey, over 90% of customers who opted for the curbside pickup said they find it more convenient and safe.

  1. Given the convenience of ordering from the phone, being able to browse the menu at their fingertips, and easier access to the food of their choice, curbside provides a quick way for customers looking to satiate their cravings on the go.

  1. Compared to waiting for the delivery guy with a risk of delayed delivery or receiving cold food, curbside ensures that customers are able to enjoy their food fresh and hot at their own timescale. This can make a customer experience less stressful and encourage repeat visits.
  2. Restaurants save on delivery costs on orders getting collected by customers on their own. Al curbside sales are categorized under 100% profit sale.
  3. Since Curbside Pick Up minimizes person-to-person interactions people feel more secure and the staff can continue doing their work without feeling stressed about potential transmission.

3 Tips to Set up Restaurant Curbside Pickup for Success

Create a Curbside Takeout Menu

Not all your dishes can be packed for takeaway or delivery. They may lose the appetizing presentation or go cold and soggy by the time the customers open the pack for consumption. So it’s best to create a dedicated menu for takeaway, delivery, and curbside pickup. Focus on dishes that can travel well and look appetizing even when packed in containers.

To create the perfect curbside pickup food menu, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Keep the menu small: Offering too many options for takeaway can create confusion so much that the customers may never complete the process. So try to offer a limited number of dishes as we mentioned in our previous article on the small menu. Stick to not more than 25 dishes that can be prepared quickly.
  2. Highlight Best-sellers wherever possible. So if you want to move the demand for bestsellers or maybe high margin menu items, promote them on all ordering channels. Have a banner in front of the store if possible. Customers will be more inclined to buy the best-sellers if they get a good deal, so make sure all content assets are designed to communicate the message clearly and loudly.
  3. Use the right takeout packaging if you want your customers to enjoy their food without any hassle. Some might even choose to have the meal in the car or while driving to the workplace. So design the packaging in a way that allows them to hold the food properly in transit.
  4. Sell alcohol (if you can) to boost the bottom line. Alcohol boasts high-profit margins and travels well. If alcohol delivery and pickup are legal in your area and if you have the license for it, consider including to-go drinks alongside your food menu.
  5. Add family packs and ready-to-cook meal kits to boost check sizes. Adding healthy meal options to the menu that people can subscribe to for daily pickup can be pretty useful during challenging times like today. These creative offerings can set your restaurant apart from the competition.

Provide Customers with Instructions

Being aware at every touchpoint is key to setting up a successful curbside pickup restaurant. Your customers should know what to do to place and collect orders. When creating a pickup manual for customers, make sure to address each stage in the process:

How to place the order?

Create content assets that educate your customers on placing direct orders from your website. You can create an infographic, a short video, or have a dedicated page on your website to presents clear instructions on how to place the order.

Pizza Hut Expanding Team To Serve America Through Contactless Delivery,  Carryout, And Curbside Pickup | Markets Insider
Source: Pizzahut

Where to pick up the order from?

Once customers place the order, your ordering system should send them details of the estimated time of pickup, and the pickup location. A good online ordering system or app will allow you to send a confirmation email or SMS text to customers to let them know when their order is ready. When the order is ready, the customers should get a ‘Ready For Pickup’ email or text with detailed instructions.

How to identifying customers?

How would you know if the customer has arrived at the pickup spot? You should be able to do this through the online ordering system or the app that you are using to support the service. Pickup instructions should also include messages like, “Do not go inside unless told. Call the restaurant upon arrival. In case the customer is not able to contact the restaurant via the app, they can always call reception and inquire about their order. So make sure that they are provided with all important details to connect with the restaurant if needed.

Develop contactless handoff procedure

Develop an SOP for the contactless delivery to the customer’s car. This might involve asking customers to keep their car door or trunk open whenever the restaurant staff comes to handover the order. Whatever method you choose to communicate this procedure, try to minimize direct contact between staff and customers.

Make all payments available

If you’re using an online ordering system like Restolabs, you can provide your customers with multiple payment options, including the most popularly used Google Pay and Apple Pay. This will not only make the payment princess convenient for customers but also improve conversions. But if the customer chooses to pay in cash at the time of pickup, you may have to arrange for a payment deck or a spot where the transaction can happen smoothly and safely.

Implement Online Ordering

This goes without saying, but in order to make the curbside pickup work successfully and seamlessly with minimum interaction, you must invest in a good online ordering system that your customers can use to place orders from their smartphones.

An online ordering system allows customers to browse the menu, place an order, and pay, all from your own braided website or an app. And if you use a platform like Restolabs, all the online orders will seamlessly integrate with your existing POS so you have to make manual entries. The Kitchen staff also get timely notifications to begin the preparation.

Restolabs’ cloud-based online ordering solution is easy to set up and use, and you will not even have to pay a hefty commission fee on each order. Moreover, since the outbreak, it has been observed that 63% of Americans prefer to place their orders directly with restaurants to help businesses stay afloat during tough times.

Make Curbside Pickup Available with Restolabs

It’s pretty clear that the restaurant landscape will never be the same even after the pandemic is over, forcing restaurateurs to rethink their strategy in order to continue business.

As we continue to evolve through the challenging times, it’s not too late to set up curbside pickup (if you haven't already) for your business.

It will ensure your business can stay afloat and continue operations without fearing the lockdown or shutdowns of the future.

Plus, our easy integration with existing POS will allow you to pivot into different ways of pick-ups and deliveries whilst automatically streamlining the ordering process from all channels and outlets.

So, speak with our support team today to assess if curbside pick-up is right for your business.

Schedule a free demo here or sign up here for a free trial.