5 Strategies to Leverage the Off-Premise Dining Boom

In 2021, American Restaurants saw a 320% increase in off-premises dining orders. In clear terms, your to-go bag may have more audience than your physical restaurant in 2021 and beyond. Driven by one goal in mind which is to satiate customer appetite and keep them engaged, off-premises dining could just be your ticket to path to profitability while ensuring that your business is more than equipped for future adversities. Having said that, as you gradually recover your sales using a variety of sales channels, it's vital to understand the challenges and pivot a little to accommodate the changing dynamics of the new world. The key to riding the restaurant rebound is to drive repeat purchases by maximizing the usage of your to-go bag.

The three biggest challenges brands face in the Rebound

As the restaurants are gradually emerging from the aftermath of the global pandemic of COVID-19, owners and management teams are facing a few challenges:

Finding and retaining quality staff: Restaurants are re-opening and expanding operations after COVID, making quality personnel more important. There are two simple factors at play here: supply and demand. Many restaurants are now offering lunches and brunches on weekends, and these widespread re-openings are contributing to the difficulty of finding qualified candidates. If you wish to attract and keep quality employees, you must offer an attractive work culture over your competitors. In the hospitality industry, turnover is common, but it's also expensive. Nowadays, it's more important than ever to attract good applicants and retain them.

Tackling Rising costs: During the pandemic, the supply chain has been disrupted, leading to a 5% jump in food cost year after year. The numbers continue to rise. Restaurants must find a way to deal with the higher inventory cost. Additionally, third parties like Doordash and Grubhub charge about 25-30%, which is quite high.

Food cost control and menu pricing optimization are the answers to this problem. Take into account your audience's changing demographics as well. It might be a good idea to temporarily discontinue items that aren't frequently ordered if you're focusing on takeout and delivery.

Attract New Customers: A restaurant's success depends on attracting local diners. Customers search for restaurants online and research new eateries through digital channels. 77% of consumers browse restaurant websites before ordering takeout or ordering delivery, and 90% of customers research restaurants before ordering. This is why it is extremely important for your restaurant to develop a 360-degree marketing strategy. Having a strong online presence works wonders.

How few of the leading brands are using their to-go bag to rebound and reengage with guests

Billy Brick’s Wood Fired Pizza owner Ric Gruber launched several unique virtual restaurant concepts based on which cuisines were trending on Grubhub to target new customers. Despite Gruber's initial concept being a pizza chain, his virtual restaurants served everything from salads to pastas. “With revenue loss during the pandemic, my virtual restaurants have helped me fill in those gaps with an additional couple thousand dollars per concept every week,” Gruber said.

In honor of National Cheeseburger Day, which is celebrated on September 18, McDonald's app users will be offered a 50-cent double cheeseburger. On September 18th only, McDonald's is offering a one-day promotion through the MyMcDonald's Rewards program in the app. When users purchase something in the app for the first time, they will receive 1,500 points.

Burger King has implemented their drive-thru so well that they are now the favorite when it comes to the most popular fast food drive-thru in the U.S. in 2021. Over the past 12 months, it's been the most popular drive-thru in these six states: Missouri, Colorado, Utah, Connecticut, North Carolina, and particularly Hawaii. Searches for Burger King in Hawaii have increased by 600% since 2020.

Five to-go bag strategies to rapidly grow your sales and revenues:

Enhance Your Online Visibility: Being online should not be limited to a website and/or app. Having a strong online presence means being in front of your target audience every time they pick up their phones or tablets to place an online food order. They are looking for a suitable restaurant online that can cater to their hunger pangs with delectable menu options at reasonable prices. Be that restaurant for them by being there for them whenever they need you. Focus on investing in a comprehensive marketing strategy that not only ensures a seamless website ordering experience but also works magic in attracting those to the website that are yet to taste the food from your kitchen.

Offer customer loyalty programs: In today's world, loyalty needs to be earned by means that are not just rewarding for the customer, but also for their friends and family. The more the benefits you can offer, the higher the number of loyal customers you can expect. Focus on creating a loyalty program that encourages them to introduce their friends and family members to your program. For instance, You get a 100% Discount coupon after 5 of your referrals make a purchase on the restaurant website.

Invest In Other Sales Channel: In this post-covid era, setting up alternative sales channels while leveraging online ordering through an exclusive online ordering system is very necessary. This not only increase opportunities for revenue generation but also makes you more accessible and discoverable for both existing and new customers. Many national chains like Dunkin’, The Cheesecake Factory, Potbelly, Chili’s, and more are now raking in a substantial amount of sales via website, app, curbside pickup and kiosks. The idea is to provide your customers with as many options to place orders as possible.

David Overton, Founder and CEO of The Cheesecake Factory said, “So many of our guests enjoy the ease of placing their pickup orders online, and we’re so pleased to be treating them to a slice of cheesecake with their online order.”

Organize Virtual Events: So if your customers have decided to skip offline events at the restaurant, then may be you can surprise them with live streaming of those events. This will allow them to be a part of special events and occasions celebrated at the restaurant, thereby, creating strong brand-customer connection. This also increases engagement levels ensuring your restaurant is on top of customers' mind at the time of need.

Providing Offers and Happy Hours: A great way to get customers back to your restaurant is by offering special offers during special events. It is quite common to use this technique, but it is guaranteed to make your restaurant a little busier. Why not offer complimentary treats for Christmas and the New Year, such as rum cakes, liquor chocolates, and donuts? For the days like Thanksgiving and Halloween, many restaurants start their special offers 10-15 days prior. Customers are always attracted to complimentary items and offers. When it comes to ‘Happy Hours’, the best thing about them is that they are targeted during slow sales times. As a result, they enhance restaurant sales during lean hours by attracting customers.