With the growth of online ordering, more and more restaurants have ventured into the world of off-premise service. The chain of Tropical Smoothie Cafés was among the first few restaurants to make it big in 2020. Over the span of the third quarter, their total sales grew by 19.5 percent, which set a new company record. So how did they accomplish this massive feat?
Well, they ramped up curbside pickup to adapt to the COVID climate and did so very quickly. Within just two weeks of the outbreak, their team rolled out new curbside pickup services to meet customer demands and launched food delivery via online ordering. As their curbside pickup grew successful, they began to shift towards an online ordering experience built with guest notification experience- to alert the café staff the moment a guest drives in to pick up their curbside order.
While their success story might be an inspiring example of a restaurant that did all the things right in an uncertain environment, the truth is that making the shift towards curbside pickup isn’t a simple one. It was extremely challenging for restaurants all over the country to pivot, no matter their scale of operations. According to a Drive-Thru Study by QSR Magazine, Popeyes didn’t fare too well in the realm of curbside pickup. Main customer complaints included lack of menu item availability as well as longer wait times.
It isn’t all smooth sailing for restaurants that want to launch curbside pickup. There are multiple things to take into account while designing the pickup process.
Let’s take a look at the dos and don’ts of offering curbside pickup:
Do offer contactless menu option
Let your customers know that they no longer have to wait to long queues or go through the pain of social distancing to order curbside. They can simply scan the QR code placed outside the premises, browse the options, and place orders from their mobile phone. The payment can also be made via the same app. This is to ensure maximum safety for staff and customers, whilst keeping the long wait times and queues in check. Check out Restolabs Contactless Menu Ordering Feature for Curbside Pickup
Do offer meal kits and combos
While designing your curbside menu, get creative with different combos of food. For starters, you could create family packs that group different menu items together. This is a great way to increase ticket size. It’s also a customer-friendly practice that brings about more satisfaction per order. You could even offer a meal kit that customers can put together and make fresh on their own, following the cooking instructions.
Do follow food safety protocol
Contactless delivery is a godsend in today’s times and it’s essential to follow food safety guidelines and sanitization policies. Make sure you train your staff well about the assembly line and how to minimize all touchpoints in the food preparation process and handoff. Make sure all your staff is equipped with disposable head covers, masks, and gloves at all times. You can also include a note with every order emphasizing that you go out of your way to ensure food safety.
Do put up clear signs for customer pickup
At the pickup spot, make sure that there are large, clear signs guiding customers where to pick up their order from. If your restaurant has a parking lot, you could set up traffic cones to mark the pickup spot. If it’s on a sidewalk, you have less space to work with, so you could contact local authorities and request permission to create temporary parking in front of your restaurant. Banners or canopy tents can also be used to make your location more prominent.
Do inform customers about curbside procedure
Curbside pickup aims at increasing convenience. To ensure a successful pickup experience, you need to have a clear list of instructions to offer to your customers. This includes specifying various steps of the process. Do customers need to call once they reach the pickup spot? Can they text instead? Mention the pickup timing and parking instructions too. Any such information needs to be listed on your online ordering platform so that customers have an idea about what to expect. Bluedot revealed that 55% of customers expect to be automatically checked in via a restaurant app when they arrive to pick up their order. However, only a quarter of customers have actually received this service. A way to make the curbside process more efficient is to install cameras or sensors so that staff is alerted the moment a customer checks in.
Don’t offer your entire menu
As tempting as it might be, offering your entire menu for curbside pickup isn’t the best idea. Instead, plan a separate menu that is engineered to efficiency. This means highlighting your bestsellers and offering dishes that have common ingredients. Overlapping ingredients can help you majorly at cutting down costs. Also, refrain from offering items that are hard to transport and may become soggy or unappetizing in transit.
Don’t pick the cheapest packaging option
Packaging is a very important factor in curbside pickup. You need to have strong material for containers and boxes that ensure the food can be sealed and kept piping hot for at least half an hour. Another option is to choose containers that can be easily reheated. Don’t forget to include cutlery and napkins, in case your customers choose to eat in their cars instead of waiting to dine at home. Showcase your company logo and name on the packaging so that your brand is visible to anyone who sees it.
Don’t take too long to hand off orders to customers
A Bluedot survey found out that 77 percent of respondents would consider leaving if they see a long queue at a drive thru. Similarly, long lines for curbside pickup are among the most common of customer pet peeves. Develop a procedure for contactless handoff. This can be done in a few ways. You could ask your customers to open their trunks so that your staff can hand off the order, or it can be handed through a car window. The main thing to keep in mind is to make this process as quick and efficient as possible. Any delays in order preparation will annoy your customers.
The conventional definition of a restaurant itself has been changing over the last few years with the advent of ghost kitchens, off-premise businesses, and so on. Now more than ever, restaurateurs are warming up to restaurant concepts that don’t need a brick-and-mortar dining space. Online food delivery and curbside pickup are well on their way to becoming the future of the restaurant industry, and the move towards off-premise foodservice is integral for success today.