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COVID-19 Restaurant Resources

Optimizing Your Restaurant Takeout & Delivery Services

by

Dana Krook

COVID-19 has hit restaurants hard. From Los Angeles to Montreal, North American cities have required restaurants to shut down or limit their dine-in services so that people can practice social distancing and slow the spread of the coronavirus. In many areas, however, restaurants can continue to operate by fulfilling orders via takeout and delivery.

For restaurants to survive during these difficult times, they must do everything they can to ensure their takeout and delivery processes are efficient. We’re sharing tips for how you can optimize your restaurant delivery services and takeout options to weather the storm.

In this article you’ll get:

  • An overview of your restaurant takeout and food delivery system options – from walk-ins to phone-in orders 
  • Tips for optimizing your delivery and takeout operations during the coronavirus outbreak

Above all else, remember to make the safety of your customers and your staff the first priority.

Chinese takeout boxes filled with food

Overview of Restaurant Delivery Service and Takeout Options

Perhaps COVID-19 is inspiring you to launch restaurant delivery services and takeout options for the first time ever. Maybe those are already established revenue streams in your business and you want to make sure that you’re making yourself accessible to customers through every channel possible. 

Either way, restaurants are putting more into their takeout and delivery options as a way to handle the slow down in business from social distancing and COVID-19

Here’s an overview of how to set up delivery services for your restaurant customers.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Before you look at how to start a delivery service for your restaurant, check local mandates. You need to make sure that you are allowed to offer these services, and then follow safety protocol to slow the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to operate.

Walk-in Orders

Walk-in takeaway orders work by customers coming to your restaurant, looking at your takeout menu, placing an order and paying for it with the host, waiting inside the restaurant for the order to be prepared (or coming back in a few minutes), and taking the order out with them. 

All this restaurant takeout method requires in terms of technology is a POS system

If you choose to continue walk-in orders, there are some safety precautions you will want to take, including:

1) An assigned area for people to wait in to prevent spread of germs and encourage distance from your team (six feet, or two metres, is recommended).

This not only protects diners, but also protects your team and keeps your store cleaner – which is critical at a time like this. If you typically offer takeout, you may already have a flow in place that you can optimize. Label the area, set physical boundaries (for example, block off with chairs), and make it clear where customers will get their orders from to avoid coming too close to staff.

If this is a new practice at your restaurant – since so many businesses are pivoting to offer takeout at this time – all of the tips above will apply as well, but you’ll want to consider how the flow of this works. Is the kitchen at the very back of your restaurant? You may have to assign one person to bring orders to the front (or even the door) and leave them at a set area to avoid people coming into your restaurant.

2) Limiting the number of people allowed in the store at any given time to avoid overcrowding and the spread of germs.

This pairs nicely with the above point – if you have a small area set aside for waiting for takeout, you have to limit the people in it. This idea of limiting the number of people in an area was seen at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, as restaurants operated at half or quarter capacity.

You can put signage on your door telling guests exactly how many people are allowed in at any time or opt to lock doors and bring takeout orders to the door for guests. Bake Shoppe, a Toronto based bakery, is continuing their takeout options this way. Guests order ahead of time, knock on the door, and their order is brought to them after confirming their details. 

Phone Orders

Customers can also call in orders over the phone. This method requires customers to look up your menu online or reference a takeout menu they already have, then call your restaurant to place an order. 

If they want to pick up the order, they’ll go to your restaurant to make a payment and pick up the order. If they want delivery, they’ll give you their address and either your delivery driver or a third-party driver will fulfill the order and collect payment. 

Make it even easier for customers to place orders from their smartphones by giving them the ability to text in orders. Set up a free Google Voice phone number and let customers know that they can text that number to place an order.

With phone orders for takeout or delivery, try to take payment over the phone to limit contact. If diners are paying in-store for takeout, set payment terminals aside or in a certain area to minimize contact with counter staff. Encourage contactless payments where possible (more on this below).

Online Order via Your Restaurant’s Website

If you have the technical capabilities, you can receive orders directly through your restaurant’s website. This option lets customers see the menu online, order and pay through your website, and designate whether they want pick up or delivery.

Use an online ordering app that integrates with your POS system so that your kitchen can automatically receive a ticket for the order. 

Online Orders Through Third-Party Apps 

Restaurants can also let customers place orders through third-party apps like Grubhub, Postmates, Uber Eats, Caviar, DoorDash, Ritual, and more. Some of these platforms have discounted or waived their fees to help restaurants during this time.

With these apps, customers place orders and make payments through these providers, and then it’s up to your restaurant to fulfill the orders. Some third-party apps offer their own delivery drivers. Customers can also pick up orders they place through these apps. 

For online ordering through your own website and third-party apps, see if you can implement safer takeout and delivery practices to help limit contact and encourage social distancing. Some methods that have gained popularity include:

  • Pickup at the door: For people who order online to takeout, some restaurants have doors locked and will meet you at the door with your order to limit crowds and exposure.
  • Curbside pickup: Just as it sounds, people pick up their orders at the curb to, again, limit contact.
  • Contactless delivery: Many paid-ahead orders offer contactless delivery as an option. Simply select this at takeout and the order will be left at the door.
Cardboard takeout boxes and disposable coffee cups

Tips for Optimizing Restaurant Delivery Service and Takeout Options During the Coronavirus Outbreak

It may seem overwhelming as you shift your business model into putting more into your delivery services during these uncertain times.

Here are our best tips for optimizing your food delivery systems and restaurant takeout services during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to keep your business going without compromising the health and safety of your customers and staff.

General Tips

These tips apply to both takeout and delivery offerings during the coronavirus outbreak.

Safety:

  • Packaging: Make sure the packaging you use is sturdy so that your kitchen staff and delivery drivers won’t need to touch the food in case something spills. Consider offering tamper-proof packaging or sealing takeaway bags with stickers so that customers know that their food hasn’t been touched since it’s been bagged.
  • Organization: Create a system for organizing completed orders by source (phone orders, website orders, Uber Eats orders, etc.), which should be clearly indicated on each order ticket (either manually or through your POS’ online ordering integration). Make use of shelving or tables to separate bagged orders for easy identification and pick up. When your orders are accurate and executed in a timely manner, you’ll make customers happy and increase their chances of ordering with you again. Record walk-in and phone orders in your POS, and take advantage if your POS integrates with your website’s ordering app and third-party apps. This will help you avoid missed orders, confusion, and delays in service. 
  • Elevate food safety standards: Customers may be hesitant to eat food prepared by others during this time. Elevate your safety standards by extra cleanings for restaurant surfaces, changing gloves more often, and washing their hands more often. Alleviate concerns by telling customers about these extra precautions on your restaurant’s website, social media, or on signs placed in your restaurant’s windows. 
  • Take care of your staff: Check employees’ temperatures multiple times a day and don’t let staff who display cold-like symptoms come into work. If you don’t already offer paid sick time, see if you can afford to offer it temporarily, or other forms of support, so staff aren’t trying to tough out symptoms to earn a paycheck. Make sure you aren’t overstaffing so that your team can maintain distance between each other – you want to avoid stuffed kitchens and packed front counters.
  • Communicate with customers: Let customers know about any extra measures you’re taking to ensure that the food you’re preparing and your takeout and delivery practices are as safe as possible. Include messaging about increased safety procedures on your website, third-party platforms (like Yelp and TripAdvisor), social media, and in your email newsletter.
A food courier delivering pizzas

Marketing:

  • Gift card promotions: Although you can’t generate revenue for your dine-in services right now, you can prepare customers for the day that you fully reopen by selling gift cards. Create a gift card promotion to generate revenue to supplement your restaurant delivery service and takeout option. Offer discounted gift cards that customers can use for dine-in meals when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. You could sell $50 gift cards for $45, or $100 gift cards for $90. Include these gift cards as an optional add-on to takeout and delivery orders.
  • Communication: Let customers know that your restaurant is still open for delivery and takeout. Communicate this to customers via social media, your website, your email newsletter, signs in your windows, and chalkboard signs.  
  • Have a special menu: Turn lemons into lemonade by offering customers special meals, deals, and bundles during the coronavirus pandemic. You can offer bundled family meals, catering options, meal kits, or even merchandise as an offering.
Woman using an app to order food delivery

3 Restaurant Delivery Service Tips During COVID-19

Here’s how to make your food delivery system safe and appealing to customers during these difficult times.

  1. Provide your drivers with the right equipment: Equip delivery drivers with hand sanitizer and gloves when they’re out with orders – the FDA does not recommend masks to be worn for people who are healthy.
  2. Contactless delivery: Whether customers are placing orders via phone, your website, or a third-party app, let them leave special delivery instructions like “leave food by the door” or “leave order behind the gate” so that they don’t have to come into contact with delivery drivers. If customers request contactless delivery, make sure that they pay in advance.
  3. Consider using only your drivers: If you usually rely on third-party carriers to deliver food, consider only sending your staff to fulfill deliveries during the COVID-19 outbreak. Some restaurants, like Philadelphia’s Savona, are foregoing third-party carriers in favor of sending their trained staff to make deliveries. This limits the number of people who have to come in contact with an order and keeps your staff in jobs, even if it’s shifting from their normal responsibilities. Just remember to check with your insurance provider to make sure staff are covered for these types of duties.
Barista holding a takeout order of food and coffees

4 Restaurant Takeout Tips for the Coronavirus Pandemic

If you’re relying more on takeout, here are the ways to make the most of it while keeping staff and diners safe.

  1. Limit contact: Try to limit customers from touching things at your restaurant to prevent germs being spread. Create chalkboard or digital versions of your menus so that customers don’t have to touch anything to check out their options, or prioritize paper menus that can be recycled if a diner touches them. Keep your doors propped open so that customers don’t have to touch them when they walk in and out.
  2. Prioritize contactless payments: Ask takeout customers to make payments online through your website or a third-party app so that you don’t have to handle cash. If customers prefer to pay on-site, ask them to make contactless payments with their credit cards or through Apple Pay.
  3. Set up an outdoor waiting area: If you’re in an urban setting where people won’t be driving to your restaurant, set chairs up outside of your restaurant for customers to wait in until their orders are ready. Place the chairs at least six feet apart for optimal social distancing and sanitize the chairs regularly.
  4. Offer curbside pick up: Limit contact and practice keeping a safe social distance by offering curbside pick up. Have gloved staff bring orders to customers’ cars and have diners verify their names to pick up the orders.

With appropriate safety measures and some creative marketing, you can keep your restaurant running amidst the coronavirus crisis. Put these measures in place now, and you’ll have a thriving delivery and takeout revenue stream that will outlive COVID-19. 

If there are any other topics that can help you manage your restaurant at this time, reach out to us at blogfeedback@touchbistro.com or check out the rest of our COVID-19 resources here

Stay safe!


Dana is the Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, sharing tips for and stories of restaurateurs turning their passion into success. She loves homemade hot sauce, deep fried pickles and finding excuses to consume real maple syrup.

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