COVID-19 spread across the world and hit restaurants hard. From London to Loch Lomond, British restaurants were told to shut down their dine-in services so that people could practice social distancing and slow the spread of the coronavirus. Across the country, however, restaurants could continue to operate by fulfilling orders via takeaway and delivery.
Even as things open up, you need to make sure your takeaway and delivery services are streamlined to offer customers an easy and enjoyable experience, as that’s a surefire way to keep people coming back – even during hard times.
In this article, we’ll share actionable advice to help you optimise your restaurant delivery services and takeaway options, including:
- An overview of your restaurant takeaway and food delivery system options – from walk-ins to phone orders
- Practical advice on managing health and food safety with your delivery and takeaway operations during the coronavirus outbreak
- Marketing tactics that will help you sustain and even grow your business throughout the pandemic
- Tips on how to optimise your takeaway and delivery services with social distancing and the safety of your staff and customers as the top priority
Let’s get started.
Overview of Restaurant Delivery Service and takeaway Options
Perhaps COVID-19 is prompting you to launch restaurant delivery services and takeaway options for the first time ever. Maybe they’re already a part of your revenue stream and you want to make sure you’re making yourself accessible to customers through every channel possible.
Either way, restaurants are putting more into their takeaway and delivery options as a way to handle the slow down in business from social distancing and COVID-19.
Here’s an overview of the ways you can offer your customers restaurant takeaway and delivery services.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Before you look at how to start a delivery service for your restaurant, check the government guidance. 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 takeaway orders work by customers coming to your restaurant, placing an order from your takeaway menu and paying for it with the host. They wait inside the restaurant for the order to be prepared (or coming back in a few minutes) and take the order out with them.
All this restaurant takeaway method requires in terms of technology is an EPOS 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 venue cleaner – which is critical at a time like this. If you typically offer takeaway, you may already have a flow in place that you can optimise. 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 takeaway 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 venue 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 customers to wait for takeaway, 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 takeaway orders to the door for guests. Victor Hugo Deli in Edinburgh only permits three customers inside at any one time, while the Busby and Wilds in Brighton allows people to collect takeaway food “from a table with no direct contact required.”
Customers can also call in orders over the phone. This method requires customers to look up your menu online or reference a takeaway 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 takeaway or delivery, try to take payment over the phone to limit contact. If diners are paying in-store for takeaway, set payment terminals aside or in a certain area to minimise 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 indicate whether they want pick up or delivery.
Use an online ordering app that integrates with your EPOS 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 Uber Eats, JustEat, Deliveroo, 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 takeaway 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 takeaway, some restaurants have doors locked and will meet you at the door with your order to limit crowds and exposure.
- Pavement pickup: Just as it sounds, people pick up their orders outside to, again, limit contact.
- Contactless delivery: Many paid-ahead orders offer contactless delivery as an option. Simply select this at checkout and the order will be left at the door.
Tips for Optimising Restaurant Delivery Service and Takeaway Options During the Coronavirus Outbreak
It may seem overwhelming as you shift your business model towards your delivery services right now.
Here are our best tips for optimising your food delivery systems and restaurant takeaway services during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to keep your business going without compromising the health and safety of your customers and staff.
These tips apply to both takeaway and delivery offerings during the coronavirus outbreak.
- 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 their food hasn’t been touched since it’s been bagged.
- Organisation: Create a system for organising 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 EPOS’ 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 EPOS, and take advantage if your EPOS 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 with extra cleaning of restaurant surfaces, changing of gloves more often, and washing of 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.
- Implement social distancing: 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.
- Take care of your staff: Don’t worry if you haven’t already offered sick pay, since the UK government has already stated it will help employees and employers. The emergency legislation measures allow for the payment of Statutory Sick Pay from the very first day an employee is sick. Make sure your employees know this so they don’t try to “tough it out” when they’re feeling under the weather. Check employees’ temperatures multiple times a day and don’t let staff who display cold-like symptoms come into work.
- Communicate with customers: Let customers know about any extra measures you’re taking to ensure that the food you’re preparing and your takeaway and delivery practices are as safe as possible. Include messaging about increased safety procedures on your website, third-party platforms (like TripAdvisor and OpenTable), social media, and in your email newsletter.
- 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 takeaway 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 takeaway and delivery orders.
- Communication: Let customers know that your restaurant is still open for delivery and takeaway. 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.
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.
- Provide your drivers with the right equipment: Equip delivery drivers with hand sanitiser and gloves as they’re out on orders. To date, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UK government advise that only people in healthcare should wear these when treating patients with Covid-19. The authorities assert that face masks don’t play a major role in protecting people from infection. However, recent news suggests this stance is due to be reviewed considering the positive impact that the widespread use of face masks has had in some Asian countries.
- 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.
- 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 Hej at Home are going it alone with giving up commission to a third-party app. The London cafe offers veg boxes, bakery boxes, small-batch coffee survival packs, and hampers starting from £20, which it can deliver to your doorstep anywhere in London.
This limits the amount of people who have to come in contact with an order and keeps your staff in work, 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.
4 Restaurant Takeaway Tips for the Coronavirus Pandemic
If you’re relying more on takeaway, here are the ways to make the most of it while keeping staff and diners safe.
- 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 prioritise 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.
- Prioritise contactless payments: Ask takeaway 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.
- 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 sanitise the chairs regularly.
- Offer a pickup service: Limit contact and practice keeping a safe social distance by offering an easy pickup service, where customers can collect their food with minimal effort, waiting time, or interaction. If possible, you can 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 takeaway revenue stream that will outlive COVID-19.