5 STEPS TO ENHANCE THE AT-HOME DINING EXPERIENCE
February 01, 2019
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Many people today would rather order delivery or takeout food than dine in a restaurant. In fact, the booming market for food that leaves the operator’s four walls will surpass $300 billion in sales by 2023, according to a study on takeout, delivery and catering in North America by CHD Expert and Off Premise Insights.
Nevertheless, on-demand foodservice has its challenges. A notable one is making sure that the food lives up to customer quality expectations after it leaves the restaurant. “Delivery and takeout are exciting but not necessarily easy to do,” says Mathew Green, director of culinary operations at Blue Orbit Restaurant Consulting based in Atlanta. “You have to protect your brand and make sure your food and customer experience are being well represented.”
With that in mind, many operators are polishing their procedures for delivery and takeout. For example, they're selecting food products that hold well in transit. They’re packaging them in containers that protect them better and are often branded to tell their story to the public. Some operators include free condiments or food samples with orders to show appreciation for their customers. In addition, they're choosing third-party delivery partners with a knack for customer service, and schooling their own staff to handle in-person and telephone orders efficiently and courteously. 
Boost it with branding
Packaging can convey vital brand messaging to the home consumer. “That can be something as simple as putting a sticker with the restaurant’s logo and phone number on it, or using ancillary branded items such as napkins,” says Jackie Rodriguez, senior project manager at Datassential.
Honey Butter Fried Chicken in Chicago stamps its to-go bags and boxes with the company logo. Flyers promoting special offers, like big-game catering, are occasionally attached to delivery orders as well.
Leave a reminder
When Datassential asked consumers to choose elements that would be appealing to find in their delivery orders, 51 percent of respondents picked mini bottles of condiments to enjoy with and after the meal.
A sample of a signature menu item might please patrons as well. “Full-service restaurants, especially more upscale ones, often come out with a little complimentary surprise,” says Rodriguez. “This is not a foreign idea to consumers, so you might be able to bridge the gap in takeout.”
Choose the right partner
At Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Christine Cikowski and Joshua Kulp were eager to compete in the delivery market, but like many operators were wary of the expense and complexity of creating a program. So the co-executive chefs and co-managing partners teamed up with a third-party delivery company, Caviar, that shares their philosophy of customer service.
“For sure, we always want people to eat at our restaurant,” says Cikowski. “But not having delivery is not an option. We chose a delivery partner with a really good reputation, who gives us as close as possible to what we could do ourselves and really represents our brand well.”
“We caution clients to be very careful about who they partner with,” says Green. “The restaurant gets the negative review if the order arrives cold, even though it might be the third-party delivery service that caused that situation.”
Mind your telephone manners
In the rush to adopt digital technology, operators should not overlook the old-fashioned telephone. A phone call remains the way most consumers prefer to order takeout and delivery, Rodriguez says. Thus it is wise to have a trained staff and a quiet space for them to take phone orders.
“Good phone etiquette is not something that all people in the workforce today have learned,” notes Green. “People, especially the younger generations, don’t talk on the phone as much anymore. It takes a lot of focused training and specific scripting to communicate the right customer-service experience.”
Other opportunities to consider:
  • • Toss a freebie into the delivery bag to score points with patrons. Perhaps a cupcake on the house or a bonus onion ring, stuffed jalapeño or some potato tots with the French fries. It's worth noting that packaging advances  are enabling popular appetizers and bar bites like those to arrive at the customer's door hotter and crisper.

  • • Include a coupon for a discount or free appetizer with the next order. It's also a good idea to invite the patron to sign up for your loyalty card.

  • • Offer extra food items for sale with delivery orders. A Datassential report found 48 percent of consumers interested in ordering extra entrées for later; 44 percent were interested in ordering frozen items for later.

  • • Deliver acts of kindness. When Los Angeles had an uncharacteristic rainy spell recently, the local restaurant chain Lemonade announced free delivery for several days. Honey Butter Fried Chicken has sent complimentary delivery food to patrons and team members as get-well offerings and gifts to celebrate a new baby.

An enhanced customer experience is essential for building a successful delivery and takeout program. Effective branding, proper staff training, a reputable delivery partner and memorable leave-behind items can all play important roles in the effort.

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