Regardless of the type of restaurant you own, the type of food you serve, or the usual customers walking through your door, you need to focus on making your off-site sales a key aspect of your restaurant business. Restaurants are unique and therefore require a unique approach to selling outside of the company. Fortunately, there are different business models. And there are many restaurants that have found creative ways to add their own touch to these different business models. Now strengthen your off-premise sales business model to get as much benefit as possible when the dining rooms are fully open again and guests feel safe when they walk in.
Benefits of off-premise sales
According to Olo’s founder Noah Glass, online orders on their platform doubled each year from 2017 to 2019 – before the pandemic. In 2020, Upserve saw online orders grow by 783%. The trend towards off-premise dining existed before the pandemic and was only reinforced by the pandemic.
Now that diners have tried to dine outside of the restaurant, they want to keep it. Guests will return to the restaurants as it becomes safer to dine in, but many guests will still demand the convenience and choice of off-premise dining.
It’s clear customers like it, but what about restaurants? There are many who have managed to create a new source of income in their company.
One of the advantages of ordering online and eating outside the company is that ordering is more accurate. Before that, the guests called the restaurant to place their order. Whether it’s a misunderstanding, smeared paper, or too loud a restaurant noise to hear the customer’s order, the orders were mixed up. When ordering online, the customer has time to review his order and check that it is correct before submitting it.
Online ordering systems have integrated upsells. You can set your online ordering system to send a popup to customers to add a starter or alcoholic drink (if your state allows take-away alcohol to be sold) and possibly increase the ticket size. This happens automatically with every order.
Make sales during times of high volume
When your tables are full on weekend evenings, you can make all the sales. Or is it? Instead of focusing on turning the tables faster, focus instead on improving your eating outside of the company. If your kitchen has more space to assemble dishes, you can increase sales even when your dining room is full. All you need is an off-company business model that is right for your company. The most common business models for off-site sales include roadside pickup and collection, drive through, and delivery.
Execution and collection at the roadside
Roadside execution and collection are off-premise restaurants that are good for both diners and restaurants. Guests place their orders online and then drive to the restaurant to either come in and get their food done or wait in their car for a member of staff to deliver it. These business models allow customers to avoid paying delivery fees and save your restaurant time and money.
How the customer can order
There isn’t much variety in execution and roadside pickup. The variety and creativity comes from how customers order and how they are notified that their food is ready to be picked up. Customers can order through your website, a customized and branded mobile app, or through social media like Instagram and Facebook. These social media apps now have the ability to add a grocery order button to your profile or a sticker on your stories. Also, your restaurant needs to create a back-end process to notify customers that their order is ready. This is most often done with a system that sends a text to the customer when their order is marked as ready. Drive-Thru Drive-Thru has been around for decades and is popular with guests. The downside for most restaurants is that adding a drive through requires costly construction and a significant change in its physical properties. If your restaurant already has a driveway or you have the option to add a driveway, there are several ways you can better monetize your driveway. You can upgrade to digital menu boards, purchase a new speaker system for better sound quality, limit your menu options and display upsells prominently on your menu board. Delivery The popularity of delivery skyrocketed even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Guests loved the convenience of ordering food and having it delivered to their doorstep. Restaurants hated paying the fees for third-party delivery apps. However, delivery works in some restaurants and makes sense as a business model for off-premise restaurants. The restaurants have gotten creative and found new ways to implement delivery and reduce costs.
Third party delivery services
Third-party delivery services include apps like DoorDash, UberEats, GrubHub, Postmates, and many more. These services charge restaurants a percentage of the order total in order to deliver the order to the customer. These services provide convenience to both the diner and the restaurant. However, some restaurants have wondered if using a third-party delivery service actually results in a profit. To reduce the cost of using a third-party delivery service, some restaurants are partnering with a single service to lower their fees and costs. Other restaurants refuse to use delivery services and take delivery in-house.
When a restaurant employs delivery drivers and delivers its own food, delivery is within the home. This allows the restaurant to better control the quality of the food and the customer experience than using a third-party delivery service. Restaurants stay in control, but creating an in-house delivery requires an upfront investment in manpower, technology and operations. Last-mile delivery A creative combination of in-house delivery and delivery by third parties is last-mile delivery. Some restaurants have negotiated with third-party delivery apps and created a system where customers order from the restaurant website, but the food is still delivered by a third-party driver.
One of the latest innovations in off-premise dining in recent years is a ghost kitchen. A ghost kitchen can also be referred to as a delivery-only restaurant, virtual restaurant, or shadow kitchen.
Ghost kitchens produce food from a menu and that food is then delivered to the guests. Ghost kitchens do not have dine-in functions. There are many variations of ghost kitchens. Some ghost kitchens are located in or in a different restaurant but produce food from a different menu. Some ghost kitchens are stand-alone food trucks that buy a menu from a restaurant or chef.
Ghost kitchens are a popular choice for restaurants because they have a minimal initial cost. With minimal staff, no dining room, and minimal space requirements, a ghost kitchen is a great way to start a first-time restaurant or try out a new concept.
Tips for improving off-premise sales
No matter what business model you choose for your restaurant for off-site sales, there are plenty of tips you can implement to improve sales and create a better customer experience.
Think about packaging
One of the most important aspects of selling off-premise is packaging. When your customer receives their food, you want it to look delicious and still be hot. This is the key to a great customer experience. Choosing the right packaging can make this possible. You want packaging that doesn’t steam the food or get too wet by the steam during delivery or while waiting for collection.
Train in front of the house staff
Anytime you change procedures, the first step should be to train your staff. When implementing or increasing off-premise sales, it’s important that your on-site employees know where to send customers to pick up their order or where delivery drivers can wait while the order they deliver is being prepared. Hear What Consumers Want While customer reviews can be a sore point for some restaurant owners, they are also a wealth of information. Customer ratings and spending habits give you data on what the customer wants and how best to provide that service. You may find that customers are not ordering bundles and platters for meals outside of the company. If so, remove them from the menu and look for ways to repackage them in menu items with higher margins.
Look at the customer experience
When your customer is interacting with your restaurant to dine outside of the company, most of the customer experience is digital. When designing your off-premise business model, it is important to consider the customer experience. Give your online ordering system as much of your brand and corporate personality as possible.
While off-premise dining was already on the rise before COVID-19, the pandemic brought it to the fore of diners’ attention. Every day, more guests are realizing the convenience of off-premise dining. And they want more. Get creative when designing your off-premise restaurant business model to deliver the best possible customer experience that supports your restaurant’s bottom line. Find out more about how you can grow your business at our annual TRA Marketplace restaurant fair. Register to participate here: www.tramarketplace.com/attend
Via the Texas Restaurant Association
The Texas Restaurant Association was founded in 1937 to serve as the Texas attorney and indispensable resource for the food service industry. Today TRA is the leading trade association representing the state’s $ 70 billion restaurant industry, which consists of more than 50,000 locations and 1.3 million employees. Working with the Texas Restaurant Association Education Foundation, the association protects, promotes, and trains the growing industry.