Restaurant takeaways: what we learned from takeout

By Mo Chaar

Closures and restrictions during the pandemic left many restaurants in dire straits in 2020 as they fought to retain customers and reach new audiences. In many cities, the fact that offering takeout and delivery was the only means of service forced restaurants to pivot quickly and develop new and creative ways to generate revenue to survive.

Now, as restrictions have eased across the country, and with many people still concerned about the safety of indoor dining, restaurants are continuing to see an influx of takeout and delivery orders. Operators must now juggle the demand for takeout alongside the transition back to indoor dining.

As restaurants look back to the height of the pandemic, there are key learnings from the takeout and delivery models implemented that can be utilized as the industry moves forward into this next phase, helping to better streamline operations and boost the revenues that struggling restaurants need to survive.

Technology is here to help

One of the major upgrades that restaurants implemented during the pandemic was more sophisticated technology solutions. From QR codes to online ordering systems, third-party delivery platforms, and contactless payment solutions, the addition of new technology allowed restaurants to continue to service their core diners, reach new demographics, and provide a safe way for customers to enjoy their meals.

An online ordering system and/or third-party delivery platform is now considered an essential part of a restaurant’s business, as customers have not only become accustomed to accessing takeout and delivery services through these platforms, but now expect it. Guests want to order takeout as easily and conveniently as possible, so having a mobile-friendly ordering system is vital to ensure a restaurant does not lose customers to competitors who offer ease of ordering via mobile.

With the adoption of these various systems, it’s essential that restaurants ensure they are choosing the right platforms for their needs. An integrated system, in which the systems all talk to each other in the background, is an important aspect to consider when choosing the right technology, as it allows for minimal human interference which reduces human error and food waste while streamlining the operating system.

Continuing pivots can boost sales

Throughout the pandemic, restaurants have had to get creative in how they sell their inventory to reduce food waste and reach new audiences to increase sales. Restaurants pivoted to offer takeaway meal kits so guests could recreate their favourite restaurant dishes at home — a huge success in reaching both existing and new customers that still wanted to cook at home. It was also beneficial for restaurants, as they were able to identify additional inventory they had and highlight those dishes on their takeout menus in order to push out inventory that would otherwise spoil.

Continuing to pivot creatively, many restaurants also offered a marketplace, in which customers could shop individual ingredients and have access to exclusive restaurant staples, like their favourite sauce or dressing. Again, this provided customers with an array of services to choose from while also alleviating the excess inventory that would have otherwise been wasted.

As these offerings usually require restaurants to make last-minute changes to their takeout menus, the correct technology must be implemented so restaurant operators can easily modify offerings, spotlight feature items, and adjust quantities as needed. Restaurants also need to have access to real-time inventory reports so they can easily identify excess product and determine what to push out.

Personalization is a perk

With restaurants competing to break through the crowd, personalization became an important aspect of the takeout experience.

As supporting local was a prominent theme through the pandemic, customers wanted to feel connected to the restaurant. A handwritten thank-you note on the takeout bag is enough for customers to appreciate the extra effort and feel like they are supporting local businesses. Some restaurants put homemade cookies or extra treats in with the orders – an easy and cost-effective way to show appreciation for a customer’s business.

Supporting local businesses will continue to be a priority for customers as the pandemic subsides and businesses get back on their feet.

Takeout and delivery aren’t going anywhere

The pandemic forced not only restaurants but customers to pivot and develop new habits that will be here to stay even in a post-pandemic world.

With the popularity of takeout and delivery continuing and showing no signs of slowing down, restaurants can utilize what they learned during the pandemic to reach new guests and retain current customers amidst heavy competition.

Mo Chaar is the Chief Commercial Officer of Givex, where he oversees commercial strategy and development worldwide as well as managing sales teams within North America. His experience in gift card, loyalty, and POS has played a pivotal role in the success of some of Givex’s largest partners.