No matter what kind of restaurant you own, what kind of food you serve, or what regular customers come through your door, you need to focus on making door-to-door sales a key aspect of your restaurant business. Restaurants are unique and as such need a unique approach to offsite sales. Fortunately, there are a number of different business models. And many restaurants have found creative ways to put their own spin on these different business models. Strengthen your off-site sales business model now to get the most benefit when dining rooms are fully reopened and diners feel safe to enter.
Advantages of Offsite Sales
According to founder Noah Glass of Olo, online orders on their platform doubled every year from 2017 to 2019 – before the pandemic. And in 2020, Upserve reported a 783% increase in online orders. The take-out trend existed before the pandemic and was only reinforced by the pandemic.
Now that customers have tried eating offsite, they want to keep it. Diners will return to restaurants as it becomes safer to dine indoors, but many diners will continue to demand the convenience and choice of offsite dining.
Clearly customers love it, but what about restaurants? Many people have been able to make it a new source of income within their business.
One of the benefits of online ordering and off-site dining is that ordering is more accurate. Previously, diners would call the restaurant to place their order. Whether it was a misunderstanding, stained paper, or restaurant noise too loud to hear the customer’s order, the orders got mixed up. With online ordering, the customer has time to verify and review the accuracy of their order before submitting it.
Online ordering systems have built-in upsells. You can configure your online ordering system to send a pop-up to customers to add an appetizer or liquor (if your state allows take-out liquor sales) and optionally increase the ticket size. This happens automatically with every order.
Make sales during high volume times
When your tables are full on weekend nights, that’s the only sale you can make. Where is it? Instead of focusing on turning the tables faster, focus on increasing your eating out instead. If your kitchen has more capacity to assemble dishes, you can increase sales even when your dining room is full. All you need is an offsite business model that works for your business. The most common business models for off-site sales include take-out and curbside pickup, drive-thru, and delivery.
Take out and curbside pickup
Take-out and curbside pickup are off-site dining options that work well for diners and restaurants. Diners place their order online, then drive to the restaurant to come in and take out their meal or wait in their car for a member of staff to deliver it. These business models allow customers to avoid paying delivery charges and save your restaurant time and money.
How the customer can order
There’s not much variety in delivery and curbside pickup. Where variety and creativity come into play is in how customers order and how they are notified that their food is ready for pickup. Customers can order through your website, a custom and branded mobile app, or through social media such as Instagram and Facebook. These social media apps now include the ability to add an “order food” button to your profile or a sticker to your stories. Additionally, your restaurant will need to create a backend procedure for how customers are notified that their order is ready. This is most often done with a system that sends an SMS to the customer when their order is marked as ready. Drive-thru has been around and has been popular with diners for decades. The downside for most restaurants is that adding a drive-thru requires expensive construction and a major alteration to their physical property. If your restaurant already has a drive-thru or you have the space to add a drive-thru, there are several ways to better monetize your drive-thru. You can upgrade to digital menu boards, get a new speaker system for better sound quality, limit your menu offerings, and prominently display upsells on your menu board. Delivery The popularity of delivery skyrocketed even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Diners loved the convenience of ordering food and having it delivered to their doorstep. Restaurants hated paying fees for third-party delivery apps. But for some restaurants, delivery works and makes sense as a business model for offsite dining. Restaurants got creative and found new ways to implement delivery and cut costs.
Third party delivery services
Third-party delivery services include apps like DoorDash, UberEats, GrubHub, Postmates, and more. These services charge restaurants a percentage of the order total to deliver the order to the customer. These services provide convenience both at dinner and in the restaurant. But some restaurants wonder if using a third-party delivery service actually increases their bottom line. To mitigate the cost of using a third-party delivery service, some restaurants partner with a single service to reduce their fees and costs. Other restaurants refuse to use delivery services and take their delivery in-house.
When a restaurant employs delivery drivers and delivers its own food, it has in-house delivery. This gives the restaurant more control over food quality and the customer experience than using a third-party delivery service. Restaurants retain control, but creating in-house delivery requires an upfront investment in people, technology, and operations. Last mile delivery A creative combination of in-house and third-party delivery is last mile delivery. Some restaurants have negotiated with third-party delivery apps and created a system where customers order from the restaurant’s website, but the food is still delivered by a third-party driver.
One of the latest innovations in off-site dining in recent years is a ghost kitchen. A ghost kitchen may also be known as a delivery-only restaurant, virtual restaurant, or ghost kitchen.
Ghost kitchens produce food from a menu and that food is then delivered to diners. Ghost kitchens have no catering capability. There are many variations of ghost kitchens. Some ghost kitchens are indoors or in another restaurant but produce food from a different menu. Some ghost kitchens are a self-contained food truck that buys a menu from a restaurant or chef.
Ghost kitchens are popular choices for restaurants because they have minimal upfront cost to get started. With minimal staff, no dining room, and minimal physical space required, a ghost kitchen is a great way to start a restaurant for the first time or test out a new concept.
Tips for improving off-site sales
Regardless of the business model you choose for your restaurant for offsite sales, there are many tips you can implement to improve sales and create a better customer experience.
Think about the packaging
Packaging is one of the most important aspects of selling off-site. When your customer receives their food, you want it to look delicious and still be hot. This is essential to provide a good customer experience. Choosing the right packaging can make it happen. You want wraps that won’t steam the food or get too wet with steam during delivery or while waiting to be picked up.
Train reception staff
Whenever there is a change in procedures, the first step should be to train your staff. When implementing or increasing offsite sales, it’s important that your front desk staff know where to send customers to pick up their order or where delivery drivers can wait while picking the order they are delivering. Listen to what consumers want Although customer reviews can be a sore point for some restaurateurs, they are also a wealth of information. Customer reviews and spending habits give you data on what the customer wants and how best to deliver that service. You may notice that customers are not ordering packages and platters for off-site meals. If so, remove them from the menu and find ways to repackage them into higher margin menu items.
Consider the customer experience
When your customer interacts with your restaurant for an offsite meal, most of the customer experience is digital. When designing your offsite business model, be sure to consider the customer experience. Imbue your online ordering system as much as possible with your brand image and the personality of your company.
While take-out dining was growing even before COVID-19, the pandemic has brought it to the forefront of diners’ minds. Every day, more and more diners are recognizing the convenience of offsite dining. And they want more. Get creative when designing your offsite dining business model to create the best possible customer experience that supports your restaurant’s bottom line. Learn more about how to grow your business at our annual restaurant trade show, TRA Marketplace. Register here: www.tramarketplace.com/attend
About the Texas Restaurant Association
The Texas Restaurant Association was formed in 1937 to serve as an advocate for Texas and an indispensable resource for the restaurant industry. Today, as a premier trade association, the TRA represents the state’s $70 billion restaurant industry, which includes more than 50,000 locations and a workforce of 1.3 million. employees. Along with the Texas Restaurant Association Education Foundation, the association protects, advances and educates the growing industry.