5 Operational Decisions that Fuel Off-Premise Dining
Restaurant delivery has moved way beyond the fad stage and is now being openly embraced by operators from all restaurant concepts. Whether it’s fast food, fast-casual, casual or even fine dining, operators now see off-premise dining as a possible savior to waning dine-in customer preferences. Delivery has always been a convenient way to get food, however, tech advancements over the last decade have enabled operators to address the needs of in-house diners while simultaneously and seamlessly tending to the growing needs of those who choose to dine outside of their brick-and-mortar locations
Around 86% of guests use off-premise options at least once per month, which accounts for the more than 200 billion in annual earnings. Enterprising operators see the trend and know it provides a new way to engage with an increasing demographic. However, according to the National Restaurant Association, around 29% of businesses aren’t quite prepared for off-premise dining.
Those operators who struggle to meet the growing off-premise demands fall into a few buckets. Those include:
- Restaurants that haven’t integrated their FOH and BOH
- Operators who haven’t made a firm choice between working with third-party delivery services and conducting their own deliveries
- Restaurants that haven’t considered, then implemented one or more ways for guests to place to-go orders
- Operators who haven’t streamlined their menus for off-premise dining
- Restaurants that haven’t addressed capacity management and how staff and the kitchen will handle the simultaneous demands of the two sides of the dining coin
- Fortunately, operators can make decisions now to help their restaurant meet the various delivery options. Several operational areas must be addressed, but capacity management is probably the most critical.
Decision One: How to address restaurant capacity management
As operators think through their off-premise dining, processing the order may not be the first move, but it is the most important. An operator can choose two ways to process orders —analog and digital. When looking through the analog lens, a restaurant would pass the back-of-house handwritten tickets. By contrast, a digital transmission of the order is delivered through an app, website portal, or inputted manually by whomever on the staff receives the order. The problem with paper tickets is that they can easily get lost or misinterpreted, this can create a serious problem for guests off-premise guests waiting on their meal to arrive.
Fortunately, kitchen automation software that incorporates capacity management tools can help prevent confusion among the staff without losing quality. In short, capacity management defines your restaurant’s peak performance, the ability of your operation to balance quality and output. One area that is critical to developing successful off-premise results without compromising what’s going on within the four walls of the business is order throttling. Here are a few ways in which order throttling can ease the growing pains of adding a whole new aspect to the business.
Order throttling is just one way that capacity management can aid restaurants that want to tap into the off-premise market or for restaurants that are currently struggling to get their operational arms around the added loads to their business.
- Being able to throttle off-premise orders when demand is high without disrupting in-store tickets.
- Having the ability to increase quoted delivery times when demand is high, and then decreasing those delivery times when kitchen demands lighten.
- Being able to accurately quote those delivery times without using arbitrary numbers based on current volume.
- Having the ability for the kitchen to know when to start an order and when to bump it.
- Capacity management tools are there to help maximize and sustain a restaurant to its fullest potential. When capacity management goes wrong, customer orders can back up, which can hurt the business operation, guest satisfaction, and bottom line.
Decision Two: How to communicate with guests
Off-premise dining communication is more than about getting the first online or app order. A restaurant must communicate with the guest from initial order and on through the final delivery. Starting at the beginning, the question to ask is how the customer is going to communicate their off-premise dining desires. Will those customers make an order through a digital portal like an app or a website, or will it be call-in orders only?
The mean average annual income of a hostess in the United States is approximately 23.5K. The cost of a website is relatively variable, depending on the complexity of the chosen site. The average price to develop an app is around 171K. Operators might also consider one of the many available third-party online ordering systems, which range in cost depending on customer needs.