In the restaurant industry, the popularity of takeout was slowly growing. Then came a global pandemic, mandatory lockdowns, and a boom in third-party delivery apps. Takeout is an extremely popular and profitable way for customers to engage with your business outside of the traditional confines of your dining room and patio.
In fact, today's consumers continue to seek off-premises dining options. According to the National Restaurant Association's 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry report, 72% of millennials and 66% of Gen Z adults say purchasing takeout or delivery is now essential to the way they live.
Takeout has become a great way to increase your restaurants' orders, revenue and profit, all without having to add more tables and chairs.
As a restaurateur, if you don’t have a plan for maximizing your takeout business, then you could be missing out on a big opportunity. Take this winter, a time when families want to come together and share a meal without dealing with cold weather and crowded spaces, as the perfect time to get started.
Here are a few ideas that can help you get the most out of takeout orders this holiday season and year round.
As a business owner, you know the importance of your restaurant’s website. It’s your online homebase, where customers can easily find things like your menus, hours of operation, and contact information. It’s the foundation of all of your digital marketing campaigns. And it’s also the best place for you to process takeout orders.
91% of restaurants have invested in online ordering for pickup, according to HT's 2022 Restaurant Technology Study
Online ordering is the most convenient and fastest way for your customers to place takeout orders. It’s also the most convenient way for you to process them. While some may prefer to order over the phone, with online ordering you don’t need to saddle your busy servers with phone calls. Incorporate a button on your home page that says “Order Now,” and you can direct your guests quickly and easily to your ordering system.
As for which online ordering platform to use, there are many third-party options. Most will take a small percentage of your sale to cover their services, but there are some free options too. Your POS system might also come with online ordering capabilities. With a bit of research, you can find many options.
And don’t forget to promote your website’s takeout ordering. This will help you avoid fees third-party delivery apps like Grubhub and DoorDash charge.
Just because you can fit it into a to-go container doesn’t mean you should. Some food just doesn’t travel well. This is why you should create a takeout- specific menu.
Consider highlighting and incorporating more of those dishes that work well for takeout. Skip fried foods that go soggy and cold in no time..
While you’re at it, drop a printed takeout menu in all of your to-go bags. Small, takeout-oriented menus are perfect for bringing to work or hanging from a magnet on a fridge. Make sure you have a mobile-friendly version on your website.
Making a new menu isn’t always an easy task, especially for the busy small business owner. But there are a ton of professional and free menu templates available online. They come in a number of styles to fit any brand, and they are eye-catching and easy to customize.
Incentivize orders through your website. You could offer a free dessert with any two entrees, or you could use loyalty-based incentives. Some online ordering platforms have options for loyalty programs built in, allowing your customers to automatically collect and redeem rewards toward free meals or a certain dollar amount off of their next meal. You could also run specials on specific days as a way to promote more takeout on those slower evenings at the beginning of the week.
After you design your menu and incentivize ordering, you’ll want to let your customers know about all of your great takeout options. Promoting on social media and in your restaurant are the best ways to retain customers and recruit new ones.
Whether it’s in-store posters, flyers, or table tents, make sure you are getting the word out to those customers that already love your food. With social media, make sure you have Instagram-worthy photos of your food. You can also incentivize user-generated content by offering specials discounts or freebies to anyone who orders your takeout and posts about it on their social media.
Make sure all of your in-store promotions have your website url, and you’ll want to include a website link in all of your social media bios, allowing your customers to move from promotion to online ordering with only a few clicks.
If you are wanting to get as many takeout orders as you can, you’ll need to think about your presence on search engines and online review platforms. There are a few different sites to consider, but the biggest and most important are Google and Yelp.
When a potential customer searches something like “good food near me,” or “takeout near me,” you want to make sure your business is near the top of that return, rather than buried under your competition.
To do this on Google, you’ll need to claim your Business Profile. It’s free and easy. Once you claim your profile and enter some basic information, you can post a link to your website and upload your menu, along with mouth-watering photos of your food.
Google allows you to receive and respond to customer reviews. These reviews are important, because they can allow you to leapfrog your competition online. The more reviews you have, and the better your reviews are, the higher you’ll appear in a Google search return.
Yelp is similar. You’ll need to claim your business, upload your menus, link your website, and post a lot of photos of your food. You can even incentivize reviews on Google and Yelp. Incentivizing online reviews can help ensure that you have more good reviews and that your restaurant is visible online.
Make sure the quality of your packaging matches the quality of your in-person dining experience.
Your packaging is also a way for you to advertise your website, your online ordering, and your brand. Something as simple as a carefully designed sticker with a QR code on a takeout box can be effective. You can find free QR code tools online that can get you started right away.
With a few simple strategies, a finely-tuned takeout plan can increase your orders and pad your bottom line.
About the Author
Mark Plumlee is a copywriter who has helped restaurants and small businesses grow and define their brands.