Maximize Takeout Profitability With These Six Steps

Off-premise dining was already on-trend in the restaurant industry well before COVID-19. According to Morgan Stanley estimates, online delivery is set to grow from $260 billion in 2017 to $325 billion in 2020 – and possibly $470 billion by 2025. But now there’s something coming on stronger than even delivery: takeout.

Just since the beginning of the pandemic and the restrictions on on-premise dining, 62 percent of operators have or plan to implement designated takeout areas due to the re-configuration efforts. And more than 40 percent of US consumers are likely to go to the drive-through, get takeout or use delivery even when dine-in is allowed, according to Tork.

Even as restaurants reopen to some on-premise dining, takeout presents distinct advantages:

  • Takeout can help make up for those “missing tables” resulting from social distancing requirements, even as it requires less of a restaurant’s biggest expense item: labor.
  • Curbside takeout may project a “safer” image to patrons, as it does not require them to enter the restaurant and can even offer them the added reassurance of “contactless” pickup.

Of course, along with the tremendous growth in takeout comes tremendous competition, and a need for differentiation. Here are six tactics you can use to make takeout as appealing and profitable as possible.

1. Delight Your Customers

One of the timeless rules of the restaurant business still applies – don’t just feed your guests, delight them, surprise them, and they’ll keep coming back. With takeout, that might mean including the unexpected in their bags: a free appetizer, a sample of a new dessert, a coupon for their next meal, or a fun kid’s activity.

2. Simplify Their Lives

Remember that it’s not just your business under stress during this pandemic, it’s your customers, too, and they’ll appreciate anything that makes their lives easier. Consider offering family-style takeout ordering with larger servings at a better value, with less packaging and labor required…and fewer decisions for a family to negotiate when ordering out. And be sure to include napkins with every order to promote good hygiene.

3. Deliver a Great Experience

Eating out, or taking out, is never just about the food. It’s about the experience, so make yours positive every step of the way, from streamlined ordering, to clear directions for contactless pick-up, to high-quality packaging that keeps the food hot and doesn’t leak or come open on the way home. And make it memorable through branding – for instance, 70 percent of consumers say they feel more positive about a restaurant that has custom-printed napkins, according to Tork.

4. Naturally Cut Out the Waste

Be sure that customers don’t end up with anything they don’t need or want in their takeout bags – that includes cutlery. Ask customers to specify plastic cutlery as an ordering option; you’ll be surprised how often they decline and how much that can save.

5. Make Takeout a Social Event

Find fun, visual ways to promote takeout on your social channels. One great way to do this is to use napkin dispensers with advertising panels where you can create custom content and simultaneously post on social media. You can even engage customers by incentivizing them with coupons and other deals if they post about their takeout. Acknowledge the current pandemic with quarantine-themed promotions. Even better, let folks know if they order a specific item, a portion of the revenue will be donated to a local COVID-relief or other charity that’s important to the community or customer. 

6. Stand up for Hygiene at Curbside­

Contactless curbside pickup doesn’t have to come off as thoughtless. An easy way to demonstrate your overall concern for health and safety is to make a free-standing hand-sanitizer dispenser a prominent part of your pickup station. Display a door or sidewalk sign with services available (e.g. takeout, curbside), instructions for pickup and hours of operation.

Takeout isn’t just a stopgap measure to tide restaurants over until dine-in fully resumes. It’s a trend that needs to be leveraged for profit now and competitiveness in the future.