Compiled by Susie McKinley
In order to #flattenthecurve and protect citizens and guests from highly contagious and deadly Covid-19, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has closed down dining rooms in restaurants across the state to minimize exposure. Today in order to survive and feed customers, restaurants have moved to curbside pickup, delivery and drive-thru for food service. The FRLA team has attended several webinars and read many articles recently about enhancing your curbside, delivery and drive-thru presence. The following is a compilation of what we’ve learned.
There are two ways to approach delivery: either do it yourself in-house or work with a delivery partner. If you choose to do it yourself, be certain to work with your insurance provider to ensure that coverage is adequate. If you decide to deliver in-house, there is the added bonus of potentially keeping extra folks on staff to assist with this.
Many delivery programs are now offering custom contactless delivery in that the customer pays in advance and advises the delivery person where to drop the food. This can provide some measure of comfort to the customer when not having to interact with a delivery person.
Alex Canter from Ordermark, an online ordering management solution, recommends to restaurants to “omni-channel” with delivery services if using a third-party delivery option in order to cover all of your bases. If you aren’t listed with a delivery company, customers loyal to that delivery company won’t find you.
Online ordering is a must in this environment. Be certain that your restaurant has the capability and an effective system to follow up with online orders.
Delivery and curbside pickup can be made easy. Establish a protocol for staff taking orders that includes basic information such as address and contact number, where to actually deliver food once onsite, food and drink order of course, and if utensils/napkins will be needed. Ask the customer if they would like a gift card as well. Customize the protocol as needed for your restaurant and be sure to thank the customer for the order. We’ve heard that a short note included with the order expressing gratitude for the order is welcome and easy. Insert a menu flyer with the order to encourage next time ordering. Be certain the food is maintained at the correct temperature: if hot food, keep it hot and if cold food, keep it cold. Use travel bags that allow for heat and cold retention. Advise employees to keep their “social distance” when delivering food to make sure the customer and the driver are comfortable. Process the payment information in advance to resolve any payment issues onsite. Make it as simple and easy as possible for the customer.
Curbside is something that is very popular, but it has not been utilized as much as other food service. Many of the practices noted above can be used in this approach. In addition, when taking the order for curbside, require employees to ask the customer where they would like the food placed into the vehicle upon arrival. Some folks may want it dropped in the trunk of the car. Others may want it in the front or back seat. It’s important to give the customer a choice, so that if they don’t want any physical interaction with the restaurant, they don’t have to engage in that manner. Again, it is important whenever possible, to process payment in advance in order to minimize exposure.
Think about narrowing your menu to the most popular dishes and then what travels the best. Other things to think about are: what menu items use less staff and equipment to prepare? Do offer a daily special if you can. This gives some variety and interest to your menu and gives the operator a chance to use what is readily available.
Large Format Food Items
With so many people at home with family, consider preparing some menu items in a larger format than what you’ve done in the past. Food items serving larger crowds may be enjoyed by a group or as leftovers.
Frozen food is another way to serve your customers. Offer food items that hold up well to freezing as an option.
Perhaps offer a gift card with a minimum threshold level and give extra credit on top for redemption in the future. This is also known as gift card bonds.
Show your appreciation to health care professionals or first responders by giving them a discount on a specialized menu item or on the whole order. You will receive some goodwill from this effort and will help those who are helping us.
Can be very useful in ordering and in pre-payment. Encourage use whenever possible.
Customers are looking for deals, options and offerings now more than ever. Be sure that your restaurant is visible in an online search. If possible, improve your SEO if needed. Frequently engage socially to let followers know what is going on. A daily email to your loyal customers might be something they are looking for.
Susie McKinley is Editor of FR&L Magazine and a former Director of the Division of Hotels and Restaurants. Susie sat in on several webinars recently and has compiled information learned in webinars in this article.