Get Started with Restaurant Takeout in 4 Steps

Aug 7, 2015


Eating on the run is no longer a luxury in today’s always moving, on-the-go world. Research from National Restaurant Association shows that ⅓ of consumers say that takeout is an essential part of their life. This trend is aimed to continue to climb with 61% of millennials saying that a restaurant’s takeout and delivery options influence their dining decisions (NRA, 2015). If you’re wondering how to start a restaurant—or if you already have one but don’t do carryout—it’s clear that takeout should be part of your game plan.

Most restaurants today offer takeout as a side-option to their already busy dine-in business. It is an easy way to increase revenue without having to add a lot of extra staff. And with so many ways to reach out to consumers and take orders, it’s easier than ever to get started.

Wondering how to start a restaurant carryout business successfully? Check out our top four tips for getting your takeout business off the ground:

How to Get Started with Restaurant Takeout in 4 Simple Steps:

1. Map your flow.

As a successful restaurant, you have your systems and operation down for your regular business. You’ve optimized that experience for your guests. When you first launch the togo side of your business, take some time to do the same. Efficiency is key when customers are waiting to take your food back home. Here are some things to consider:

  • Train your team on the new offering. Make a quick checklist for all the things they will need to know to execute togo business, and then check each employee off as you train them.
  • Set-up an area in your restaurant to stage and store togo orders. A counter near the phone/register is great. The end of the bar can work too. Also ensure that packaging and supplies are within easy reach of the kitchen and/or expo counter. Save your team from having to hunt down a togo box in the heat of the moment.
  • Use a Disney technique and map out the entire order from start to finish. Disney calls this “storyboarding,” I call it smart systems design. Take a journey from “order” to “customer’s dining room table” and make sure each step along the way has clarity and greatness.

2. Accuracy is essential.

If you check out most complaints from customers about to-go orders, the number one issue is accuracy. They simply didn’t get exactly what they ordered. And really–what’s more frustrating than getting home to realize  you don’t have the right food that you’ve paid for?

Create a ‘recipe for order accuracy’ to ensure that when the customers they leave, they have exactly what they want. Here is one I’ve adopted over the years from my friends at Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor:

  1. Confirm that the ticket is accurate when it hits the kitchen.
  2. Double check at the expo/to-go counter and have that team member initial it.
  3. Ensure the order when the customer gets there by confirming each item in the bag with them.

3. Package like a pro.

You are plating like Picasso in your restaurant, but how does your food look after it’s been boxed up and arrives at your customer’s home? Here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you package like a pro:

  • Find sturdy packaging that can make the trip.
  • Get a few samples from your vendor and actually package your food up and bring it home with you. Nothing like a real case study to help you decide what works.
  • Does it match your brand and price point? See how close you can match your brand colors, look, and feel without breaking the bank.
  • Stickers and stamps are an affordable way to add a branded element to your packaging.

 4. Don’t be the Secret Service.

Many restaurants don’t do much to tell their customers about their carryout options in an effective way. Why not? It’s a great convenience for many of your guests for the times when they aren’t looking for a night out. So, don’t keep your offering a secret and make sure you promote your takeout business and online ordering!

  • Feature your to-go options prominently on your website.
  • Include a first-time discount for online orders.
  • Use attractive stickers on your “doggie bags” to share the offering.
  • Get the word out on social. Change the links in your profiles and bios to take customers directly to your online ordering page.
  • Get a mobile ordering app.

If you are wondering how to doing restaurant takeout that’s popular and profitable, sign up for commission-free online ordering with ChowNow. You’ll get your very own online ordering built into your site and a mobile app that’s branded just for you—plus marketing and sales expertise is included to make sure you launch big. Schedule a demo today to start boosting your to-go business.

 — Mike Ganino |  Mike is a restaurant veteran, having served  as COO at Protein Bar and in key roles at Yum! Brands, Lettuce Entertain You, and Potbelly Sandwich Shop. An in-demand speaker and trainer on the restaurant and hospitality industry, Mike advises ChowNow on developing the strongest online ordering solutions for restaurants.

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