How to Manage Your Takeout & Delivery Program to Improve Restaurant Customer Experience
This post was last updated in August 2021.
Restaurant customer experience can be a make-or-break factor for your business. When customers have a positive experience, 41% will recommend your restaurant to friends and family, and 60% will come back to dine again.
While some restaurateurs may confine the concept of customer experience to just their dine-in business, it is incredibly important to consider the experience for those ordering online takeout and delivery as well.
Providing a positive and efficient experience to customers within online takeout and delivery interactions strengthens retention value and increases revenue. Let’s take a look at how to guarantee a great to-go experience.
Why does your restaurant customer experience matter?
It is estimated that at least 69% of the entire US population orders goods online. Google alone receives 63,000 search inquiries per second, and these numbers are growing constantly. Clearly, consumers are using the internet to purchase their goods and gather their information. Many businesses create e-commerce markets while preserving their unique culture and brand, and the restaurant industry is no exception to this.
Creating an efficient online ordering experience for your customers is not only recommended—it’s a necessity. By 2020, 40% of total restaurant sales will come from online takeout and delivery orders. If your restaurant doesn’t offer online ordering, you may see your sales drop. That said, it’s not enough to simply let customers order online—it’s how you do it that makes the biggest difference.
How to Optimize Your Restaurant’s Online Ordering Experience
There are three main areas to focus on when developing an exceptional online ordering experience for your customers:
1. Make it convenient and easy to use.
Customers should be able to quickly find your site and place an order. Make sure you optimize your Google presence and promote your online ordering capabilities so it’s immediately clear that customers can place an order online.
You should also optimize your restaurant’s website to provide a straightforward path to order online. If the online ordering button on your website is hard to find, hidden within multiple pages, or clumped together with multiple online ordering options, this creates nothing but frustration for the customer. Have one single “Order Online” button, make it easy to find and make sure it matches your website aesthetic. A consistent and up-to-date online menu is also key to the experience.
Ask yourself these questions.
- Is my online ordering easy to access on my website, mobile website, social media platforms and search listings? Ensure sure you’re reaching customers in all the right places at the right time when they want to place an order online.
- Is my restaurant customer experience consistent across all these channels? Inconsistency can create confusion, which could turn away customers from your digital door.
- Are my menu and branding consistent and accurate as well? Set the right expectations for your customers about what they’re ordering and who they’re ordering from.
- Is it easy for me to use? Clunky navigation can be the most frustrating online experience.
- Is my menu consistent and up-to-date? Is the verbiage clear, yet descriptive? Don’t forget to update any pricing changes online when you’re changing your in-house menu, and make sure to optimize it for upsells.
2. Emphasize your restaurant’s personality and branding.
Online ordering shouldn’t sacrifice the heart and soul of your restaurant. Your customers may be ordering online, but they still want your brand, your story, your flavors, and the experience your restaurant creates through that.
Brand preservation is key and should be a priority when developing your online ordering experience. Branded online ordering systems like ChowNow offer the results of automation while preserving those elements of a restaurant that attracted the customer in the first place.
When you’re evaluating your online ordering brand experience, yourself these questions.
- Is my restaurant’s brand preserved throughout the online ordering experience for my customers? Carefully consider the language on your online ordering menu and specials you make available for takeout and delivery.
- Do I feel like customers see my brand, regardless of which channel they order from? Make sure your logo and name—not those of a third-party delivery app—are front and center.
- Is my menu and branding consistent and accurate as well?
A consistent and strong brand experience across all ordering channels will contribute to a positive and revenue-boosting restaurant customer experience.
Make sure you’re working with an online ordering partner that prioritizes your restaurant’s unique needs. Read our guide, “4 Steps for Choosing an Online Ordering Partner,” to get started the right way.
3. Don’t forget the in-store experience.
The online ordering experience doesn’t stop once your customers complete their purchase online. If they’re ordering for pickup, you need to make the pickup experience easy and convenient, too. Your restaurant should have clear and consistent procedures to ensure these customers are treated in an efficient and positive manner.
Ask yourself these questions.
- Is there a designated pick-up area? Whether you have a specific pick-up counter or process pick-ups at your host stand, bar, or registers, make sure customers know where they should go.
- Has the staff been trained in case customers have questions about their order?
- Who’s in charge if something is missing from the order?
- Has the to-go packaging been vetted to ensure maximum enjoyment once the customer starts to eat their food?
To provide some more insight, let’s take a look at a real-life example of a restaurant that recognized their pick-up experience was subpar for their online ordering customers and decided to implement change.
Case Study: The Skirted Heifer
The Skirted Heifer, a small but bustling burger join, gets very busy during lunch hours, so they implemented online ordering to help with the long lines. Once they gave their customers the capability to order online, though, there was some frustration.
Online ordering guests would arrive at the restaurant and wait in the same line as in-store customers due to a lack of direction. This created frustration with these customers who ordered online, as many of them likely did so to save time and skip the line.
The restaurant saw that they needed to make their customers’ online ordering experience smoother, so they made two major changes.
- They set up a designated pick-up area separate from the regular line, complete with an easy-to-read sign.
- They use fun and engaging marketing flyers that had clear and concise instructions on how to order online and pick up their meal.
These simple changes have proven to directly impact this restaurant’s takeout sales. Their online takeout revenue increased by 22% the month after they implemented these new processes.
See how else online ordering will help your restaurant by reading our ebook, “The 6 Ways Online Ordering Will Transform Your Restaurant’s Efficiency.”
Think about your restaurant’s online ordering experience from your customers’ point of view.
In light of the Skirted Heifer’s story, it’s clear that you need to consider your guests’ point of view when implementing your own online food ordering system.
First, ensure that a brand-new guest will be able to identify easily where to go to pick up their food once they get to your restaurant. Create a designated pick-up location identified by a clear and engaging sign that directs customers to that chosen area. If that isn’t consistent with your brand or aesthetic, ensure that your staff is properly trained and knows where to direct online ordering customers.
Make sure you have one staff member on every shift that owns the online ordering pick-up experience. Whether they’re a host, bartender, or other employee, this is the person that ensures orders are fulfilled and service remains top-notch.
Ensure that the packaging preserves your food and creates an experience as close to dine-in as possible. Check out US Foods® comprehensive line of packaging options to explore some of the best options on the market.
Lastly, have fun and make sure to weave your restaurant’s brand throughout the experience. Use branded packaging, place marketing flyers in every to-go bag, send marketing emails to your customers, and leverage promotions. The options are only limited by your imagination, and the ChowNow Restaurant Success Team is always available to consult and discuss opportunities for growth.
As you continue to monitor and optimize the restaurant customer experience, keep in mind the ultimate goal: to provide great food and service every step of the way. This creates consistency from inside the store to your digital platforms, and will strengthen your brand, loyal customer base and revenue.