Optimizing Your Restaurant for Off-Premises Customers

Scenario A

It’s 8am, and you opt to evade the usual morning coffee rush by placing a mobile order. You enter the coffee shop only to find your latte lukewarm, sitting on the counter for 10 minutes already.

Scenario B

After placing your mobile order, you arrive at the coffee shop, join a crowd of people standing by the mobile order pickup counter and wait 10 minutes. You’re not waiting in line, but at this point, what’s the difference?

Crowd in Grayscale

“Mobile order for John Smith?”

With the rise of off-premises dining over the last 5 years, observing customer behavior and adapting your QSR’s technology, kitchen design and other aspects of operation are crucial for competing more effectively.

When Starbucks launched Mobile Order & Pay in September 2015, it was the quickest deployment of new technology the company had ever done. With customers able to get stars thanks to the integrated My Starbucks Rewards program, mobile quickly grew to represent 3% of Starbucks’ orders by the end of that year and 7% by the end of 2016. Partially resulting from the popularity of Mobile Order & Pay, crowds of customers were stuck waiting for their orders, leading to a 2% decrease in transaction volume by the start of 2017.

With the launch of Deployment 2.0 in early 2018, Starbucks was able to overcome this challenge by installing pickup shelves for mobile orders, re-designing their app to tell customers when their order is ready and designating more crew members to mobile order preparation. By the end of that year, mobile grew to comprise 12% of orders.

Here are ways to make your off-premises strategy more effective:

Deploy Different Self-Service Technologies to Capture More Customers

To accommodate guests’ different ordering habits, consider adding more than one type of self-service technology, like mobile apps and in-store kiosks. Kiosks can boost check averages by up to 20%, with 79% of consumers preferring them over traditional in-store ordering.

In 2014, Panera launched a mobile app allowing customers to browse its menu, view nutrition facts, customize selections, schedule a pickup time, and store credit card information for faster payment. The next year, Panera also installed Fast Lane Kiosks in 400 locations, further reducing wait times by creating yet another option for on-the-go customers.

Little Caesars launched Pizza Portal pickup in September 2018 to coincide with its new mobile app. Until mobile customers arrive, orders sit in a heated compartment that unlocks by entering a pin number or scanning a QR code, ensuring product quality and reducing wait time.

Rethink Your Restaurant’s Design

To reduce motion waste—the redundant movements necessary to prepare a food or beverage—you should rethink your kitchen’s layout to accommodate mobile and delivery orders. Here are a few questions to consider:

How many shelves will I need to store food items awaiting pickup?

How can I change the kitchen layout so crew members preparing dine-in do not get in the way of those preparing off-premises orders?

How will a surge of mobile and delivery orders affect in-store wait times?

Even with a slow rollout, changing the design of your quick service restaurant is worth the investment if it allows you to capture more off-premises sales. Almost half of Pizza Hut’s 6,100 traditional restaurants still focus on dining in, and yet 90% of its sales are from off-premises dining. The chain’s Delco model reduces up-front investment in favor of a smaller space that can handle off-premises orders more effectively. Although there are only 70 U.S. locations, Delco franchisees saw sales increase 30%.

Make Sure Your Software Strategy Aligns With Your Other Goals

In some cases, you can gain a competitive edge by owning a technology outright. Pizza Hut’s 2018 acquisition of QuikOrder, an ordering systems provider, allowed it to compete more effectively with Domino’s by bringing development of its delivery tracker, voice recognition software and rewards program in-house.

When looking at your QSR’s technology, however, don’t forget the power of partnerships. Instead of hiring more programmers, it can be more cost-effective to integrate third-party software and capture the large user base already familiar with these platforms. Companies like ItsaCheckmate and Chowly work with many different delivery providers, allowing restaurants to focus on their core strengths. By integrating with pre-existing POS systems, they simplify the order-taking process for crew members, aggregating orders onto one screen and eliminating the need for manual entry.

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