Five ways to stay ahead in the restaurant takeaway business

Five ways to stay ahead in the takeaway business

With already paper-thin margins, the restaurant model is never prepared for circumstances like these. Your customers will have new expectations. Pivot fast and cater to changing tastes

Words by Theri Burhan. Edited by Lim Aileen. 

Restaurants are doing whatever it takes to build cash flow. Every restaurant, from fine-dine to mom-and-pop joints are jumping onto the delivery bandwagon as a knee-jerk grapple for survival. Delivery is now a much needed source of revenue. It has also opened up a sea of opportunity for third-party delivery providers like never before. But let’s face it.

There is no customer loyalty when it comes to delivery apps.

We easily have a few delivery apps on our phones. Restaurants thus have to reconsider how they want to position themselves. 

What are you giving to consumers that they can’t get elsewhere? How do you optimise sales to boost the already paper-thin margins? Not to mention the catastrophic decline in dine-in sales as some countries continue to declare a lockdown on dine-in restaurant operations. If you want your restaurant business to stand out and be relevant for your audience, below are some of the key drivers to propel your brand forward.

Upskill your staff 

Your FOH staff is the customer’s first impression of your brand, and your payroll costs should be about 25- to 30% of your total gross sales. Spend the time that you have now to train your staff on technical know-how. 

Centre on great customer service

Building good customer relations is paramount. Work with your staff on effective communication and interpersonal skills. If you’re already doing deliveries, consider self-delivery as this gives you a chance to interact with your customers directly

Capacity building

Invest some time now in discovering what each of your staff is intrinsically good at and build up their capacity as individuals to contribute to the business in other ways.

Why doing good is good for the business 

Serve your community. The word “restaurant” comes from the Latin word “restaurare” which means “to renew” – we are the avenue to make people feel nourished, restored, renewed. And an Italian restaurant in California is doing just that. The owner of Valenti and Co., Chef Duilio Valenti, offers help to those who are in need of necessities that his restaurant regularly uses like toilet paper, hand towels, sponges, and bleach. His restaurant is giving them away at cost. He is also offering liquid sanitizer to the public as his restaurant has a Quaternary sanitizer mixing machine. If you bring your own bottle, they will fill it for you, free of charge.  

In this act of kindness, he thinks about the needs of his customers and the need to maintain goodwill thoughtfully. Regardless of whether there is an uptake of his takeaways, more customers will go back to his establishment because they feel an affinity to this restaurant as a community establishment. Brands are stepping up for their communities, not for PR stunts but just in figuring out how to be helpful.

Keep consistency in your branding  

It is tempting to do whatever it takes to survive however, customer expectations must be met consistently in order for them to engage positively with your restaurant. The same story must be conveyed with your dine-ins and with your takeaways. Remember, this lockdown is only temporary and having to pull your customers back to your original brand message will take a lot more time and resources. 

Branding is about how the consumer feels and remembers you. In the wake of this pandemic, we are all looking to things that give us a positive and reliable feeling. Ramp up your Social Media activity, not to sell (too much), but instead to engineer your key message on brand experiences. You will win out as a brand that appeals to customers through thoughtfulness and relevancy.

Seamless Digital Experience

Take this time to reassess your brand presence online. Is your website information up to date? Are you on Google Search? Is your online content optimised? 

Check that your Google My Business profile is updated here. Google Search Console offers reports on your site, traffic data, which search queries show your site, click-through rates, and what pages of your site are indexed on Google. 

For self-delivery, being an early adopter of real-time GPS tracking will help immensely for back-of-house operations so that you can prepare food around customers’ estimated arrival times. Allowing options for check-in with Google or Apple Pay, QR code. Google is currently working with its navigation app, Waze, to effectively “make the shopper part of the logistics chain.”

In recent years, keywords such “can I buy” and “near me” have been on an up-trend with as much as a 600% rise in Google searches. Failing to capture relevant viewers from the search bar will limit a brand’s potential in gaining new customers.

Be innovative with alternative revenue streams

With already paper-thin margins, it’s about time to reconsider the traditional restaurant business model.

Think of the many ways you can maximise your resources through cross-utilisation. Be aware of customer behaviours and consider how you can fit into that new lifestyle. With this lockdown, people who don’t usually cook their own meals are suddenly overnight chefs. Maybe it’s time to put that signature truffle butter your restaurant serves at every table into the homes of your customers as a branded product.

Or maybe even offer an assortment of signature ingredients that your restaurant is currently using to be branded, packaged, and delivered to the convenience of your customers. We have seen many successful grocerant concepts in recent years. How about going in the opposite direction in considering “restaumart”? Customers can pick up an assortment of essential ingredients that your restaurant is currently using and branded products from you. JOLOKO KL is doing just that!

Your customers will have new expectations. What’s happening right now is not going to work. With already paper-thin margins, the restaurant model is never prepared for circumstances like these. The business model needs to be tested and thought out again.

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