Restaurant takeout service, Is moving to takeout better than closing your restaurant due to COVID-19?
March 20, 2020 • 8 minutes
If the government imposes a quarantine in your area and requires you to limit your restaurant operations to takeout and delivery, you’ll have to adapt or temporarily close your location. Being a restaurant POS system vendor we communicate with restaurant owners who use our software and strive to help whatever option they choose.
If a restaurant is closing, we suggest freezing their delivery POS system temporarily while retaining access to their data dashboards. For those who decide to shift their operation to takeaway-and-delivery-only, we give them free access to Poster Shop, our app for the fast launch of an online showcase, to help them handle online orders.
Most of our customers, who operate in the areas under coronavirus lockdown, find it difficult to cope with the situation. For the first four days of the quarantine, their sales dropped by 26% on average. We talked to representatives of restaurant management teams who haven't closed their doors but decided to offer food to-go to find out how things are going.
Roman Khomukha, Co-owner of Mañana Wine Bar & Shop, agreed to share his experience of running a carryout restaurant during COVID-19 quarantine. His location has been operating under the carryout-only mandate since March 17, 2020. Read on to find out whether shifting operations to a takeaway model is a good restaurant crisis management plan for your location.
How to solve employee-related problems when shrinking operations to take-away?
On the one hand, with schools and kindergartens closing some members of your team would ask for a leave to take care of their children. On the other hand, most of your employees would be willing to continue working and earning money despite the lockdown.
‘After we realized that the lockdown is inevitable and decided to continue providing take out and delivery service to our customers, we had to adjust schedules and shifts on the go. It was difficult for me to tell guys that their wages will go down. Still, they will continue earning tips and getting work experience, which is not bad.’ — Roman.
As the owner, you’ll have to decide who to retain at work and who to send home. You’ll need to update schedules, instruct your people on new sanitation rules, and introduce a procedure of health check when everybody comes to work. After you set everything up, use let your customers know that you operate and follow safety standards to ensure a high quality of food.
How to reach your potential customers and streamline ordering?
Launching your own delivery service is quite a difficult task if you’ve never done it before. Signing an agreement with a third-party delivery service should be easier if you apply early enough. Employees of delivery companies quickly get overloaded by new applications from restaurants switching their model to the delivery and takeaway restaurant service.
‘We started working with Raketa, a local food delivery company. I considered several third-party delivery companies. This one proved to be the best in terms of service and fees. It took us three days to get the first order through Raketa’s delivery app: we signed an agreement, decided on the takeout menu, took photos of food, and uploaded all the necessary information into the delivery app.’ — Roman.
However, to maximize your profit margins you should do your best to get takeaway orders from your customers directly. You can tap into your social 4media and create a landing page on your website. The best solution, however, would be to find ways for launching your own online ordering platform or online showcase.
‘Currently, we’re taking orders on the phone, via direct messages on Instagram and Facebook. We’re also launching our own online showcase using Poster Shop, the tool provided by Poster POS for free to all their customers working during the quarantine. After we have our takeout menu online we’ll promote it on socials. The main goal of such an online showcase is to visualize dishes and give clear information about special offers to simplify communication between customers and employees. ’ — Roman.
What should be on your takeaway menu?
Following takeaway best practice you’ll offer a limited menu with items that travel and heat up well. Also, think about the specific challenges your customers have when they work from home and strive to follow the advice on social distancing during the quarantine. Offer family meal deals to-go that would be a cost-effective way to feed an average family. Or you can sell sets of three meals for the whole day. Think about including in your menu vegetarian options and food beloved by children.
‘We have a dual-concept operation, a restaurant and a wine shop. This means our customers come not only to buy food but also a bottle of good alcohol. This increases our average transaction value.’ — Roman.
You can add bottled soda, wine, beer, and other products that can accompany food to make your take-out service a one-stop-shop. This way you’ll help people avoid going to stores and crowding in queues.
How to make your takeout area safe and convenient?
During the quarantine, your goal is to minimize contact between your employees and customers. Customers who came to grab their package should have a convenient space to park. If they have to leave their car to pick up their food you should do everything you can to avoid queues in your takeout area. Put signs and use floor marking to warn people that they should come to the counter only after another person leaves and keep a two-meter distance in the line. Encourage people to pay in advance online. If they prefer to pay at checkout after they pick up their package, encourage them to choose contactless payment options.
‘We understand that people strive to avoid human to human contact and they tend to think that interaction with restaurant staff can put them at risk. We provide contactless payments, delivery, and pickup for everyone who asks for this.’ — Roman.
If you can, provide your customers with curbside pick up service. Your employees can bring their food directly to your customers’ cars when they arrive at the parking, call your special phone number, and tell the number of their order or their name. This is the best way to minimize human to human contact in your takeaway area.
Is operating for takeaway-and-delivery-only better than closing?
Face it, you won’t be able to get 100% of your business back during the quarantine anyway. At the same time, nobody wants to send employees home and potentially lose them. It would be a hard choice to make and you should weigh the pros and cons.
We’re located far from the city centre. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, people won't usually come for lunch but mostly for dinner and our average transaction value was high. To-go food sales used to make about 15_–18% of our total turnover. I hope we’ll be able to increase takeout and delivery by 35–_40%. If this happens, we’ll be able to at least cover our costs.
Governments, banks, and landlords take measures to help food service businesses survive. In most countries imposing lockdowns, restaurant owners can count on tax holidays, low-interest disaster loans, and rent holidays.
‘I doubt that anyone will be able to work at least «to zero». But again the question is how long it all will last. I understand those who decided to close completely and wait. They’ve made an estimate and realized that their takeaway service won’t get enough business to cover their expenses. I hope that Mañana Wine Bar & Shop will be able to get through this but I don't rule out that we can also close soon. As I usually say, prepare for the worst and hope for the best.’ — Roman.
It’s important to remember that operating as a carryout restaurant during the COVID-19 quarantine, you’ll stay in touch with your most loyal customers. People who are ordering takeout food from you now may be the first to come in your door when you reopen your location.