Making Off-Premise Sales A Priority

Atmosphere, menu, experience and carefully cultivated customer relationships keep loyal regulars coming back to their favorite restaurants. Recently, though, online ordering has gotten more and more popular and not just because diners have no other options due to COVID-19: In the past year alone, 51% of diners ordered via website or app (Litwin, 2019). This leaves restaurateurs wondering: How can you bring your full dining experience to off-premise customers?

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Why should you pay attention to off-premise orders? Although these sales might only account for a small portion of your bottom line when you’re operating as normal, people need off-premise service now to contend with the pandemic and this trend likely won’t disappear. Even after the threat has passed and we all move forward, people will continue to acknowledge the dangers of spreading infection and too much close contact. Many will grow accustomed to ordering in and simply prefer it that way.

People love convenience, speed and ease. Off-premise dining seamlessly blends all three: Your favorite food either right to your door or picked up and enjoyed wherever you want. With so many options available online and via third party apps, you’ll lose a lot of customers by ignoring off-premise dining.

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Adding takeout and delivery options isn’t enough, though. For starters, the menu must work on mobile since many people search for a place to eat on-the-go. You should also consider paring down, adding to or tweaking your menu for delivery since some food won’t travel well. Having a delivery-only menu ensures that your off-premise customers experience the same excellence as those who dine-in. Happy customers become loyal, and loyal customers become regulars—and regular online customers spend, on average, nearly twice as much (Litwin, 2019).

Once your business is properly primed for off-premise dining, further personalize each order as a way to provide the same friendly behavior that builds in-person customer relationships. Especially in times like these, you can’t rely on customer service to build loyalty because the staff doesn’t interact face-to-face with customers.

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A simple note or message, such as a fun fact or even just a handwritten “have a great day!” can help cultivate those same positive brand association that a friendly waitstaff usually fosters. Alternatively, include a “meet the founders” message that describes how or why the business started. Even customizing the tracking feature to include personalized details such as “Chef Brad is putting your pizza in the oven!” endears people more than the generic “your order is being prepared.” These simple additions remind customers of the real people behind their food and improve their overall feelings toward your restaurant, which keeps them coming back.

Additionally foster relationships with off-premise customers by incorporating them into your marketing. Invite them to “share their story” on social media with an associated hashtag or by tagging you in the post. Reward incentives for posting, like discounts, encourage people to promote you to their online circle of friends and to also order from you again in the future.

Invest money and resources in your off-premise dining experience. You have a lot of future customers out there just waiting for you to come to them.

 

References:

[1] Litwin, Sarah. “How to Increase Off-Premise Sales For Your Restaurant.” Toast, Toast, 3 December 2019, https://pos.toasttab.com/blog/off-premise-sales

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