Getting Started With Off-Premise Dining: It’s Easier Than You Think
If you’re in the restaurant industry, you know that off-premise dining is the hottest and most in-demand trend, and it’s only getting more popular. Melissa Wilson with Technomic found that “86% of consumers are using off-premise services at least monthly. And a third are using it more than they did a year ago.” More and more restaurants are getting onboard with off-premise and watching their sales climb.
In fact, about 60% of operators polled by Technomic say that offering delivery has generated incremental sales. If your restaurant’s new to off-premise dining, you probably know that you should be offering these services but might not know where to start. The idea of offering off-premise might even intimidate you a little bit. Off-premise dining doesn’t have to be a “go big or go home” approach. You can start as small as you want and build over time. We’ll walk you through a few easy ways to get started with off-premise dining, as well as some considerations worth making.
Create a Focused Off-Premise Menu
One of the first questions you should ask yourself when offering off-premise is what food you’ll put on the menu. When getting started, it’s best to offer less and gradually add more to the menu. We recommend picking five high-profit margin items that are quick-to-prepare to start with on your off-premise menu.
You’ll want to select items that will travel well and retain their quality. After a few weeks, evaluate how each item on the menu is doing. Look at your most popular and least popular items on the menu. At that point, you could consider adding a few more menu items or swapping out items.
Serve Off-Premise Meals Once a Day
If you want to ease into offering off-premise dining, you could start by only offering it once a day (lunch or dinner time). This would give you time to see how your off-premise business performs. If you’re running your off-premise dining business in-house, you wouldn’t need to hire as much staff if you were only offering lunch or dinner. Evaluate how this performs and eventually move into adding another time of day.
Off-Premise Dining Promotions
How are you planning on getting the word out about your restaurant’s off-premise dining service? You’ll want to add promotional signage to your restaurant but most importantly, start promoting on social media. Share your off-premise dining menu on your restaurant’s social media pages and website. Consider running a social media promotion for a percentage off or a free item when you order your first off-premise meal. You can also run a promotion for a certain percentage off on a particular day of the week, especially if in-house traffic is slow (i.e. 10% off your delivery order on Tuesdays).
Off-Premise Orders Through Your Website
How will customers submit their order? Apps can cost thousands of dollars to develop so a cheaper and easier option would be adding an ordering system to your website. If you have a Wordpress website, you can easily set up a restaurant ordering system plugin. For this to be effective, you’ll want the ordering system to be integrated with your POS system.
Outsource or In-House Delivery Service?
There are pros and cons to outsourcing or managing the service in-house. If you’re starting off small, you may not need to hire much staff, so running your service in-house could be a good option. You wouldn’t have to worry about paying any third-party commissions and would have full control of your off-premise services.
On the other hand, outsourcing your off-premise services provides you with a network of customers (UberEATS has 8 million users) that may have otherwise not found your restaurant. You also would be able to hand off the delivery portion of your off-premise service, allowing you to focus on continuing to offer great food.
When you’re easing into offering off-premise dining, you might think implementing restaurant technology might be too complicated. You can start by managing your delivery and/or carry out business without technology, but it will eventually be something you’ll want to consider. Here’s why:
Managing Both Streams of Traffic
Even if you’re starting small with your strategy, you’ll still be managing two streams of traffic (dine-in and off-premise) which can get a little tricky. Some kitchen display systems offer a feature called capacity management. This feature enables you to provide real-time quotes and order tracking to diners and third-party delivery partners based on real-time activity.
This feature goes into effect when your restaurant reaches maximum capacity. This way, you can set realistic expectations for when off-premise orders will be ready to get picked up or delivered and reduce stress in your kitchen.
Organizing Your Host Stand
The takeout tab feature of a guest management system is ideal for any host stand. This feature allows you to filter carryout and delivery orders on customizable tabs. When your kitchen display system and guest management system are integrated, the takeout tab can show you when an order starts cooking in the kitchen, how long the order has been cooking, and what time the order will be ready.
This keeps your host at the host stand and eliminates the need to run back to the kitchen to check on order statuses. It also provides better insights for incoming third-party delivery drivers and customers picking up orders.
Ask for Customer Feedback
Be patient with your off-premise dining strategy. It’ll take some time to establish. In the meantime, get customer feedback. If you have a way to gather customer information, such as email addresses, you could ask for feedback in an email survey. If not, you could create a survey and post the link on your website, social media, or even your receipts. Here are some questions to ask:
- How did you find out about our delivery and/or carryout service?
- How would you rate your meal?
- How would you rate the freshness of your food?
- How long did you have to wait?
- Was your meal ready at the time promised?
- Would you recommend our delivery and/or carryout service to a friend?
Don’t forget to keep an eye on Yelp and all restaurant review websites for feedback from customers. Set up a Google Alert so that you are notified whenever your restaurant is mentioned on the Internet.
Time to Get Started
That completes our roundup of some easy ways to ease into offering off-premise dining at your restaurant. Just remember, you must start somewhere but the key is that you have to simply begin. You’ll find that your customers will appreciate the added convenience and you’ll likely see a nice uptick in sales.
Want information on building a successful off-premise dining strategy? Listen to our webinar about perfecting your off-premise dining strategy.
About the Author
Emily Elder is a Content & Social Media Specialist at QSR Automations. Emily was born and raised in Louisville but considers herself a die-hard University of Kentucky fan. For college, Emily attended Indiana University Southeast and obtained a degree in Communications with a track in Advertising. In her free time, Emily enjoys just about every water related activity but she is partial to kayaking and whitewater rafting.