The takeaway pivot: 4 takeaway challenges and possible solutions for your restaurant operation

One thing is for sure, during the COVID-19 pandemic your business model has changed – it has had to in order to survive the UK lockdown and ensure that you have a solvent business on the other side.

For many, the enforced social distancing measures, as announced by Boris on 23 March, have meant a ramping up of your takeaway and delivery side of the business or a need to venture into this revenue stream for the first time. Either way you are no doubt facing a host of new challenges around this pivot into 100% takeaway. Here we look at some specific challenges and some possible solutions to help you deal with these changes.

Challenge: You have loyal customers who you are confident will want to order from your takeaway service but how do you communicate that you’re open for business with so much noise on social media?

Solution: Look to some old school methods. Social media is great but when every brand out there is taking to its channels to tell people about their new takeaway offering how can you make sure your message is not only heard but by the right people i.e. your target market.

This is when a robust CRM is a godsend as you need look no further that your little red book of contacts. Using the segmentation tools within your CRM, you can send targeted and personalised emails to your customers to whet their appetites for whatever you know appeals to them.

Hopefully your CRM is integrated to your EPoS so all future data from takeaway and/or delivery orders will be captured and pushed back into your CRM to further inform you on your customers preferences and order activity.

For forward-thinking businesses who use a CRM-enabled POS system, you will be able to start your outreach campaign with those customers most likely to order takeaway based on the data you have compiled from their buying activity and if you have a loyalty program attached to your CRM, you will already know exactly what is successful to incentivise them. Thankfully, the automated nature of this integrated tech means that reaching out to your customer database can be achieved relatively quickly so you can focus your energy on delivering perfect customer service.

Another option which has a proven success rate for customer engagement is SMS (a 45% response rate vs. 6% for email – Source: Gartner). From a GDPR point of view, as long as you have consent to contact them for marketing messages and you have an active customer relationship, you do not need a separate opt-in to send them text messages as long as you provide them with an option to opt-out. As for the message itself, here are some key pointers:

  1. Make it personal – use the customer’s name and tailor the message to appeal directly to their needs e.g. if they always go for the BBQ wings then offer a 50% off code on their first takeaway order.
  2. Have a clear call to action – make it short and snappy. Get to the point before they hit delete.
  3. Send it at the right time – according to industry data for restaurants and takeaways the best time is between 5-6pm across all days of the week. Avoid un-social hours as this is a fast track to being opted-out.

Challenge: You have never offered delivery before, where do you start?

Solution: You have a couple of options here and both come with pluses and minuses depending on the size of your operation.

1. Using a third-party aggregator for delivery – think Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Just Eat…

Since many of the larger casual dining & QSR chains ceased trading due to the virus such as McDonalds and Wagamama’s, these aggregators have lost a significant chunk of their client base overnight and as such are pedalling fast to try and keep their businesses going. Therefore, they have had to re-think their usual 30% commission rates and offer incentive packages to bring new restaurant partners on board such as reduced commissions and faster payments to aid restaurant’s much needed cash flow. Now is the time for independents and smaller chains to benefit from these big boys reach and marketing capabilities without paying a hefty price tag for it.

This is particularly advantageous for smaller operations who have never offered delivery and have no marketing or logistical capability to get this going from a standing start. These aggregators can take all this headache away but the one caveat to this is still data ownership. A bugbear before coronavirus, these aggregators not only charged significant commission but also retained all the valuable data about your customer base which as the previous point outlined, has huge marketing worth in growing and retaining customer loyalty.

2. Using integrated Online Ordering and Delivery tools within EPoS

These are bolt-on modules to your core EPoS and allow complete automation of the process from customer order and payment right through to fulfilment and delivery/collection. They usually also involve a set-up fee and ongoing monthly charge but unlike the third-party aggregator option, it allows you to retain ownership of all customer order data to feed back into your CRM and/or loyalty software for future marketing purposes which we know is worth its weight in gold. This option is more likely suited to larger operators (5 sites+) who offered takeaway pre-coronavirus and already have logistical set-up both front and back of house to handle delivery.

From a tech point of view, larger operators who work with a more in-depth customer database mean data ownership and the marketing segmentation capability of using an integrated CRM becomes crucial. It also means you can fully customise your online ordering interface rather than work with the off-the-shelf restrictions of using a third-party aggregator’s site.

Challenge: You already work with several third-party aggregators and not only have dedicated order tablets for them which takes up a valuable counter space but dealing with multiple orders across multiple aggregators can be confusing and open to order error.

Solution: You have a couple of options here to simplify things and help declutter your service areas although both will require you to have an open platform EPoS provider that can integrate with third-party software.

Option 1: Have your EPoS provider install the third-party API from your chosen delivery supplier such as Deliveroo, UberEATS etc (as long as your EPoS provider is an approved partner to these delivery suppliers) and all orders for these come directly into your EPoS rather than a separate tablet so you can continue to work with your existing hardware tills and have no need to re-key orders into the POS for fulfilment.

Key benefits:

✔       Complete automation – reduces the risk of human error inputting orders.

✔       Huge time-saving – cuts order processing time from an average of 2.5 minutes to 30 seconds.

✔       Frees-up staff to focus 100% on providing an excellent customer experience for in-house diners.

✔       Cost-saving - eliminates the need for multiple tablets, freeing up space behind the counter.

✔       Ensures stock requirement from online orders updates automatically.

✔       No more double-entering of orders.

Option 2: Rather than setting up integrations with each of your delivery suppliers through your EPoS opt for going with one integration with a third-party aggregator – the ‘aggregator of the aggregators’ – such as OpenTable who now partner with Deliveroo and UberEATS. Customers can order takeaway from their chosen restaurant online via OpenTable and have the order delivered by one of these suppliers. Like option 1 the order will come directly into the EPoS for fulfilment with the same key benefits.

One reason some operators may prefer option 2 is if they already use the services of OpenTable and therefore only need to set up integration and payment for one third-party software use.

Challenge: You want to go cashless following the government recommendation to reduce cross contamination from handling cash but you’re concerned it will too problematic and could exclude potential customers who want to pay with cash.

Solution: Thankfully, your customers are probably more than happy to pay by card as it also protects them from possible risk of contracting the virus.

For online ordering, payment by card is expected and whichever online ordering software provider you use, integrated third-party or via your EPoS supplier, they are already set up for card or mobile payment.

For counter ordering, you will almost certainly have integrated payments set up using payment devices (PEDs) so customers can pay by contactless card. From April 1 the limit for ‘tap and go’ contactless payment has increased from £30 to £45 due to the pandemic which helps make payment for many takeaway orders easier and more hygienic.

Uber Eats has also introduced the option for customers to tip online either before or after their delivery and thus avoid any risk from cash handling.

Even if you have remained closed entirely during this COVID-19 outbreak and your operation didn’t have a takeaway option in place prior to the outbreak, now is the time to think about trialling one when you start back up. Predictions, based on how China’s restaurant industry have experienced the pandemic, are that re-opening will be a phased return with continued social distancing measures in place leading to a higher demand for takeaway and delivery.

It will certainly be the full service and casual dining restaurants that will struggle with any continued social distancing and safety measures as this will reduce covers and table turnaround speed and thus revenue. This sector in particular will no doubt need to think about some sort of takeaway revenue stream to safeguard their future business operation. Given that takeaway used to be seen as something that could cannibalise a dine-in business, it is increasingly looking like it could be one of its saviours.

Here at pointOne we are offering our Online Ordering module free of charge for 3 months to help any customers who wish to set up a takeaway arm to their business during and post-pandemic. Learn more here.