1.11.2021

How to Streamline Curbside Pickup at Your Restaurant

Written by Austin Chegini

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As we enter another year of social distancing and lockdowns, restaurants face continuing challenges. From limited capacity to less demand for in-person dining, several factors are cutting into your profit margins. 

To stay afloat during these times, businesses are turning to delivery and takeout. Demand is higher than it has ever been, and any restaurant not offering these services is missing out on considerable revenue.

The challenge of offering curbside takeout

Many restaurants quickly rolled out curbside pickup for customers, but this resulted in unforeseen complications. 

If you have cars waiting for their meals, traffic congestion will naturally occur. Parking spots will get taken up, causing dine-in guests to be frustrated. At a minimum, you will have unhappy customers. At a maximum, you will have fender benders and confrontation. 

Some restaurants that are new to offering pickup struggle to get orders out on time. Some people arrive on time but get cold meals and others have to wait much longer than expected. With unreliable preparation speed, your reputation is at stake.

Following a tumultuous year full of social distancing and virus news, hygiene is a top concern. Guests who see workers mishandling orders or not wearing the right protective gear will question the safety of their food. 

Steps to revamp your curbside pickup process

Train staff on Standard Operating Procedure 

Too many restaurants rush to provide pickup without taking a measured approach to the process. If everyone is running around without a plan, orders can be lost in the shuffle and customers will be left unsatisfied.

Before serving your next pickup order, create a written Standard Operating Procedure. This SOP will guide each employee through the process to ensure quality and leave no room for surprises. 

Although every employee should read over this guide, you should also train staff on the plan. Make sure to go over each step so your workers know what to do when you aren’t at the restaurant.

Create a pickup menu

Some restaurants are known for having incredibly long menus, but these are not always useful for curbside and delivery. Giving guests too many items to choose from can make the process confusing, and some meals are not easy to package and transport.

When you create a dedicated pickup menu, you simplify the ordering process and ensure customers only get the best food possible. On top of this, you can create a separate area in the restaurant for staff to prep to-go meals. With a simplified menu, they can work with fewer ingredients and only use the supplies they need.

Your pickup menu should focus on the following:

  • Family meals: Make dinner easy with family-sized portions. Include side dishes and dessert to top off the order.
  • Mealkits: Because of social distancing and health concerns, some people cannot shop at grocery stores. With mealkits, your customers can cook their favorites dishes with a little less stress.
  • Alcohol To-Go: Don’t let your liquor inventory sit dormant during lockdowns. Check if your state allows for alcohol delivery and then invest in the right packaging.

Epos Now Order & Pay allows restaurants to build a pickup menu that synchronizes completely with Epos Now point of sale systems. Customers can order, choose their pickup time, and pay from this app-less platform.

Offer several ways to pay

The easier it is for customers the pay, the more willing they will be to finish transactions. However, it can be challenging to accept and account for payments across applications, especially given merchant fees and other costs. At the same time, many customers are avoiding paying in cash because of the pandemic. 

With the right point of sale, all payments can be tracked in one place. You won’t have to partner with third-party programs and pay exorbitant fees.

If you use Epos Now Order & Pay, your customers can:

  • Pay online
  • Pay with contactless options like Apple Pay
  • Pay with cash

Create a pickup area in your parking lot

Reduce confusion and congestion by clearly marking off your curbside pickup location. And don’t let the name confuse you - not all restaurants need to serve food directly from the curb. 

To start, consider the number of cars you will serve each day. If you will only have one or two customers picking up at a time, you can mark off two parking spots for pickup only. If you will have delivery drivers and customers coming in and out all day, you might want to set up a separate section in your parking lot. 

If this is the case, choose an area that does not impact normal traffic patterns. Next, set up a tent and surround it with high-visibility cones to increase safety. Make the tent has a table to accommodate orders and plenty of cleaning products to keep things hygienic. 

Splurge on sturdy containers

You likely don’t serve dine-in orders on paper plates and other disposable items, so why would you use cheap products for takeout orders? 

No matter how good your food tastes, customers pay attention to presentation and packaging. If you use low-grade products, you risk coming across as cheap and uncaring. At the same time, weak containers could leak and spill all over your guests. 

The last thing you want is for a customer to call and complain about your food spilling on their clothes or car. Not only will you need to eat the cost of replacing the meal, but you will likely get negative restaurant reviews at the same time.

While high-grade packaging comes at a cost, you can improve customer satisfaction and reduce unnecessary expenses. Paying a little extra per container can be cheaper than offering free replacement meals to unhappy customers.

As an added bonus, people like to share photos of their food on social media. These social shares are free promotion for your restaurant, so you want to encourage them as much as possible. If your contains are weak and soaked in grease, customers will be less willing to post photos of them for their followers.

Ready to invest in your restaurant? 

It is hard to run an efficient curbside pickup service without the right tools. From taking and preparing orders to processing payments, there are many moving parts. 

Luckily, the Epos Now Restaurant point of sale can manage all aspects of takeout and delivery. Our cloud POS system logs orders, links with payment processors, tracks inventory levels, and more. 

Speak with a consultant today to learn more!