3 Critical Takeout Takeaways: How to Combat Covid and Bring Customers Back

Unfortunately, even with vaccines now rolling out it’s going to take time for things to get back to normal, and when they do, what will normal look like? 

For restaurant owners, this means that you need your takeout or curbside options to be as memorable and appealing to your customers as it is to visit your restaurant in-person. Why? Diversification baby. Warren Buffett said it, so it must be right.

So, how can you set your restaurant apart from the crowd and offer something more to your customers?

1. Make it Insta-worthy

For years, restaurant-goers have been taking photos of their meals and using social media to showcase them. Yet, we know all too well that providing customers with the same type of “Insta-worthy” experience via takeout and curbside can be more than just challenging. 

But, here’s the trick. People not only post things that look good, they post things they love and enjoy

So, give them something to snap about — create a memorable experience. 

Instead of regarding takeout as this ho-hum obligation, look at your takeout and curbside options as an opportunity to delight your customers in special, fun and unique ways.

The key is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes: Is the dish attractive enough that it’s worth photographing? Does it all piece together and look “good enough to eat?” Or does the beauty of the dish get lost in the styrofoam around it? Is there anything memorable, or is everything going in the garbage? Every little bit matters — every piece from the packaging, to the utensil, to the burger as an individual and value-adding piece of the meal. 

Use the "right" takeout boxes

We’ve all had messy takeout experiences. You know, the kind where a liquid explodes all over the takeout bag, or a dish gets turned upside down and everything in it is a mess? It’s a major bummer. Ultimately, you want to avoid experiences like these and make takeout an amazing experience for your customers. 

There are times to save money and times to ensure quality — sometimes you can get lucky and do both. But, in this case, always go for the former. A few things to think through when purchasing your takeaway packaging:

  • Choose a box that seals well. 
  • Select a design based on the meals your restaurant offers most often. You don’t want to have to buy more takeout boxes than necessary. 
  • Whenever possible, make sure the construction of the box is eco-friendly! Today’s consumers want to know that you’re taking the extra steps to take care of the environment, especially with people eating takeout more than ever. 
  • Make sure the boxes align with the theme of your restaurant. Afterall, these boxes are an extension of your brand.

Leverage a great menu design.

Design a takeout menu/ leave behind that separates you from your competitors. Ultimately, you want to design something that is more likely to be displayed in a prominent place, not just tossed in the junk drawer. Consider adding unique facets: A fun comic or design, maybe a game or something of the sort — consider attractive typography, easy-to-read fonts, a beautiful display, or witty names for food and drinks that are sure to make your customers giggle. 

The aim here is to be memorable and unique. 

Pay attention to food presentation.

It matters how your food is presented. You don’t have to go crazy — and some dishes simply can’t be dressed up — but no one wants their pizza cheese on the top of the box. They want it on the pizza dough, of course! If you do have a dish that you can dress up, take the time to present it as neatly as you would if customers were eating that dish in the store. When you have the chance, experiment a little so you can learn what designs will most likely survive transport. Visual appeal is at least half of the food experience.

2. Reward and Delight Your Customers

It’s Pavlovian training! Well, kind of. People love treats. So take advantage of it! Reward your customers with a coupon or rewards program. Give them a reason to come back to your restaurant. Delight them by going above and beyond.

The most beautiful word in any language, to any human, is their name.

Get to know your customers and who they are. Your app or website can help collect that information, which will make it easier for you to communicate directly with customers and provide offers personalized specifically for them — or to address them by name when they pick up their orders. Do fun, kind things for them, like a birthday surprise. In other words, make them feel a part of the family-business, and as the family grows, in turn so will the business.

Send a thank you text.

Send out a text after connecting with your customers to thank them for their purchase and let them know that you appreciate them. And do it like you mean it. For example, check out the thank you email below that drove millions in sales for CD Baby — It all matters and it all helps!

It pays to be different.

Think about what your restaurant can uniquely offer that others, especially the neighboring competitors, can’t provide customers. Take the current times into consideration. For example, could you offer your customers a virtual cooking class? Or a takeout option that customers can finish in their homes together: Bake-your-own pizzas or decorate-your-own cupcakes kits, for instance. Try something unique to your business and see how it changes the customer experience.

3. You Lazy — Me Lazy — We’re all Lazy!

From top to bottom, the entire takeout experience should feel easy and stress-free. When it comes to takeout and delivery options, customers are often looking for a simple and straight-forward experience. Focus on delivering a streamlined experience that customers can rely on.

Don’t overcomplicate the ordering process.

Don’t make your menus more complicated than they need to be, or make customers jump through hoops to place an order. Whether they call in or connect with you online, make sure that customers can easily find and order the dishes they want. Be sure to include the time when their order will be ready, or a notification that the order is ready for pickup.

Make it easy to contact you.

Did a customer have a problem with their order? Do they have a question they could ask the server in a restaurant? Both of these instances are made more difficult when they need to connect with you virtually. Ultimately, you need to provide them with an easy alternative to connect with you. For instance, via text message or chat. You need to meet customers wherever they’re at.

Ensure your menus are easy to find.

Clearly display the menu on your website. Consider adding a link (to your menu) or a linked photo on your social media pages. Include images of your food when you can so your customers can easily see what they’re ordering. And make sure that you include information about the ingredients — be sure to include if an item is gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan or otherwise. Use Instagram’s new shopping tab as inspiration for how other brands are using pictures and videos to sell their products.

Keep pickup simple and straight-forward.

Customers need to know how to contact you when it comes time to pick up their food. So, how should customers notify you about their arrival? What should they know about picking up their food? Clearly explain how you’re handling curbside and takeout options at your restaurant, especially in light of COVID-19 restrictions and health precautions.

Final thoughts

Is your takeout experience memorable enough to keep your customers engaged and committed? A lot of factors go into determining where customers will come for their takeout meals, including (but not limited to) the ease of the experience, the visual presentation of the food itself, and the rewards customers receive for interacting with your restaurant. 

Once you’ve started to give your takeout a makeover, make sure you follow up with your customers to see what they think. Keep in mind, customers are more likely to leave a review or provide feedback when they don’t have to go out of their way to do it. Help them spread the word by making the review process easy — show them where and how to leave a review. Or, you can go a step further and provide a QR code that takes them directly to your website, or franki profile where they can leave a review.

We know 2020 was a tough year, and 2021 is off to a slow start. But your restaurant can thrive even amidst the COVID-19 crisis. We hope these tips and tricks can help. If you have any questions at all, ideas, or just want to brainstorm, myself and our franki team live for this — please reach out to anyone on the franki team via our website, or me directly at [email protected]. We are more than happy to help however we can! And if we can’t, I have no doubt we will know someone that can.

If you’d like to learn more about what franki does and how we help local businesses by incentivizing customers to make their marketing content, check out franki here. Or, see how other businesses are making their dining experience video-worthy by checking out some of the videos on our app.  It’s available in the Google Play Store and the Apple App store.