Takeout & Food Delivery Best Practices for Restaurants

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5 min read

Dec 7, 2022

Takeout & Food Delivery Best Practices for Restaurants

Unsurprisingly, demand for takeout and delivery surged during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to research from McKinsey, after growing at a steady annual rate of 8%, the food delivery industry more than doubled after lockdowns began. Even with some sense of normalcy back in their lives, diners still crave the convenience of eating quality restaurant meals at home. 

Implement these takeout and food delivery best practices at your restaurant to take advantage of the unceasing demand for off-premises dining.

Create a Menu for Takeout & Delivery

Not everything on your dine-in menu should be consumed off-premises. Consider each menu item’s potential for losing quality if it’s not consumed right away. You don’t want to offer dishes that become soggy or unappetizing after it’s been jostled around in a box for half an hour. Even though this compromised quality isn’t your restaurant’s fault, you’ll inevitably get complaints from customers.

You have two workarounds here to help you maintain food delivery best practices. The first is creating a takeout and delivery menu that only includes foods that travel well and are appetizing even after they’ve cooled down. Options like sushi, pizza, and pasta are good candidates, while fried foods or sandwiches – which might get soggy – aren’t.

If customers complain that they can’t get their favorite meal delivered, consider including them on your off-premises menu with a caveat or heat-up instructions.

For example, White Elephant, a Thai restaurant in the Philadelphia suburbs, warns customers that their pad Thai “should be eaten right out of the stir fry” and that quality cannot be guaranteed if eaten off-premises. The restaurant requires customers to check a box saying they understand this warning, and uses this opportunity to upsell peanut sauce, which enhances the flavor of the dish if it isn’t consumed immediately.

food delivery takeout menu

Consider also creating special takeout and delivery menus for the holidays. For example, you could offer catering for Thanksgiving or meal kits for Valentine’s Day.

Ensure a Smooth & Easy Online Ordering Experience

Third-party delivery apps help you get your name out there, but they pit you against the competition and charge steep commission fees – 30% on average. Implement a direct online ordering solution to help keep the hospitality alive in the digital experience and reduce costs. 

With a white-labeled direct online ordering platform like SevenRooms, you have full control over the ordering process and pay a flat fee instead of a commission, which makes your costs more predictable.

Pro Tip: If you still want to use third-party ordering tools for marketing purposes, convert third-party customers into direct customers by inserting coupons for their first direct orders in their delivery bags. 

Write Detailed Dish Descriptions

During the online ordering process, diners don’t have a server to guide them through the menu or to answer questions. Help guide customers’ decisions by adding detailed dish descriptions to your online menu. Include details that sell the dish and inform guests. List ingredients and note allergens or dietary considerations to help deter mistakes or unwanted surprises. 

Take inspiration from Caphe Roasters, Philadelphia’s first Vietnamese coffee shop, which lists the ingredients in its drinks and compares their flavors to ones guests are familiar with. For example, the Egg Coffee is like a tiramisu latte while the Ume Plum Tea tastes like a lime popsicle.

Add Photos to Your Online Menu

Much like product descriptions, photos of menu items both inform customers and help sell dishes. Unlike a paper menu, which is limited in size, you can add as many photos as you want to your online ordering menu

Mina Group’s International Smoke in San Francisco shares photos of its mouth-watering signature entrees, smoked meats, and mac n cheeses on its online menu to tempt customers.

Pro Tip: If you plan to take your own photos, plate meals on minimalist dishware to reduce distractions. Take photos next to windows whenever possible to take advantage of natural lighting.

Optimize Packaging

One of the most important food delivery best practices is making sure food is packaged properly. Packaging impacts presentation and food quality. 

Choose packaging that’s best suited for the type of food you serve. For example, cardboard boxes are ideal for pizza, while plastic containers (opt for recycled plastics, if possible) are suitable for soup and pasta. 

If your restaurant is interested in sustainability, consider launching a reusable container program. Tiffin, an Indian chain in Philadelphia that’s known for takeout, has a Return2Tiffin program in which customers can pay a deposit to get their food in reusable containers. This industry-leading system is great for the environment and for getting customers to order again.

Create a uniform system for packing food so customers have a consistent experience no matter who packs it. Food delivery packing best practices include placing heavier items on the bottom of bags, packing hot and cold foods in separate bags, and placing sauce packets in plastic baggies so they’re easier to find.

Improve Delivery Routes

Delivery times can make or break the customer experience. If a customer has to wait an hour for delivery, they may opt to order from another restaurant. Optimize delivery routes by only delivering within a certain radius of your restaurant. Use navigation tools that use real-time data, like Waze, to avoid traffic jams. Rather than delivering orders on a first-come-first-served basis, plan deliveries around efficient routes.

If hiring and managing delivery drivers is more than you can handle, outsource delivery fulfillment. Join forces with other restaurants to create a fleet or take advantage of delivery partners, like DoorDash Drive, that let you access drivers for a flat fee.

Prioritize Health & Safety

Although the early days of the pandemic are behind us, it’s important to offer takeout and delivery options that are convenient and contactless. Fulfill customers’ needs by offering curbside pickup and contactless delivery, and creating a designated pickup spot inside your restaurant.

Food safety should be top of mind for both on- and off-premises dining. When creating your takeout menu, exclude dishes that could spoil if they aren’t eaten immediately, like steak tartare and other raw dishes. Optimizing delivery routes and correctly estimating delivery times can reduce the chances of food sitting out too long. Finally, give customers the option to schedule pickup and delivery orders so it’s fresh when they want to consume it.

Ask Customers for Feedback

Implementing these takeout and food delivery best practices can only take you so far. You need to listen to your customers to know what went well and what didn’t so you can improve the next experience. 

Send customers who order online a guest feedback survey to understand how you did.

FYI: SevenRooms automatically sends customers surveys after each order and sends managers a daily digest of feedback patterns. Implement suggestions to improve the off-premises experience for your customers. Learn more.

Enhance the Takeout & Delivery Experience With Technology

Technology can assist with and improve every aspect of the delivery and takeout experience. From direct online ordering platforms that let you customize the ordering process and share detailed menu descriptions and photos, to GPS systems that optimize delivery routes, and guest feedback surveys that let you know what customers are thinking, you have many options at your disposal. 

Learn how SevenRooms can streamline and improve your takeout and delivery experience. Request a demo today.

Food Delivery FAQs

1. How Can Food Delivery Quality Be Improved?

Improve the quality of food delivery by creating a delivery-only menu for foods that travel well. If you want to include dishes that might not travel well, warn customers so they know what to expect. Choose packaging that will keep food warm and reduce spillage. Optimize delivery routes to make sure food arrives promptly.

2. What Actions Can Be Taken to Ensure Food Safety During Delivery?

Don’t offer foods that present a health risk, like raw meats, for delivery. By letting customers schedule pickup or delivery orders, your restaurant can prepare meals when they’re needed, instead of letting them sit out.

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