With takeout sales as the only option for hundreds of thousands of restaurants during the pandemic, it’s critical they operate their takeout programs as efficiently as possible. Restaurants already operate on razor-thin margins, and now the closure of dine-in services has reduced the margin for error to almost zero.
Here are seven steps your pizza restaurant can take today to cut the costs of your carryout program:
1. Limit food items and expand your beverage-to-go menu. This allows you to keep limited stock on hand and avoid food waste for specialty items. Kitchens need to get lean and mean if they hope to stay afloat with takeout. Conversely, you should strongly consider offering alcohol beverages to-go if your state allows. Beer, wine and cocktails are some of the highest margin-items on the menu, so they can help buoy your takeout.
2. Consolidate your packaging. This may mean ditching items that involve multiple components that have to be packaged separately or items such as soup that require you to keep special packaging on hand. It may also be worthwhile to offer family-style meals, where you can deliver larger quantities in fewer packages.
3. Re-sell stock to your customers. Many restaurants are now offering their wholesale supplies directly to customers as add-ons to orders. Large cans of beans, loaves of bread, meat by the pound, sauces, and other grocery items will save a customer a trip to the store and free up some cash for you to restock more high-demand items.
4. Ask for donations. Don’t be shy! Include options on your ordering system to let customers add a donation ($5 and $10 are typical) to your restaurant staff or to a cause such as feeding first responders. Your customers want to support their favorite restaurants through this tough time. You should provide them a means to do so and then spread the word about it.
5. Cut out the middleman—third party delivery apps. Food delivery services can expand your reach, but they come at a cost. Most services take a cut of each order received and may charge hefty setup or monthly fees as well. If your POS allows you to set up online ordering on your own website, consider only taking direct orders and even providing your own delivery service. Or partner with a smaller local service.
6. Take advantage of free marketing channels. Your Facebook business page, Instagram account and other social media channels only require an investment of time and attention. Post your specials, participate in #TakeoutTuesday, and keep a pulse on your community’s food scene. If you don’t have the time or design savvy, you can populate your feed with free social media templates tailored to the coronavirus from services like MustHaveMenus. Be sure you’re posting your most current takeout menu on your website and social media, so customers don’t get frustrated trying to order from an outdated version.
7. Encourage re-ordering. Capitalize on the customers you have by encouraging repeat orders. Drop a (current!) takeout menu in each pick-up order, so customers can keep your number and menu handy at home. Start a loyalty program to reward frequent dining. Meal plans and subscription services are also gaining in popularity as consumers look to consolidate their dining efforts.
Mark Plumlee is a freelance writer whose articles have been published in Full Service Restaurant, Modern Restaurant Management, Quick Service Restaurant, Hospitality Tech, That Oregon Life, The San Francisco Examiner, Blazersedge and other blogs. As a copywriter, he has helped restaurants and small businesses grow and define their brand for more than five years.