How To Get Started and Maximize Curbside Pickup Revenue
June 8, 2020
Tips on starting and maximizing curbside pickup revenue for your restaurant and why it’s essential for restaurants going forward.
What will be the new normal for restaurants post-COVID-19? What is certain is that it will look very different from city to city, state to state. Throughout the nation, curbside pickup is a common sight and experience for guests. Restaurants all over the country are optimizing their space due to COVID-19 to continue their offering their food and hospitality. Some cities are closing down main streets and thoroughfares in favor of outdoor seating for restaurants, spaced appropriately for social distancing. Cities such as New York City have waived the permits for patio-style sidewalk seating which can run into thousands of dollars.
Right now, the current landscape for restaurants continues to largely revolve around to-go operations. In fact, nearly 80% of polled diners said they would continue to order online for pick up and delivery. Understandably, there is some hesitation in returning to dining in restaurants. Restaurants should focus on implementing curbside pickup operations if they haven’t done so already.
Why Offering Curbside Pickup is Ideal
At the beginning of COVID-19, when restaurants were ordered to shut their doors and operate only for pickup and delivery, many restaurants weren’t set up to make the sudden shift. But even for restaurants that already had to-go operations, adjustments had to be made. Curbside pickup has become a fundamental aspect of the new restaurant experience. Whether guests walk up to a door or window or park their cars in a designated space for staff to deliver their orders, it is instrumental in keeping restaurants open and revenue flowing.
It’s An Added Convenience For Customers
Ordering food for pickup is a simple way for guests to support their favorite restaurants while being able to easily access food. Whether guests order online for pickup or place an order over the phone, the ability to simply drive or walk up to a designated location for their order is not only convenient, it provides a safe alternative to dining. For high-risk guests, this provides peace of mind about their health and safety.
It Is An Important Revenue Stream For Restaurants
For restaurants, operating for curbside pickup is a no-brainer. It provides additional revenue for the restaurant, keeps staff employed and lowers the risk of exposure if guidelines are kept in place. Even as restaurants begin to reopen, occupancy caps are in effect, making it difficult for restaurants to break even with the lower headcount. To-go operations help supplement that lost revenue potential.
It Reduces Financial Strain From Commission Fees
An added pain point for restaurants as COVID-19 continues is the cost of third-party delivery marketplaces such as Grubhub, Seamless and UberEats. Even as demand for online ordering increases for restaurants, third-party delivery apps continue to rake in the benefits.
The majority of these services operate on high-commission payment structures — often up to 30%+ on each order. This steep commission fee leaves little room for profits in an industry with notoriously razor-thin margins. In fact, 90% of respondents from this survey done by the NYC Hospitality Alliance said that Grubhub/Seamless’ fees are unreasonable. Los Angeles and New York City have placed caps on third-party commission fees, citing practices that hurt restaurants.
An alternative to this is giving guests the ability to purchase direct online orders through the restaurant’s website using services such as Bento Ordering that charge no commission fees and are built for restaurants to maximize their margins on each and every order.
Get Started and Maximize Curbside Pickup
Getting started for operating curbside pickup for your restaurant is easier than it seems. There are many resources available such as the BentoBox Restaurant Reopening Guide. Our first recommendation is to set up a playbook for how your operation will go. Educating and training staff in safety measures is a great place to start. Ensure you’re following CDC and local city and state guidelines. Plan out where your curbside pickup location will be. How will guests receive their orders? Do you have parking available? Is there a walkup window? Operational planning will set your restaurant up for success and ensure a smooth and safe experience for both your staff and customers.
Designate Parking Spaces
Part of planning for curbside pickup is analyzing how customers will receive their orders. If your restaurant has designated parking spaces, or its own lot, reserve a section closest to an entrance specifically for curbside pickup. Make sure it’s visible and clear that they are reserved for that purpose only. Even if your restaurant is open to diners, many of your customers will be ordering to go. Clearly state a time limit on the space so that there is always available parking. Streamlining the process will not only make your operation more efficient, but you’ll also win repeat customers and increase sales. If your space doesn’t have its own parking spaces, consider using existing windows or entrances to create a pickup location.
Optimize A Window or Entrance for Walkup Service
Many restaurants, especially in metro areas, will likely not have access to reserved parking spaces for curbside pickup. So where should customers pick up their orders? If your restaurant has windows that open to the outside, consider creating a walk-up window. This keeps your customers and staff at a safe distance. Be sure to add markings to keep customers 6-feet apart as they wait for their turn to order. This also ensures that people can safely pass by without crowding. Similarly to designating parking spaces for curbside pickup, optimizing the flow will create a more efficient operation, earning repeat customers who find the process so convenient.
Train Your Staff On New Operational Procedures
As restaurants were faced with the difficult decision to close at the beginning of COVID-19, millions of restaurant workers found themselves unemployed. Consider and plan how many people you’ll need on staff to efficiently operate service for curbside pickup or delivery. Train your staff on what safety measures will be required of them by CDC and local and state guidelines. Ensure that they’re properly wearing PPE and using safe food-handling practices. Out of 500 diners we surveyed, 3 in 5 said they’d not return to a restaurant if staff members weren’t wearing a mask or gloves. Maximize operations by ensuring that all of your staff is properly trained on safety measures. If your customers have the peace of mind knowing that you’re following all guidelines, they’ll be more likely to revisit your restaurant. You can read more about how to train your staff for reopening by reading our restaurant reopening guide.
Adjust Your Menu For Food That Travels Well
Now that you’ve put together a plan of action, optimized how and where guests will pick up their to-go orders and trained your staff on safety measures and operational procedures, it’s time to focus on packaging. First, evaluate the type of cuisine you offer. Does it travel well in packaging? If not, consider pairing your menu down to items that do travel well.
Restaurants are also getting creative with their menus and offerings. Jeffrey's Grocery, a beloved corner restaurant in NYC’s West Village neighborhood did just that. Instead of reopening for pickup with their regular menu, they decided to convert their space into a neighborhood grocery market, using their website to sell meal kits, produce, provisions and more, for pickup at their restaurant. Other restaurants have also adjusted their menus due to offering takeout. Using packaging that travels well will garner more repeat customers and help your bottom line going forward. Read more about what travels well from our guide on pickup and delivery best practices. Also, restaurants should add their takeout menu to all to-go orders to drive repeat visitors.
Optimize Existing Pickup Operations To Maximize Revenue
Many restaurants may have curbside pickup operations in place. If you’re one, you’ll want to think about ways to optimize your operations to increase revenue potential. Now is the time to revisit your menus through a new lens and give them a refresh. Incentivize your guests by offering takeout specials or discounts. Get involved. Donate meals to local organizations and frontline workers who are helping us all get through these difficult times. Continue to build relationships with your guests by offering benefits through a loyalty program. After all, 45% of diners will select a restaurant if they belong to its loyalty program according to Hospitality Tech’s Customer Engagement Technology Study. These are just a few ways that you can increase revenue by revisiting your existing takeout operations.
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Communicate Operations Through Your Website
The final step to getting started and maximizing revenue with curbside pickup is to effectively communicate your new operations with your guests. Your website is the best method for doing so. A majority of surveyed diners said that the restaurant’s website is the first place they look to learn up-to-date information about a restaurant.
A quick and easy way to get the message across is by adding a popup alert when a visitor comes to your website. It’s suggested to add a call-to-action button that links out to your online ordering store or that directly calls your restaurant to place an order. From there, post on social media about your curbside pickup operations and send an email to your subscribers detailing how they can order from you. The more marketing you do about your operations, the more orders you’ll receive — especially if your content is optimized to convert them into a paying customer.
Although it’s a very difficult time for restaurants right now, operators and their staff are finding unique and creative ways to keep their businesses afloat, while continuing to offer the same high level of service and hospitality that shape the culture of our communities. Curbside pickup is one element of their ingenuity, contributing to a future for restaurants that is prosperous and essential. As always, BentoBox is here to help restaurants navigate through these changing times and provide advice and resources. Get in touch!
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