Tips for a Smoother Takeout Process

So, you’ve just set up a dynamite online and phone ordering process.  Your online and take out menus are marvelous and the public is responding!  Meal orders have started coming in, fast and furious. Now what?

Are you really ready for more business and more profits? Or, will your new phone and online business collapse under the weight of too many orders coming in and not enough of the right preparation?

Let’s review some of the many items you need to take care of before your first prepared order goes out the door, and even before your first order comes in to you.

I hope you already have the right software system, and have trained your servers to use it.  Also, that your kitchen staff knows that online orders will be coming in, increasing their workload, and that you have at least estimated the additional workload on your kitchen staff. Are you ready to add more people in crunch time if needed?

Make a point to have one or more meetings with your entire staff to go over the process, and to answer all the staff’s questions – all of them.  Thoughts will come up that you had not anticipated, concerns will come up that you need to address. Will you need more cooks?  More space?  Another stove?  Plan for great success.

But there are several more steps to take to ensure that orders keep coming in after the first initial rush, making that new stove a good investment.  And keeping those orders coming in means keeping new online and phone patrons satisfied. You can do that only by fulfilling their orders accurately and on time.

Be sure to manage the take-out portion of your restaurant with the same sense of quality you apply to your eat-in patrons.  These online and phone patrons are not just an add-on.  They are a new class of paying customers patrons, and deserve special care.  Not only must the service be good, but the food must be at least as good as that you serve your dine-in patrons.

Alert your cooks that carry out meals are at least as important as dine-in meals.  One big difference is this:  meals to be picked up from phone or internet orders must be ready exactly on time while you have a little more leeway with dine-in orders.

Your first and most important step is to get the order right!  Make sure your order taker makes the time, no matter how rushed he is,  to repeat the order back to the customer, if by phone, and to carefully proof every Facebook or other online order.  For phone customers, have your server repeat the order and say, “Is that your order?”

Second, make sure that every online and phone patron knows when his order will be ready.  Give him the hour and minute!  Don’t have your server say, “20 minutes.”  Have him say, “7:15.”  You don’t want people showing up early and clogging up your restaurant, impatiently waiting for their food.  Nor do you want people arriving late to pick up soggy dinners.

Third, and very important, queue the orders for the kitchen, not in the order taken, but on the due time for pickup, from #2 above.  If order A is requested for 8 pm and order B for 7:45 pm, have order B ready first.

Fourth, make sure your kitchen is on alert for online orders, and ready to cook.  There is nothing worse than a backed-up kitchen.  Plan the kitchen’s work.  Find out what times other restaurants have their busiest phone and online business, and plan accordingly.

Fifth, make a path.  Make a space.  If you have a delivery service, make sure there is parking space for the cars.  Have a staging area with a table for outgoing orders. Have a “checker” ready to inspect every outgoing order.

Finally,  follow up for more business with every order.  Make sure a new, clean carry out menu and coupons are in each out-going order.  Also, consider adding a “thank you” note from the owner.  State that this is a new venture, and that you want feedback.  You will get some valuable comments, note some things to improve, and also get some great quotes to use in your advertising.  Include a self -addressed, stamped envelope and a phone number that can record their impressions.

Then, take the time to review your entire process, daily at first, weekly later.  Interview your cooks, too.  Make immediate adjustments. Your online and phone patrons are as at least as important as your dine-in patrons.  Perhaps more important.  You can have many more online and phone patrons.  They provide you with higher profit levels.  And their feedback can help you grow your business.

Take care of these people.  They can be your retirement.