The Rise of Takeout Food: Collection Counters, Pickup Windows and Drive-Thru Lanes
Though it might be easy to lump takeout food into a single category, the reality is there are many nuances within the takeout foodservice segment. Some takeout food requires diners to get out of their cars and enter the storefront, while others allow customers to stay within the cozy confines of their cars.
It’s also important to differentiate between takeout and delivery. While both represent an important segment of off-premise dining, takeout can give customers more control regarding the pickup process, eliminating unknowns like a driver’s whereabouts.
Ultimately, both takeout and delivery foodservice comprised a critical cross-section of restaurant service during the Covid pandemic, and the convenience it provides is something today’s consumers want to retain. According to Toast, takeout lunch sales skyrocketed during the pandemic, curbside delivery was extremely popular, and food quality reigned supreme for takeout diners. Additionally, as of 2020, customers ordered takeout over delivery 20 percent more of the time, a likely reflection of the greater control associated with takeout.
How to Enhance Consumer Control with Takeout Dining
When it comes to takeout, quality is key. Just as important, though, are the ideas of convenience and safety. If operators can cultivate these three benefits, the result will be a greater profit potential. But how can today’s foodservice operators underscore consumer control and develop a successful takeout food experience? Let’s take a closer look.
It can’t be underscored enough: today’s consumers look for quality above anything else when purchasing takeout food. That means preserving menu items from the end of the cooking process through carryout to the car, ensuring that all foods are held at proper temperatures and conditions for as long as possible. Solutions like Carter-Hoffmann’s Pick-Up Cabinet can help operators ensure quality while creating convenience and reducing the burdens on staff.
Accuracy is also an important aspect of quality. After all, if someone gets the wrong menu item, there isn’t even an opportunity to provide quality. In many cases, accuracy is impacted by staffing or lack thereof. With labor-saving units like the PUC, staff won’t need to spend all their time dealing with a crowded line of customers. Instead, foods can be placed in temperature-controlled cabinets accessible to the customer via an easy-to-use QR code that only provides access to their particular orders, not someone else’s. With the right solution, operators can ensure quality, pinpoint order accuracy, and save labor simultaneously.
If quality is the first benefit of takeout, convenience is certainly a close second. Though pandemic-era surveys listed cleanliness and safety as the second most important factor for consumers, in a post-pandemic world, diners are more focused on the conveniences they became accustomed to during Covid and expect them to continue.
What does convenience look like? First, it involves speed and efficiency, and there’s no speedier way to grab food and go than to stay in your car. Concepts like the call-ahead window have existed for many years, and today, the concept of curbside pickup is as ubiquitous as the standard drive-thru window. Simply put, meeting customers at their cars is a good idea, and it’s one of the easiest ways to cultivate repeat business from convenience.
Safety Still Matters
Even though the hard days of the pandemic have passed, many consumers are still concerned about safety. Minimizing human interactions has been a main goal in the past few years, and for those with pre-existing health conditions that are still concerned about contracting Covid or any other type of virus or disease for that matter, low-touch dining is still important.
While safety through reduced touchpoints is positive, it’s not the only benefit that safety measures can provide. Contactless pickup also provides labor savings by reducing the need to collect payment and disperse orders via human contact. This means safety initiatives can result in other operational benefits, as well.
Middleby provides a comprehensive suite of foodservice equipment and supplies to help today’s operators maximize the profits of takeout and delivery. Begin with all the important information on our Takeout & Delivery Resource Page.