Consumers have caught on to delivery, drive thru, and all forms of in-store pickup, and they’re not going back. Off-premise dining now accounts for as much as two-thirds of restaurant sales; while that number is expected to recede as social isolation simmers down, restaurants will remain dependent on off-premise fulfillment for a significant percentage of revenue. At the same time, 30% aggregator fees can make off-premise fulfillment eat into restaurant profit margins and can weaken relationships with customers. To strengthen both customer value and loyalty, brands should focus on building strong, direct relationships with off-premise customers, and investing in technology for better customer experiences.
We’ve worked with the world’s most famous restaurant brands to identify and solve the major hurdles to off-premise customer relationships and value. This post explores the technology that helps restaurants bridge the gap and create efficient, affordable off-premise fulfillment that keeps customers coming back.
10 ways to strengthen your off-premise sales and customer relationships through tech:
1. Flexible delivery and fulfillment options
2. Accurate menus across all digital channels
3. Convenient communication options for customers
4. Order tracking for customers
5. Branded messaging and tracking
6. Seamless, convenient on-site fulfillment
7. Integrated payment solutions
8. Internal and external fleet management technology
9. Automated dispatch and routing
10. Logistics BI and Reporting for performance insights
Offer flexible delivery & fulfillment options from your eCommerce site
Marketplaces are a valuable tool for advertising and reaching new audiences, but never underestimate the power of your own branded eCommerce site. Besides tracking customer behavior and spending patterns for upselling and profitability, a brand website lets you offer flexible delivery and fulfillment options, based on your availability. Customers are more likely to order from your site if they see delivery, drive through and on-premise pickup options.
Ensure menu accuracy across all eCommerce sites
Your menus should be up-to-date and accurate wherever your customers meet them. Use menu management software that lets you easily edit and publish up-to-date menus to both internal eCommerce platforms and all partner marketplaces.
Additionally, menu catalogs should be synced with your retail systems to reflect local inventory availability, as well as any individual retail promotions. For example, if a particular region is out of the breakfast special, all menus for that region should reflect it. Otherwise, customers may order something, only to find out afterwards that it’s not available.
Similarly, if a certain local branch has a discounted item, then all customers of that specific branch should see that discount when they order the specific item online.
Convenient customer communication
Let your customer feel their voice is heard. It’s not enough to include a place to add notes on the order form; you must coordinate orders so these instructions reach the driver, whether they are part of an internal or external fleet. Additionally, customers should have a way of contacting their driver while the delivery is in progress, in case they need to make last-minute changes to the delivery address.
Provide customers with order tracking
Give customers visibility throughout the entire fulfillment flow to reassure them that their order will be ready when planned. In-app and branded SMS notifications can update customers when their order is sent to prep, or when it’s been handed to a driver.
To prevent additional workload, these messages should be automated. For example, delivery recipients should be notified when their driver has left the restaurant, when they are a few minutes from arrival, and upon arrival.
Don’t be deceived by the surplus of tracking apps out there. To be accurate, tracking across the entire fulfillment flow depends on total coordination and a complete data sync between POS, kitchen, drivers (internal or external), and curbside or drive thru associates. (This technology also helps keep food fresh. For more on this, keep reading.)
Own your branding
Strong customer relationships rely on customers attributing their off-premise experience to your brand, and not to marketplaces, delivery partners, or anyone else. Ensure that customers see your brand from the moment they place the order, to the moment the food is in front of them.
Branded order updates and order tracking help keep your brand foremost in the customer’s mind. Moreover, use the same notification and tracking software to collect customer feedback. This not only provides information that can help you improve the off-premise experience, but shows customers their purchase is not a transaction – it’s a relationship in which your brand has an investment.
Convenient drive thru and click & collect experiences
Customers for curbside pickup and drive through should receive information which directs them to wait at the right curbside or parking spot, or drive thru lane, for their order. Ensure that they won’t have to wait long by tracking incoming customers and providing unique order identifiers (whether a color, number, ID, or a combination of the three) for both retail staff and customers. Direct nearby customers to alternative locations if your drive-thru is filled to capacity.
Make payment and tips easier with integrated payment solutions
It’s 2020 – no one wants to take out their credit card to spend money. Today, driver applications can add tips to the same payment method used at checkout, so that delivery customers can add a tip with a tap on the screen.
Automate internal and external fleet management to lower delivery price
If you are not successfully meeting order demand, now is the time to connect with a delivery network and the fleets that meet your business and operational needs. This ensures you have enough drivers at the right time and places, in order to deliver in short time frames at any volume.
Adding more delivery partners is the first step; the next is using software to manage order dispatch and routing, and to gain visibility into whether fleets – both internal and external – are performing up to your brand standard.
Automate dispatch and routing to ensure fast delivery and high food quality at the right price
If the food tastes bad, or delivery is priced too high, then the most convenient off-premise options in the world won’t help you land a good review or repeat customers.
The right delivery and fulfillment technology will help ensure that your offerings match up with – and even surpass – your customers’ expectations for speed, price, and food quality.
Automated Dispatch and Fleet Routing software both speed up the delivery process and help lower costs to both business and customers. Automated Dispatching can assign orders based on your business logic and operational processes, whether it’s dispatching to the most readily available or nearest fleet and driver, or to the one which will cost you the least per delivery.
The same applies for routing. Use route optimization tools that not only finds the optimal route, but can batch orders to get more orders out faster using fewer drivers. This not only speeds up the delivery, but helps reduce the cost to deliver to your business and, subsequently, to your customer.
Logistics BI: Understand and improve performance
When working with external fleets, use data tracking and measuring software to check KPIs and make sure they are providing the experience your customers expect. The same applies for internal teams as well.
Use logistics reporting to centralize data across all providers. This will give you a more complete view of fleet performance, fleet order value and other criteria that explain the impact each fleet has on your business. This data should be customized to your KPIs, and per role (e.g. for store managers, operational leaders, and business executives).
Now more than ever, the success of your off-premise fulfillment will define the value of your brand. Customers don’t care about the fault lines in your operations – they care about getting good tasting food fast, and at reasonable prices. Personalization, convenience, and good performance – all mixed with a dash of strong branding – will win you repeat customers, no matter where they order from. Investing in delivery and fulfillment technology, and engaging with the right delivery partners, is the best way to increase your off-premise sales in today’s market.