Phone, Mobile, And Web: Addressing Off-Premise Takeout Opportunities

*This Is A Repost Of An Original Article Posted Here

The problem with takeout these days is that although technology has made takeout ordering more accessible, the customer experience has not improved. Why is that?

Certainly part of the blame falls to us as people. Because as things all around us become faster, more accessible, and automated stemming from advancements in technology, we grow increasingly impatient and intolerant. Waiting is inexcusable. Mistakes are intolerable. We place a takeout order online for pick-up; we expect it to be ready at the time designated with no wait and with no mistakes — every time. That’s who we’ve become. However, the takeout experience problem is more complicated than that.

The issue falls to the restaurant for failing to recognize the full “off-premise” takeout opportunity when proceeding to only implement online and mobile technologies.

How so?

Consider this — even with the advancement of technology, 70% of all restaurant takeout orders still come in over the phone. Adding online and mobile menu ordering services is important, but it’s only addressing a smaller portion of the complete takeout landscape. And while there are an array of different technological widgets available, restaurants really need to be thinking about how to implement a fully integrated, end-to-end solution that addresses 100% of the off-premise operations. In doing so, the overall customer experience will improve.

Think of it this way. As a dine-in customer, the experience you encounter at a restaurant primarily falls to the level of service you receive. The server, bartender, manager, host, and every other employee at the restaurant influence the overall experience to varying degrees. Restaurants spend a significant amount of time and money building a delightful experience for their dine-in guests. But the experience provided to a takeout customer is vastly different because the restaurant staff is not capable of focusing on providing a high quality experience. They are simply too busy and too focused on their dine-in customers. With regularity, takeout phone calls are put on hold with long wait times, hosting staff usually have poor menu knowledge and are ill-equipped to answer questions, and the background is noisy. New online and mobile technologies do not resolve these other call-in issues. And if a customer has an issue with an online or mobile order, they are left on their own to address it. As a result, it’s solely left to the functionality of the takeout ordering technology to serve as the substitute for the customer experience, which is not what it’s designed to do.

Takeout ordering technology is primarily designed to provide speed and accessibility to place a takeout order. Both are good things. But this of course assumes the order is fairly straight forward with few to no questions or changes. And although technological automation presumably ushers in a sense of greater order accuracy and freedom from errors, the truth is that this is not always the case. So, when you place a takeout order through an online shopping cart and cannot ask a question regarding the menu or make a change to the order after you’ve placed and paid for it, you are left feeling frustrated and disappointed. What’s more, if you experience an outage or some technology error or failure, you are now disgruntled. For example, let’s say a customer is trying to place a mobile order. They hit enter and an error message comes up and the order cannot be completed for unknown reasons to the customer. What options does the customer have? They either re-enter the order again, or directly call the restaurant and speak with overwhelmed and undertrained staff. Both options are very frustrating to the customer.

The human element of the experience is virtually devoid and because of the rigidity of online and mobile technology, it’s cumbersome to customize your order and near impossible to ask questions or make changes either on the fly or once the order is placed and paid. Having said all of this, I am not advocating that technology in restaurant takeout has no place and is not a worthwhile pursuit. Rather, I am advocating that technology should supplement the experience rather than serve as its crutch.

The wonderful thing about the technology explosion in this modern era is that there are a myriad of choices about which technology you employ at your restaurant. And there are options that exist that provide the technological accessibility addressing the full spectrum of the takeout opportunity that your restaurant aims to fulfill, but also the human experience your customer desires. It’s known as order management, and restaurants that have invested in this form of technology/human co-op are experiencing sales boosts as well as happier, more frequently visiting customers from their experience.

If you are unaware of order management, put simply, it’s the human bridge supporting online and mobile takeout ordering to proceed with flexibility and without issue.

Order management begins with menu-savvy “Virtual Servers” and “Order Managers” that monitor all takeout orders, no matter if the order is placed via online, mobile or over the phone. Each order is managed and owned throughout the entire process – from placement to customer pick-up. The customer is not left on his or her own little island, needing to figure out on their own how to fix a problem with an order. If the customer has a menu question, the customer simply calls the Virtual Server and the question is answered. Any changes desired regarding the takeout order can be made with the Virtual Server, who then works directly with the restaurant to ensure order accuracy prior to pick-up.

Order management serves as the initial seed for customer loyalty for repeat customers as well. Order management smartly records ordering history, menu preferences, customer favorites, and lots of other customer-specific information related to orders, and multiple secured purchasing options for returning customers augmenting the experience and assisting the Virtual Servers and Order Managers to more efficiently process the order as well as make recommendations and guide customer selections through the menu appropriately.

Order management is also a takeout business lifeline for your restaurant. By employing takeout order management, orders are rescued from unforeseen miscues related to technical outages and transactional processing errors during customer order placement. When such an error occurs, no matter if the order comes in through a call, online or mobile, the order is flagged for an Order Manager to call the customer for assistance and ensure the finalization of the order and then work with the restaurant seamlessly to meet the details of the order. Thus, the order is rescued from being lost altogether saving business for the restaurant. And instead of the customer feeling disgruntled by the mishap, the customer now feels satisfied from the help.

The advantages of integrating a solution that addresses all of your restaurant’s takeout needs by bridging technology and the human element via order management is vital to your restaurant’s short- and long-term business and critically meaningful to your customers. And ultimately, that is your goal as a restaurant operator, right? To create an excellent product and experience for your customers to enjoy so that they frequently come back — whether they dine-in or takeout shouldn’t matter.

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