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The Menu – the latest insights on restaurant technology trends, customer successes, and best practices.

3 recommendations for delivering better curbside and drive thru interactions

Brian Burger
Director F&B Solution Engineering, FBGBU

When someone asks you to think about a drive-thru most of us conjure up an image of an order board, a person in a headset, two windows (one that’s likely boarded up), and a line of cars snaked through a parking lot. Similarly, when you think curbside collection, you imagine pulling up to a restaurant and running in to collect your order, unsure of where to go or who to see. These are the traditional models, and while they are still in practice, we’re on the precipice of completely reimagining off-premises dining. In this article I will share what successful businesses are doing differently and what we can learn from them to offer best in class curbside and drive thru interactions.

  1. Consistency is key  

Even before restaurants had to close their doors, take-out was experiencing a boom, which accelerated during stay-at-home orders. Despite the surge in curbside, drive thru and delivery popularity, we can’t underestimate the importance of delivering the same service level guests have come to expect on-premises. According to recent research, three out of four consumers enjoyed take-out as a welcomed break from home-cooked meals at the height of stay-at-home orders. Unfortunately, one third of consumers also confirmed they stopped ordering take-out from a specific restaurant due to a bad experience. (Access the full report, Dining In and Out in 2021.)

Off-premises sales offer tremendous opportunity to expand your customer base, but they also come with risks. One bad experience could lead to losing a customer for good, and with new customer acquisition costs high, no one can afford this misstep. Essential considerations for better curbside, drive thru and delivery include:

  • Menu curation: restaurants need to strike a balance between what works well for off-premises dining (e.g., travels well) and what customers want to eat. According to our research, over thirty percent of consumers in the US stopped ordering takeout from a restaurant because of limited takeout menu options, in the UK it was less of a deal breaker with only a quarter of customers reporting the same 
  • Service levels: perhaps the most obvious consideration but one third of consumers in the US stopped ordering takeout from a restaurant because the customer service was poor, twenty six percent of consumers in the UK ranked curbside pick-up being unavailable as a reason for abandoning takeout from a restaurant
  • Speed of service: in the case of the UK, the time required for delivery was longer than consumers could stomach, with twenty-five percent rating this issue in the top three reasons for no longer ordering takeout from a specific restaurant 
  1. Map out the online order journey

To create a consistent experience, you must consider every single interaction point with your customer. It’s not as simple as saying “these touchpoints are drive thru, in person or online”. You must consider and document the flow of every journey. The image above illustrates the point well. In this scenario we have:

  • Order-at-counter walk-in traffic
  • Self-service kiosk order traffic
  • Drive-thru orders via a window
  • Drive-thru and curbside orders via a tablet
  • Online order collection zone

Your customer journey list could be extensive, or quite simple. Thinking about and identifying the list of possibilities and mapping the customer's journey for each scenario is the key to ensuring a consistent experience, optimized processes and procedures.  

  1. Integrate online and mobile orders to your POS 

With an increase in endpoints, your point-of-sale (POS) system must be the central hub for transactions. Mobile app and online order data should flow directly to your POS and on to the kitchen display system instantly. Wherever an order comes from, your POS can be configured to follow defined rules based on order and promise times to inform kitchen prep and fulfilment. In the case of drive thru, this may be instantaneous, versus mobile order-ahead which requires staggered preparation to ensure freshness. Depending on the online and mobile ordering options presented to your customer, your online POS system can be configured to ensure peak performance.

Essential technology for online ordering system for restaurants, drive thru and curbside:

  • Online ordering platforms like Deliverect integrate with your POS and streamline listing your menu on marketplaces, like Deliveroo, GrubHub and UberEats. Building your own online ordering option (website or app) is equally important given most customers actually prefer to order direct from a restaurant  
  • Cloud-based POS systems, like Oracle MICROS Simphony POS, ensure all your transactions are centralized, menu management is simplified, and order orchestration is intelligent   
  • Digital menu boards and self-service kiosks ensure menu updates are real-time, mitigating the risk of disappointing drive-up and walk-in guests
  • Mobile tablets provide flexibility for staff in the event you need to expedite or line-bust a single lane drive thru. They’re also cost-effective for curbside orders, informing the kitchen of successful pickup and triggering loyalty rewards in real-time
  • Location aware technology like GPS-enabled web apps or beacons provide a seamless experience for customers picking up online orders
  • Inventory management systems are critical to ensuring menus are accurate across all points of interaction, and inform the business on the most profitable items, by channel
  • Kitchen display systems keep everything running smoothly and efficiently
Getting your restaurant running at peak performance requires an intelligent approach to digital tools and a thorough definition of your customer journeys. If you are looking to take your off-premises and digital operations to the next level, connect with us directly by phone: US: +1 866-287-4736; UK: +44 207 5626 827; AU: 1300 366 386; LAD: 52 559 178 3146) | chat | or request a call back. In the meantime, check out our complimentary Best Practice Guide to Boosting Drive Thru and Curbside.

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