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

How to optimize your menu for drive-thru and curbside collection

Brian Burger
Director F&B Solution Engineering, FBGBU

The appetite and market for off-premises dining is surging worldwide, driven by both consumers and operators. According to a recent study by Statista, the number of seated diners in restaurants worldwide has declined by 29.58% year-on-year. Many restaurants are permanently changing their operations to better align with customer preferences. When shifting to focus more sales off-premises, you can’t underestimate the importance of delivering the same service level guests have come to expect from your on-premises offering.

According to our recent research, 3 out of 4 consumers enjoyed takeout as a welcomed break from home-cooked meals during stay at home orders (Dining In and Out in 2021). However, 1 in 3 consumers also confirmed they stopped ordering takeout from a specific restaurant due to a bad experience. In my recent blog, I focused on the importance of refining every customer interaction to improve drive-thru and curbside customer journeys. In this blog, I focus on optimizing your menu to develop a clear and consistent management strategy for success.

Select the Right Menu Items

There are two aspects to selecting the right menu items; 1) identifying the items that work best for your business and, 2) identifying the items that will work best for your customers.

  • Best for you

Streamlining costs and ensuring your menu is optimized for efficient stock-turnover is essential to healthy margins. Historical data is of little use given the swift pivot to off-premises operations so leveraging your restaurant point-of-sale system’s reporting and analytics to identify top-sellers, and eliminate items that require additional stock and are less profitable is the first step. Next, evaluate and rank your best sellers by profit to prioritize items most beneficial to continue offering.  Finally, think about creating a menu that has a balanced mix of favorites, ones that have the shortest preparation time, and ones that have strong profit margins.

  • Best for your customers

When designing menu items to serve drive-thru, takeout, or collection, you need to consider the items' portability - whether it will hold temperature well and is durable enough to transport. Not every dish on your bestseller list will travel or serve well after being boxed up. You need to think about the components within a dish that may need adjusting in a to-go order. It's essential to avoid delivery of soggy fries or wilted salad. You also want to think through the necessity of combinations that might mix or mash together during delivery, such as sauce and purees. Ensure you have precautions like separate containers in place if necessary. For example, you may provide the special sauce to top off your signature burger in a separate container, rather than directly on the burger bun. You also need to ensure immediate consumption is mess-free if the customer decides to eat in their car. All of this extra packaging comes at a cost, you can calculate the total cost including packaging with the right restaurant inventory management and restaurant reporting and analytics software.

Manage Menu Complexity to Improve Service Times

Many believe it's crucial to limit a delivery menu for simplicity; some businesses strongly believe that 12 items or less allows optimal efficiency. However, our research suggests that about thirty percent of customers are disappointed in the lack of parity between off-premises and on-premises menus. The focus should be margin management and workflow optimization. While certain items appear high margin, they can harm drive-thru and curbside operations due to prep time, complexity, and kitchen interruption. Drive-thru and curbside collection menu items should be fast to prepare and serve with little room for service disruption.

Reassess Your Recipes to Reduce Waste

A more streamlined flow of customers and staff also necessitates analyzing inventory performance. It will be especially important to understand which menu items can be adjusted (or removed) to optimize costs or handle unexpected supply chain issues. This information can be used to place more accurate orders with suppliers and identify what can be removed from an order to reduce waste. The National Resource Defense Council estimates US restaurants generate between 22 to 33 billion pounds of food waste each year, with between 4 and 10 percent of food purchased by restaurants wasted before reaching the consumer. Restaurants that can reduce this number with effective supply chain and inventory management have an opportunity to make up deltas in lower footfall and sales.

Understanding which menu items are top performers and which should be removed from the menu can be difficult. But with the right restaurant analytics, you can effectively make decisions based on quantitative results and model potential uplift. Getting your restaurant running at peak performance requires an intelligent approach to digital tools and a thorough definition of your customer journeys. If you’re 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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