On Top of Takeout

Tony Roma’s

With more than half of Americans ordering meals to go at least once a week, savvy chains are employing strategies to make the most of the opportunity.

Nine out of 10 Americans order takeout at least once a month, and 51 percent do so once a week or more often, according to “The Takeout & Off-Premise Dining Consumer Trend Report” published in 2013 by Chicago-based Technomic research company. While not all full-service chains find that offering their meals to go fits into their concept and operations, some are emphasizing its availability for convenience-conscious consumers and executing specific strategies to build that part of their business.

At BRAVO Cucina Italiana, a 47-unit chain spanning 21 states, takeout accounts for about 6.7 percent of overall sales, says Nicole Roope, director of marketing for parent company BRAVO BRIO Restaurant Group (BBRG). Seventy-five percent of those orders are for dinner.

“We know that many consumers who love our food are just overcommitted with work, school, and after-school activities, so they don’t always have time to go out and eat in restaurants,” Roope notes. “By offering our food to go, we make it easier for them to enjoy their favorite BRAVO meals as often as they would like.”

About three years ago, BRAVO launched an online ordering option to make the process quicker and easier for customers. Although the majority of orders still come in by phone, between 12 and 13 percent are now placed online.

“Since introducing online ordering, we have seen a steady growth in carryout sales overall,” Roope says. “People tell us that they like the idea that they can place their orders 24/7 and schedule a pick-up time that is convenient for them.”

Consumers have also told BRAVO that they like seeing photos of the dishes they want to consider ordering rather than just looking at a paper takeout menu or text-only Web page. Roope says pictures are also a good way to create cravings for dishes the consumer might not have tried yet.

BRAVO actively promotes the to-go option with in-store signage, prominent positioning on its website home page, and social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. Periodically, the chain will offer to-go promotions such as a recent “Pasta Presto” dinner for four, including a family-style entrée, salad, and focaccia for $49. On other occasions, such as the Super Bowl game, back-to-school, and holiday times, it might offer an incentive of 20 percent off an online order.

BRAVO’s online format is also designed to upsell at various points during the ordering process. If the consumer has ordered a filet, for example, the system will suggest adding on a grilled shrimp skewer. Appetizer and dessert suggestions will also be offered, and customers can provide special instructions for food allergies and other dietary issues.


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