Takeout Via Phone or Internet?

Pasta Max Café
In the 16 years since chef/owner Douglas Zitz opened Pasta Max Café, this restaurant in McDonough, Georgia, has become a favorite in the region south of Atlanta. Featuring top-notch seafood (Jumbo Shrimp and Scallops, $21) and freshly made pasta dishes (led by Black Pepper Pappardelle, $15), takeout is a small portion of the restaurant's business, and is all ordered by phone.
Chili's Grill and Bar
Chili's Grill and Bar has more than 1,500 locations. With favorites such as Big Mouth Burgers ($7.29 to $9.59) and Baby Back Ribs ($19.99), the 37-year-old chain is a casual dining favorite. It has offered phone takeout ordering for years, but added online ordering in 2010 and a mobile phone application last year, says Edithann Ramey, senior director of marketing.
What's behind your takeout ordering method?

We've found the phone is easier and more accurate. We did try online for a while a few years ago, with a company supplying the service. It wasn't very workable, and we got only a few orders with it. I know online ordering has become more popular over the years, but we are happy and more comfortable talking with the people who are ordering.

At the heart of our Chili's To-Go is that it's all about convenience. The new mobile app is available to everyone that has a smartphone. People are depending on these phones to make their lives easier. This technology aligns with Chili’s goal of continuing to find ways to make our guests' lives easier and more convenient.

Has your takeout ordering method caused any problems?

No, not at all. We've done a steady takeaway business over the years, and there's really not much to it. It may not be the newest technology, but we really haven't had any of our customers tell us that they want (online) ordering or request it. It seems it's just as easy to pick up the phone, and we can be accurate and not incur any additional costs. We do see an increase in takeout orders by mobile phones from people driving home from work.

I would say it's been pretty flawless, but there is a learning curve. Anything we offer, we have to think about the way the customer will understand it and can order easily. We found we had to add more [choices] to our [online ordering] tools [such as toppings, spices and cooking temperature], but you don't really know that until you go live. In the restaurant, you have someone there who can ask about all these requirements.

Would you consider changing your takeout ordering method?

We have a very good Internet setup now for credit card processing, so we could try online again if we wanted to. But I would have to think quite a bit about that. We're in no big hurry to do it, because what we're doing now is working fine. I guess if people really started asking for it, we would look at it again.

We're pleased with how it's been working. Since the launch of the mobile app, we've seen an increase in the number of orders from it. On a month-to-month basis, it's been going up. We are leveraging the app to engage with guests on a day-by-day basis [to give them] rewards and promotional material.