The average full-service restaurant is now seeing approximately 44 percent of sales consumed off-premises, due to the increased availability of delivery services and growing consumer demand for carry-out. To-go orders now represent the fastest growing portion of full-service restaurant sales, according to 2017 data from TDn2K.
In the age of off-premises dining, many restaurant operators are concerned about ensuring the quality of their food—from packing it in secure containers to handing it off to in-house or third-party delivery staff. Attention to detail is critical at a time when brands are subject to a constant stream of online reviews and feedback.
For many operators, that attention to detail means anticipating customer needs and providing convenient solutions that pack and travel well—such as the simple switch from unreliable lid-topped condiment containers to packets designed specifically for transport.
At Pollard’s Chicken and Catering in Virginia Beach, Virginia, owner Johnny Pollard adds value to his off-premises orders by including single-use packets of hot sauce and sriracha. Including those products with to-go meals has generated significant customer satisfaction.
“Our customers love the taste of Texas Pete and are very loyal to the brand,” Pollard says. “When we tried something different, our customers came back asking for it by name.”
The sauces are a cost-effective way to ensure the quality of off-premises orders, because there is no risk of spills or waste. In addition to individual packets, many operators are also including small bottles of sauces, such as the new 1.69-ounce plastic bottle of Texas Pete—a product that performs well with customers for its resealable lid. It also protects against breakage and increases the perceived value of carried-out and delivered meals.
“The flavor is more approachable than other brands,” Pollard says. “It’s a medium hot that our customers like to eat with chicken, barbecue, livers, and gizzards—they eat it with everything.
Millennial and Gen Z diners, who prefer the freedom of eating at home or at work, are more likely than other demographics to engage in off-premises dining. Twenty-one percent of millennials and 24 percent of Gen Z order take-out meals at least three times per week, according to a study conducted by the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association and the Center for Generational Kinetics.
Operators who develop an operational strategy to respond to delivery and carry-out orders—by including convenient condiment packages for example, are in a better position to attract millennial and Gen Z customers, who spend more of their total budget on restaurant food than other age-groups.
Other ways that operators are striving for quality is by investing in quality packaging, such as no-leak containers, and by implementing transport methods that maintain food temperatures door-to-door.
“Our restaurant contracts with five different delivery services,” Pollard says. “We use holding boxes to keep food hot and trays over ice to keep food cold.”
Off-premises dining is here to stay, so it is critical for operators to implement solutions that amplify customer experience and ensure food quality, despite the use of intermediaries for delivery and take-out options. Restaurants that provide attention to detail relative to off-premises dining experience are certain to attract customers and capitalize on this growing trend.