How to Make Takeout Deliver Profits for Dine-In Restaurants

What does the future hold for dine-in restaurants? It holds a carry-out bag in one hand and a smartphone in the other. It may even hold a few extra dine-in customers for those flexible enough to give their patrons multiple options for staying loyal and engaged.

In many ways, that future is already here. Digital ordering is growing 300% faster than dine-in. Over half of Americans use delivery services to buy meals from casual dining restaurants — and 26% do so each and every week. With that kind of writing on the wall, the question is not when but how you should up the ante on incorporating digitally-driven takeout and delivery. Here are three good place to start.

First, increase your digital app-titude.

The smartphone is your new front door, and you have to make it easy for people to find and open. Yes, you could hope that they find your website, click on it and order from there — or you could take chance out of the mix and provide customers an app, promoting its availability and incentivizing its use.

How much impact will that have? Ask Starbucks, which now brings in 20% of their total U.S. revenue via their app. Or talk to Taco Bell — orders that are placed via their app average 20% higher than in-store orders.

Second, tie takeout to dine-in.

Just because key customers like millennials eat upwards of 60% of their restaurant meals via takeout or delivery doesn’t mean you can, or should, give up on them as dine-in customers. In fact, with a little extra effort, you can make them your best prospects.

Use every take-out order as an opportunity to invite, and incent, them to come visit — for example, simply put custom-printed napkins into each order to serve as coupons for in-restaurant-only offers. (And be sure to vary those offers week-to-week or month-to-month, to keep your loyal takeout customers intrigued.)

Third, make your dine-in experience unbeatable.

Once you’ve lured your take-out customers back into a seat, make sure that more than the food is memorable — and that they have plenty of reasons to return. That same custom-printed napkin come on works in-house, too. You can have general messages (“20% off our next meal — just bring back this napkin!”) or you can give them props for their take-out patronage (and develop new take-out customers) with a promo offer on their next order … if they download and order from your app. Get creative, make it fun, and keep it as personal as you can.

Eat your competition’s breakfast, lunch and dinner

Takeout and delivery is only going to increase in importance — especially the portion driven by eCommerce (currently nearing 10% of us foodservice retail revenue). That means now is the time for dine-in restaurants to “grab-and-grow” their share of that market, too. Need help? For starters, turn to your providers for expertise, ideas and new products that can help you make the most of every mealtime, no matter where your customers choose to enjoy it.

Essity: “Foodservice landscape” facts
Nation’s Restaurant News: Restaurant takeout and delivery are taking a bite out of dine-in traffic
National Restaurant Association: State of the Industry 2017