My social network has been blowing up the last few weeks. Not just with anticipation for (or spoilers of) the new season of “Game of Thrones,” but with excitement about a food delivery service. Since startup Instacart began serving my city in recent weeks, my feeds have been littered with posts from users that include phrases such as “changed my life,” “isn’t it beautiful,” and “it’s effing amazing!” Some even include photos of goods scored, ranging from milk, fresh squeezed juice and house-made salsa, to tequila and wine. Clearly, people in my network are very excited about the opportunity to get groceries, prepared foods and alcoholic beverages — especially alcoholic beverages — from their favorite local stores delivered right to their doorsteps the same day.
While the grocery delivery-centric Instacart isn’t a direct competitor for restaurants, my friends’ sheer delight over the convenience and ease of the service got me wondering if consumers were as jazzed about — or at least as pleased with — takeout from restaurants.
Turns out the reviews are mixed.
According to Technomic’s January 2014 Takeout & Off-Premise Dining Consumer Trend Report, the percentage of consumers ordering food to go (including pickup, takeout or delivery) from restaurants has declined in the last few years. Currently, 51 percent of consumers report ordering food to go once a week, largely from fast-food restaurants, down from 57 percent in 2011. While most consumers think leading chains are doing a good or pretty good job with takeout, others think there’s room for improvement.
So what do restaurant operators need to do to grow takeout orders and leave their customers as excited as my Instacart-using friends? First and foremost, give them the same great food and drink they get when they dine in — the same portion size, the same taste and freshness, and the appropriate temperature. Then, make it super easy to get it all. Depending on your brand and your customers’ preferences, that could mean offering a dedicated call-ahead order line, separate pickup lines, curbside delivery, or the ability to order online on your restaurant’s website or via an online ordering and delivery service such as GrubHub (which recently merged with Seamless to form one giant delivery service). And, since no one likes to search for cash or pray the delivery person actually has change, online or mobile payment options are a plus, too. Once you up your takeout game, your customers can easily order your great food and drink more frequently and perhaps enjoy it while watching the latest episode of, say, “Game of Thrones.”