With COVID-19, Order for Pickup has emerged from a nice-to-have service as part of a brand’s digital strategy to a must-have. In fact, as states are opening up, merchants are finding that Takeout demand is here to stay – customers prefer not to pay steep delivery fees and opt to give every possible $ to their favorite local restaurants. And as Takeout demand continues to surge, restaurants are facing new challenges.
Front of house restaurant associates (including fast-casual) juggle many tasks at once – from greeting customers and taking digital/phone orders, to packing up orders and running them out to customers. As the volume of Takeout orders increased dramatically, our Rakuten Ready’s user research (see below for details) demonstrated that restaurant employees are stressed for time, struggle with too many order interfaces, and feel challenged to satisfy customer expectations. This employee stress was exacerbated by financial constraints brought on by the pandemic and restaurants having to layoff or furlough many employees – leaving those remaining to wear even more hats than usual.
One persistent pain point of restaurant employees is the challenge of managing incoming orders via a multitude of channels: owned and operated websites and mobile apps, phone calls, food delivery aggregators, and more. If orders from various channels are not integrated into one place, associates have to deal with various consoles in addition to the store POS system to manage all customer orders. Not only is this time-consuming, but it often results in mismanaging of customer orders, details and changes getting lost, and ultimately customer dissatisfaction.
Adding to this complexity, restaurant associates also have to manage all changes or updates to customer orders. Two-way asynchronous communication using SMS or texting is an efficient and lower-cost option. But most online ordering systems today don’t have this option available. Consequently, associates have to rely on phone calls to communicate with the customers, which is not only time consuming, but can negatively impact store operations. More often than not, the orders are not fulfilled correctly.
In a Rakuten Ready user research, a survey of restaurant managers at the nation’s top restaurant chains*, results show that more than 90% of the respondents said that they saw a substantial increase in online orders at their restaurants in 2020 compared to 2019. Contrary to logic (another word), managing online orders, with no human interaction, is not always easy and straight-forward. Almost 60% of the respondents say that managing online orders is challenging or time-consuming. This is most likely because the online orders come from a variety of sources as mentioned in this article earlier and subsequently restaurant staff must juggle multiple screens to process the orders.
According to the ZipWhip 2020 State of Texting report, 96% of consumers find phone calls to be disruptive and 73% of consumers wish more businesses just texted them. Since customers prefer to communicate simply via text, the right order management solution would allow for 2-way text communications via the console associates are already working in. Almost 70% of the restaurant managers that Rakuten Ready polled, responded that dealing with the customers on phone is either challenging or takes up too much time. In short, 2-way SMS or texting is win-win for restaurants and customers.
With the continued growth in Takeout, curbside pickup will also grow in demand. Customers prefer to receive orders curbside over in-store, because it is contactless (safer in these continued days of COVID) as well as faster and more convenient. But customers need an easy way to notify the stores about their arrival, while restaurants need a seamless and cost-efficient way to know when their customers are approaching, and when exactly they have arrived.
*Respondents included restaurant managers, among others, at Cheesecake Factory, Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, Logan’s Roadhouse, Ruby Tuesday, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, UNO Restaurants, Yard House, Cracker Barrel, In-N-Out Burger, Panera, Yard House, Red Robin, LongHorn Steakhouse, & Friendly’s