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Takeout Tuesdays: Evolving Engagement in Dining Experience, Part 1

There is no question the COVID-19 pandemic has had a great effect on every facet of daily life for Americans. With the US under a state of emergency, Schools and offices around the country are vacant. For many food service operations, the place where the majority of customer engagement takes place, the dining room, is now closed.

In order for many restaurants to succeed, they will need to evolve along with this new normal. To continue providing high-quality dining engagement to customers, they will need to focus on traditionally smaller business segments, takeout and delivery.

Over the next four articles, Foodbuy will show how you how a restaurant can begin building a robust takeout and delivery operation that will continue to surprise and delight your patrons.

Part 1: Setting up Your Operation to Focus on Takeout & Delivery

Setup Your Kitchen for Takeout Efficiency

Although many restaurants already have takeout abilities, it is likely a small business segment. To maximize efficiency, there are probably some areas where reorganization will make sense.

Prep Area: Depending on your menu, you may need to retool the prep area to make sure chefs have quick access to the things they will be using more often. Single-serving containers for individually-packed side dishes may be used more now, so make sure there are plenty. You may also need to look at your portioning tools and purchase more since these will be used more often. Make sure your prep chefs have enough space to work while maintaining social distancing guidelines.

Expediter’s Line: You will need to find new storage areas for disposables like to-go boxes, to-go bags and plastic cutlery since you will be using much more of these items than normal. Find space to move your plateware away from the service line to make room. You can use the same process in your beverage station  to easily fill to-go beverage orders.

Service Line: This area may not need much adaptation to execute takeout efficiently. Some operations may need to make small adjustments for the uptick in takeout, but the majority of cooking processes should be the same. Take a look at how your chefs processes will change and find ways to make it easier for them to complete these.

Create Dedicated Pickup area in Dining Room with Space for Social Distancing

With the available space in the dining room, you can create a welcoming and engaging environment for your patrons. Making your patrons feel comfortable will help you build guest satisfaction and return customers long after this crisis passes.

Front Door: If you are able, keep the front door open. This will eliminate a touch-point for patrons and help them feel safer. If you are not able to keep the door open, consider positioning a host to open the door for patrons. Make sure your doors have kick plates as well to help patrons leave without touching the door handle.

Cashier: Make the pickup experience as easy as possible for the customer. Promote using cashless payments to minimize touching. Taking it a step further, ask them for the credit card number over the phone to completely remove the need for exchanging payment at pickup. With the growth of takeout, you will probably need to setup a larger area to hold the to-go orders waiting to be picked up. Pull a few tables together and keep extra to-go cutlery, cups, plates and napkins nearby.

Remember to Keep Safety First

As you change your concept, make sure safety is built in to every station and process throughout your restaurant. Preparing your staff to keep food and patron safety a priority will build confidence in your customers and keep them returning.

As your menu and cooking processes evolve, ensure they incorporate safe cooking procedures. Follow time and temperature rules and make sure food items are handled correctly. Of course, make sure you have plenty of gloves, hand wash, and sanitizer on-hand at all times.

Now we have the restaurant operating space optimized for takeout and delivery. In Part 2 of our series, we will take a look at how to adapt your menu for takeout and delivery.

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