6 Smart Ways to Retain More Delivery and Takeout Customers

Sep 24, 2020

6 Smart Ways to Retain More Delivery and Takeout Customers

Preparing and delivering food in an off-premise format has its own set of challenges when it comes to making customers happy, especially when third-party delivery apps (i.e., Grubhub, DoorDash, etc.) are involved. Because your interactions with these customers are almost entirely virtual, it pays to build your off-premise program to provide a quality experience. After all, returning customers generally pay over twice as much per order than first-time customers.1

1. Proactively guard against mistakes
“I think the most frustrating part of [working with third-party apps] is guest recovery,” says Robert Alvarado, General Manager of Homeroom To Go in Oakland, California. “If it was up to me it would be easy to give a refund or a gift card, but when you order through one of the apps they take that refund out of your monthly payout. Customers call us to complain, but we can't actually do anything. It's not always the easiest to get things fixed.”

When working with third-party companies, it’s so hard to track down exactly where a mistake might happen (or if there even was a mistake versus a customer trying to get free food). Generally, the customer will use the app to report an issue, and the third-party app will handle the refund, deducting it from your payout. Sometimes the customer will call you directly to try to get something fixed, but there isn’t anything you can do about it. It’s important to be proactive. For example, keep your inventory on the apps up to date if you 86 something. Have a process for checking and double-checking orders to avoid missing items.

2. Brand your packaging
Find simple ways to add your brand to your packaging. Some restaurants order branded packaging, like Homeroom in Oakland. They use a branded lid or their mac & cheese container. A more cost-effective option might be using stickers or stamps to brand food containers or bags. Using stickers can also double as protection for food. According to a recent survey conducted by US Foods, 85% of takeout customers would like restaurants to use some sort of tamper-evident seal to ensure that the food inside is safe and untouched by anyone but you.2

3. Keep an eye on ratings and reviews
Mistakes happen. If something goes wrong, it may show up in your ratings and reviews. Some of the third-party apps have a lot of data about your customer ratings and reviews, while others have none. Some of the apps allow you to respond directly; others don’t. There are also apps like TripAdvisor and Yelp to keep an eye on. If you’re able to respond directly, do it. Offer them a special discount or incentive to try again. Establish a process and calendar for checking and responding to customer feedback.

4. Treat your delivery drivers right
This is huge. Third-party delivery drivers are under a lot of pressure. Minutes matter to them when trying to fit in as many deliveries as possible. If they’re upset, they’re more likely to treat the food and your customers poorly. So treat them with just as much respect as you would a guest. Make sure the employees that interact with them regularly treat them well. Some restaurants will even provide free snacks or drinks to couriers waiting for orders.

5. Consider curating virtual experiences
Since engaging with customers in person right now is hard, many restaurants are looking to create more virtual experiences. Mei Mei restaurant in Boston is doing virtual dumpling cooking classes. Comedor in Austin is delivering meal kits with instructional videos and curated playlists for guests to jam along to at home. Any way you can provide additional value and thoughtful touches for your guests at home is a great way to continue to engage them with your brand.

6. Look for opportunities to delight your customers
Include a handwritten message on the bag thanking them for their business. Throw in coupons to encourage repeat business, offering a low-cost promotional item if they order again (target your slow days!). Any way you can engage your guest beyond the ordering experience will help them feel more connected. Get creative! Reem's California in the San Francisco Bay Area includes an info sheet with each of their takeout meal kits that includes suggestions from their staff on Spotify playlists that pair with their food, books or articles to read, and organizations to support. It’s a creative way to engage with their community.

It’s all comes down to hospitality

To retain customers and keep them coming back, you need to innovate creative ways to extend hospitality without the benefit of being face to face. Give some hard thought to the guest experience along the entire ordering pathway, in the same way you would curate a dine-in patron’s experience. You’ll always find fresh ways to delight your guests and keep them hungry for more.