In a worldwide effort to combat the pandemic, companies are embracing innovation like never before. They’ve started to invest in new technologies that help them sell, and they’re trying to adapt their business models to prioritize public health. There’s a lot going on right now in the quick service restaurant (QSR) game. One of the most pressing topics of the day is curbside pickup.
Curbside pickup offers an effective middle ground between public safety and business operation; it’s one of the few ways businesses can keep the lights on and still adhere to government mandated distancing orders. Of course, curbside pickup isn’t a new strategy. Grocery stores and retail stores have been doing it for years. But thanks to our current public health situation, restaurants of all sizes have jumped on board—and all to our benefit that they do it in a safe and sustainable way.
Let’s go over a few best practices that pertain to curbside pickup for restaurants.
Assess Your Parking Options
One of the first decisions is where to set up your pick-up stalls. Naturally, you’ll need a place to stick people while they wait in their cars—somewhere that won’t block traffic, other businesses, sideways, or sidewalks. If your restaurant enjoys plenty of parking nearby, this will help.
Others may have to get creative and cordon off specific parking stalls as pickup locations, or even have staff at the ready to shuttle cars off-street so customers can grab their pickup order from the back. Remember, customers won’t know where to go when they arrive for pickup, so make it easy for them with clear signage.
Make the Rules Clear
Related to the above, make sure you’re up front about changes in store operation, hours, or services as a result of the pandemic. It’s fine to operate with reduced hours, particularly if you’re one of the many QSRs suffering from staffing issues. So do find a way to inform customers about the changes. Update your website alongside your profiles on Yelp, Google My Business, and other social channels because these remain the primary ways that customers will look up information about your restaurant.
This is a small bit of clerical work, but it means a lot to customers who want to patronize your company but aren’t sure if you’re open. Set the rules for your operation based on what you can do, and make sure customers know what ordering options are at their disposal. This is also the place to suggest that customers refrain from direct contact with staff or for gentle reminders that in-store customers should comply with social distancing.
Establish an Ordering System
Even before the pandemic, one of the key value propositions of curbside pickup was convenience, something that Retail Dive explains well:
“For some, it’s a chance to get something they’ve purchased on the same day, without extra fees. For others, it’s an opportunity to accomplish an errand without lugging kids out of the car. For all, it meets heightened consumer expectations for convenient, low-cost delivery.”
In other words, it’s great that you offer curbside pickup as a public health option. But if you can’t provide the fast, convenient service that customers still expect, you’ll have a hard time earning their business beyond a one-off purchase.
This is why it’s so important to establish an effective ordering system that minimizes the time your team spends on order management. Setting up an online storefront is a good first step. This lets customers browse your menu and order at their leisure, and when they arrive on-site, they simply call or text to inform the restaurant.
This is the standard system for curbside pickup, but it may not be ideal. Although many QSRs don’t have other options, it’s a bit of a hassle to require two different channels to complete a customer order. They can order online, but they’ll still need to whip out the phone and call you when they show up. This begs the question, why not just skip ordering online and do the whole thing by phone? This is possible, but they can’t see your prices or adapted menu. Plus, they’ll still need to contact the company again when they arrive.
Manage Curbside Pickup Entirely Through Mobile
Compare this to companies that have a dedicated mobile app, and the advantages of a mobile-based order-ahead solution become clear.
Rather than making them order online and call in later, a mobile order-ahead app lets them handle the entire thing through their phones—ordering, payment, and contact.
Merchants that use the Square point-of-sale (POS) system have a good option here with PoppinPay’s mobile order-ahead solution. Within the app, there are options for regular pickup or curbside pickup. When they select curbside, they’re prompted to enter their vehicle information, order, and any other special instructions they may have. And when they arrive, all they need to do is click “I’m Here” in the app, and a notification goes straight to your Square terminal. Notifications can be made through robocalls, texts, or email.
This system is the easiest way to deploy a curbside pickup solution that works for both your customers and your team. When the solution is integrated with Square, you can give customers all the information they need to order and guarantee that the increased volume of online orders won’t disrupt your internal workflows.
There are other benefits of mobile order-ahead solutions, of course, but in today’s climate, the speed and convenience of the solution are most important. As of now, mobile order ahead remains one of the only ways that QSRs can offer a streamlined, single-channel curbside pickup experience.
Create a Competitive Curbside Pickup Experience
With all of the above in mind, remember that the most important part of your curbside service is to preserve the well-being of your employees and your customers. Encourage the use of personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, and limit personal interactions as much as you can. When you have these essential elements down, you can provide curbside pickup with confidence—then focus your efforts on providing the type of fast, convenient service that keeps customers coming back for more.