Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
The small business world has completely shifted in the past year—but the restaurant industry has taken an especially hard hit. In the wake of pandemic-related restrictions (including limits on indoor dining capacity), restaurants have had to find alternative ways to serve customers and keep their businesses moving forward. For many restaurants, that’s meant pivoting to focus on takeout and delivery.
Takeout and delivery became the go-to (and, in many places, the only) way to enjoy restaurants in 2020—and the trend has continued into 2021. But takeout and delivery is different from in-person dining…and if you’re not accustomed to restaurant takeout marketing, you might be struggling to find ways to promote your business and drive orders.
One restaurateur who shifted his business model over the last year is Johnny Burke, owner of Johnny’s Takeaway. When he first opened for business, he had to adapt to comply with the complex licensing regulations and legal red tape of opening a catering company. The experience taught him a lot, and he’s since built a lean business that offers chef-cooked dinners that are ready to heat and eat at home.
We chatted with Johnny a few years ago on Vistaprint’s Small Business Stories Podcast, and recently caught up with him again to see how his business is doing and how he’s adapted over the last year. Here, find some fresh take-out tips and restaurant promotion ideas from chef Johnny and the Vistaprint team:
- Offer promotions before (and after) the rush.
- Add your brand to every order.
- Share often on social media.
- Offer delivery services.
- Create customer-specific specials.
- Add limited-edition menu items.
- Incentivize your customers to order again.
- Ask for feedback.
1. Offer promotions before (and after) the rush.
Friday and Saturday nights are prime time for takeout and delivery. But you can’t keep your restaurant moving forward if Friday and Saturday nights are the only times you’re filling orders. So, if you want to grow your small business and increase takeout and delivery orders, try offering special promotions during off-peak hours.
For example, if you find that you’re barely getting any lunch orders, you might create a lunch menu that features some of your most popular dishes at a discounted price. Or, maybe you find that business is particularly slow on weeknights. You might offer your customers free delivery on weeknights—plus a complimentary dessert to sweeten the deal.
You might not drive as much revenue on discounted orders, but if you’re offering deals during time frames where you have few (or no!) takeout or delivery orders, you’ll still end up ahead—because less revenue is better than no revenue.
2. Add your brand to every order.
A well-known adage among chefs is, “You eat with your eyes first.” And in an era where photogenic food has never been more prevalent, expectations are high. When packaging food, make sure it’s easy for people to reheat and plate up without losing any of its visual appeal.
The experience people have when your food arrives is crucial. Customized delivery bags and containers with stickers including phrases like “enjoy your meal,” can make a big difference when you can’t be there in person to say it.
3. Share often on social media (& share more than just food photos).
Give your followers and fans a taste of what you’re prepping in the kitchen. Sharing photos of your food not only whets their appetite, but it also helps them plan their meals. If you’re prepping a dish for later in the week, let people know what you’re making, how you’ll garnish it, and when it’s going on the menu. And while many traditional kitchens frown upon using phones in kitchens, Johnny understands the value of sharing photos of his dishes on Instagram.
But beyond the food, Johnny points out that it’s a good idea to show people what you’re doing to ensure a safe environment for your staff and let people see where you’re prepping the food. “Now, we’ve got to Instagram and Facebook our cleaning procedures. We need to really show people it’s safe in here. Things like gloves and cleaning products that were tools we just used, are highlighted and focused on within the shop.”
Johnny has simple advice for anyone struggling for the first time with posting content: “Post it. Be relevant. And have people thinking of you.” Try to solve a simple problem for people. For example, in summer, you might want to promote fresh food delivery or meals to go by asking something like, “Don’t heat up your kitchen on this warm day. Let us do that for you.”
Another way restaurant owners can stay relevant is by capitalizing on food holidays. Stay up-to-date with these days to create fun social posts and inspire one-off dishes.
4. Offer delivery services.
If you’re adjusting your menu regularly, updating third-party platforms like Uber Eats and GrubHub can take up a lot of time. Making deliveries yourself, in the safest manner possible, can give you control over frequent menu updates and ensure everyone who comes into contact with your food follows your stringent health and safety procedures.
When Johnny was looking to adapt the business from takeaway to delivery, he had to check in with his staff to see if they were all OK working. Johnny then asked his staff, “who wants to deliver?” and everyone put their hand up.
He adds, “We’re all in. It could be any of us delivering, including the chef. At the moment, it’s all hands on deck in the safest manner possible. It really takes a village.”
5. Create customer-specific specials.
When given the option, consumers tend to choose businesses that cater specifically to them and their needs—and that includes restaurants. So, if you want customers to order takeout and delivery from your restaurant, try offering deals and menu items that speak directly to them.
For example, if you’re a family-friendly restaurant, offer a weeknight family-style take-and-bake option targeted towards working parents. If you’re a more romantic, upscale spot, offer a date night special targeted towards couples. Want to get creative with cocktails? Put some DIY mixology kits together to complement certain menu items…and let customers can shake things up at home.
6. Add limited-edition menu items.
If you have a static menu, your customers know they can order whatever they want, whenever they want. And while that convenience is great, it doesn’t create any sense of urgency. Instead, it can make it easy for customers to put off ordering takeout or delivery…which can very easily result in them not ordering at all.
So, if you want to increase your takeout and delivery orders, you need to create a sense of urgency. And one of the most effective restaurant takeout marketing strategies to create that sense of urgency is with ‘limited time only’ menu items. If there’s something new and exciting on your menu—and your customers know it’s only going to be available for a short period of time—they won’t want to miss out.
If possible, have one or two limited-edition items on your menu at any given time. Keep them on your menu for a short period (two weeks to a month is a good target) and make sure customers know when they’ll be leaving the menu. This sense of urgency will inspire more customers to place an order and try the menu item before it’s gone, simultaneously boosting your takeout and delivery orders.
7. Incentivize your customers to order again.
If someone has already ordered takeout from you and enjoyed their food, chances are, they’ll be interested in (eventually) placing another order. Your existing customers offer the biggest opportunity to increase your takeout revenue. With a bit of effort, you can transform a one-off takeout customer into a once-a-week takeout order—and if you do that enough, you’ll have a steady stream of reliable customers to keep your takeout and delivery business moving forward.
The key to success with this strategy? With every order, give customers an incentive to come back. For example, include a “10% off your next delivery” coupon with every order, or create a rewards program (using the back of a business card as a punch card!) that offers a freebie after they’ve ordered five times.
If you’re going to offer coupons or punch cards to incentivize your customers to order takeout or delivery on a more regular basis, make sure they’re on-brand. Include your logo and use your brand colour palette on every item to make them visually impactful and reinforce your brand identity.
Include a marketing postcard or magnet with your phone number and a QR code menu. This way, customers won’t have to spend time searching for your information when they’re ready to place an order…and your eatery will always be top of mind.
8. Ask for customer feedback.
Social media is a great place to ask for feedback. Some people are more comfortable providing their constructive critique via Facebook or Instagram than in-person.
Johnny recommends asking for candid feedback from your regulars. “If someone comes back to the shop and tells me the rice in the burrito they ate last week was a bit undercooked, it helps a lot. I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again. And that way, we’re always improving.”