More than ever before, customers are driven by convenience; they want what they want when they want it, and where. And, so, to keep up with consumer demand, restaurants and convenience stores need to begin serving up their offerings outside of their own walls.
The term “off-premises” refers to delivery, takeout, and catering experiences. An off-premises interaction is one in which a customer is receiving and consuming food or goods outside of the restaurant or c-store.
The challenge for c-stores, and for restaurants especially, is to maintain the positive brand experience—and collect the essential customer data—when the entire interaction is taking place outside of their walls.
For the most part, the guest engagement drops to just two critical touch points: the point of order (whether online or over the phone) and the time of distribution (either pick-up or delivery).
Controlling the Experience in Two Key Touchpoints
The point of order might happen over the phone, it might happen on a restaurant’s website, or it might happen on a third-party site. Clearly, it’s easiest to control the customer experience when they’re calling your restaurant to place an order. However, that’s no longer the most convenient option for customers and they’re increasingly likely to place an order online.
On your own site, it’s crucial to make sure that the ordering process is just as easy and streamlined as it would be if they were sitting at a table and ordering from a server. The experience needs to be easy to navigate, the online menu needs to be thorough and easy to understand, and the expectations of when and how delivery will happen need to be thorough.
To maintain your positive brand experience at the point of sale, it needs to be as simple, reliable, and predictable as it would be in the restaurant.
When people order on a third-party site, two things are essential: First, that your menu is completely accurate, clear, and thorough. Any mistakes on that site won’t be attributed to that site; they’ll be attributed to your restaurant. So it’s essential that you ensure that your menu and offerings contain no mistakes or confusion points.
The second essential point is that the third-party company that collects the order also needs. To share the customer data with you. Obviously, it’s important to get the data to fulfill the order, but it’s also important to allow you to build customer profiles, segment your customers, and create effective programs and promotions.
When it comes to distribution, it’s obviously easier to control the customer experience with take-out. It should be fast, it should be easy, and it should be clear where the customer needs to go to receive their order. Receiving their take-out order should be just as easy and pleasant as receiving an order at a table.
Delivery, however, sets up a whole different level of challenges. A restaurant could opt to employ their own delivery force, partner with a logistics company, or leave it up to a third-party order and fulfillment company.
When a restaurant maintains its own delivery force (and/or supplements that force with a logistics company) it’s much easier for them to maintain a positive brand experience. But with a third-party ordering and fulfillment company, it’s entirely out of their hands.
Another reason that data sharing is important is that while third-party delivery takes the brand experience out of a restaurant’s hands, the data allows them to follow-up with a positive experience and/or positive promotion.
One of the greatest keys to maintaining a positive brand experience off-premises is to examine the whole off-premises experience from before it begins to after it ends and engineer it to inject as many positive brand interactions as possible.
Customers want convenience, but they also still want quality, efficiency and a positive experience that affirms for them that they’re valued and important. The best way to ensure this is to carefully plan their experiences—and then to reward them for their orders and continued patronage.
For more tips on how to control the off-premises brand experience, please reach out to your Paytronix representative. If you’re not yet working with us, we’d be happy to discuss your challenges and opportunities, and offer ideas for a solution. Please call us at 617-649-3300, extension 5.