Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
The small business world has completely shifted in the past year – but the restaurant industry has been hit especially hard. In the wake of pandemic-related restrictions (including limits and prohibitions on indoor dining), restaurants have had to find alternative ways to serve customers and keep their businesses moving forward. For many restaurants, that’s meant changing direction to focus on take-away and delivery.
Take-away and delivery became the go-to (and, in many instances, the only) way to enjoy restaurants in 2020 – and the trend has continued into 2021. But take-away and delivery is different from in-person dining… and if you’re not accustomed to take-away restaurant 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.
Here you can find some fresh take-away 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.
- Incentivise your customers to order again.
- Ask for feedback.
1. Offer promotions before (and after) the rush.
Friday and Saturday nights are prime time for take-away 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 take-away 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 consider creating a lunch menu that features some of your most popular dishes at discounted prices. Or, maybe you find that business is particularly slow on weeknights. You might want to offer your customers free delivery on weeknights – plus a complimentary dessert to sweeten the deal.
You might not make as much revenue on discounted orders, but if you’re offering deals during time frames during which you generally have fewer (or no!) take-away 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 in which 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 the meal’s visual appeal.
The experience people have when their food arrives is crucial. Customised delivery bags and containers with stickers including phrases like “enjoy your meal,” can make a big difference when you can’t be there to say it yourself in person.
Also, don’t forget to add a flyer, postcard or menu to every delivery bag with news of upcoming specials, offers, updated delivery details or even your business story.
3. Share often on social media (& share more than just photos of food).
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 the kitchen, 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. “We’ve now got our cleaning procedures on Instagram and Facebook. We need to really show people it’s safe in here. Things like gloves and cleaning products are highlighted.”
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 capitalising on food holidays. Stay up-to-date with these days to create fun social media 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 Deliveroo 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 with his staff to see if they would be prepared to go the extra mile. Johnny asked his staff, “who wants to deliver?” and everyone put up their hands.
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 does take 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 take-away and delivery from your restaurant, try offering deals and menu items that address them directly.
For example, if you’re a family-friendly restaurant, offer a weeknight family-style take-and-bake option targeted at working parents. If you’re a more romantic, upscale spot, offer a date night special targeted at couples. Want to get creative with cocktails? Put some DIY mixology kits together to complement certain menu items… and let customers shake things up at home.
6. Add limited-edition menu items.
If you have a static menu, your customers know they can order what 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 take-away or delivery… which can very easily result in them not ordering at all.
So, if you want to increase your take-away and delivery orders, you need to create a sense of urgency. And one of the most effective restaurant take-away 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 off the menu. This sense of urgency will inspire more customers to place an order and try the menu item before it’s gone, thus boosting your take-away and delivery orders.
7. Incentivise your customers to order again.
If someone has already ordered take-away from you and enjoyed their food, chances are they’ll be interested in (eventually) ordering again. Your existing customers offer the biggest opportunity to increase your take-away revenue. With a bit of effort, you can transform a one-off take-away customer into a once-a-week take-away customer – and if you do that enough, you’ll have a steady stream of reliable customers to keep your take-away and delivery business moving forward.
The key to success with this strategy? Give customers an incentive to come back with every order. For example, include a “10% off your next delivery” voucher with every order, or create a rewards programme (using the back of a business card as a punch card!) that offers a freebie after five orders.
If you’re going to offer vouchers or punch cards to incentivise your customers to order take-away 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 the items visually stimulating and to 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.
Ask for customer feedback.
Social media is a great place to ask for feedback. Some people are more comfortable providing their constructive critique on Facebook or Instagram as opposed to 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. This helps us to continuously improve.”