5 Operational Must-Haves for Seamless Digital Ordering + Pickup

Operational Changes, Restaurant Operations, LevelUp, CRM, Mobile Orders, Order Ahead

Today’s smartphone-enabled consumer is all about saving time and avoiding lines. The restaurant industry is changing accordingly: today, digital ordering is growing 300% faster than dine-in traffic, and mobile orders make up over 23% of food orders.

Because of this, 45% of quick service restaurants today offer a pick-up in-store feature for mobile ordering. Many partner with third-party delivery services like Grubhub, Postmates, DoorDash, or Uber Eats to satisfy customer demand; in fact, 25% of surveyed U.S. consumers said they ordered delivery in the past three months.

As digital ordering continues to grow, restaurants face new operational challenges. Many of LevelUp’s partner restaurants have already been through this change, and prioritized a few critical changes.

Digital ordering channels should integrate directly into your POS

It’s critical that each step of your app or web ordering experience is easy and bug-free. The best way to make sure that all orders come into your queue properly is to integrate any digital channel from which guests can order (your app, web ordering platform, social channels like Facebook and Yelp, or third-party delivery providers like UberEats and Grubhub) directly into your restaurant’s POS system.

A seamless integration also ensures that digital orders sync into your restaurant’s order queue at the right time. That way, delivery couriers can drop orders off to customers at the promised time, reflecting positively on your brand.

Prepare for customer orders with extra modifications

One reason guests love digital ordering is that they can personalize any dish with the touch of a finger. On the restaurant side, however, multiple modifications to a pre-made bowl slow down the prep line. It’s therefore critical to make sure that your POS system prints out a dish’s ingredients on a chit in the order in which they are set up on the line to maximize efficiency.

Create a mirrored prep line for digital orders

Many digital orders come through at peak times, and it’s impossible for your front-of-house line to keep up with them along with in-person orders. That’s why many brands have created a mirrored back-of-house line to manage throughput. At sweetgreen, for instance, a location has between one and four additional back-of-house lines depending on digital traffic. The separate line also creates greater prep efficiencies; for instance, sweetgreen employees can package up dressings before the lunch rush to quickly place them in a salad.

It’s possible that digital customer order behavior will differ compared to your typical in-house orders. For instance, on a recent Food On Demand webinar, Mario del Pero, founder of Mendocino Farms, a trendy California sandwich shop, said that while their menu consists of only 25% salads, 40-45% of digital orders contained a salad. Their back-of-house prep line was therefore altered to include more salad than sandwich ingredients.

Kitchen display systems (KDS) can help line efficiency for pick-up orders. KDS systems have the ability to split up digital orders as they come through so that the quantity of ingredients used on each back-of-house line is split evenly. KDS also helps restaurants track and visualize what goes into an order; when an order reaches the end of the line, the team has an opportunity to double check ingredients on a screen that shows the full order. &pizza, a fast casual, creative east coast pizza chain, uses a KDS screen in the front of their store to flash a guest’s name when his or her order is ready, limiting any overcrowding at the pick-up shelf.

Map an efficient pick-up area

Avoid overcrowding front-of-house by providing clear signage in your restaurant that directs guests and couriers to the pick-up area. Designate an employee to live at the pickup area during the lunch or dinner rush to help customers find their orders, answer questions, interact with delivery couriers, and provide a great, on-brand guest experience.

Depending on the layout of your store, you have some choices as to how to set up your pickup area. For instance, at some Cava locations, the pickup shelf is set up along a wall near the front of the store for easy access. At some minigrow locations, on the other hand, the pickup area is not along a wall but set up next to the kitchen, so those picking up orders can see the prep staff back-of-house making their orders through the pick-up shelves.

Find the right packaging

Digital orders, whether being picked up by a guest or delivered by a third-party service, inevitably sit much longer before they’re eaten than in-store orders. For certain restaurants, packaging is critical to making sure food stays fresh. Using packaging with compartmentalization keeps saucy dishes from mixing with others. Packaging hot foods separately from cold maintains the proper temperature, longer.

LevelUp works with over 200 leading restaurant brands to implement digital ordering through a variety of channels. Subscribe to the blog to stay up on the best tips in restaurant efficiency:

Suzy Whalen

Suzy Whalen

Suzy is the B2B Marketing Manager at LevelUp, where she brings the conference circuit to life with food, fun, and cool (yet useful) swag. When she isn’t coordinating conferences, you can find Suzy planning her own travel, bouncing around the gym, or crossing off her list of Boston restaurants to try.

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