Catering, delivery and take-out have become so much more accessible due to today’s technology.
Guests are beginning to expect restaurants to not only offer these services, but to also provide an easy to use digital system to order food off-premise.
That’s why brands are developing loyalty apps that offer online ordering or are partnering with third-party services to offer delivery. These technologies are enhancing off-premise operations, but have also presented brands with several challenges.
That’s why The Catering Institute is having the 2017 Restaurant Takeout, Delivery, & Catering Symposium to discuss the latest and greatest strategies for off-premise business.
We sat down with Erle Dardick, the founder and CEO at MonkeyMedia Software, The Catering Institute, and Catering Insights to learn more about the event, what trends he is seeing in the industry and what he thinks the future holds for the off-premise sector.
What is the mission of the symposium?
Dardick: The mission of our Symposium is to explore the trends and best practices surrounding delivery, takeout and catering. These are the areas where executive teams and restaurant leaders are facing the most challenges when launching off-premise programs.
Attendees will come away from the Symposium with new ideas and advice from the operators who have worked their whole careers in takeout, delivery or catering. Most important, they will learn about new tools they can apply to their businesses immediately to make their off-premise operation a success. Our topics delve into the trends shaping takeout, delivery and catering, the impact of third-party digital ordering channels, delivery strategies, how to build professional sales teams, and the future of off-premise. Operators also will have the ability to network with other leaders in the space so they can share and discuss the methods that work best for building an off-premise sales channel.
How will it be different from other events?
Dardick: Our event is unique from other restaurant-industry conferences because we only talk about the issues and opportunities related to takeout, delivery and catering. Whether it's from a legal or financial stand point, or from the perspective of sales, marketing and IT, the off-premise segment cuts across all facets of the food industry, and we plan to look at these issues through a very specific lens.
Anyone interested in off-premise will come away with an immense amount of knowledge - human capital - that they can use to impact their off-premise business in a meaningful way.
What do you think some of the key takeaways will be from the event?
Dardick: That delivery is a big deal even though it is just one of five critical pillars to be mastered. We have centered the days’ theme on our 5 Pillars of Successful Restaurant Takeout, Catering and Delivery. Those pillars are tied to leadership, centralized services, sales and marketing, operations, and delivery.
The other takeaway is that technology plays a special role in off-premise because it is a key component to ensuring any strategy is a success. There is now an opportunity for the restaurant sector to help shape the future of technology, rather than be subject to the whims of the Googles and Amazons of the world. Technology also is tied to almost every one of our five pillars because, without it, restaurant operators would fail to capture the necessary data and feedback required to increase off-premise sales.
One of the major topics of the symposium is delivery. How are third-party delivery services impacting the industry?
Dardick: Third-party delivery channels are both enabling the off-premise segment to flourish, while simultaneously sowing some confusion. They have completely opened-up the ordering and delivery process for consumers, giving restaurant operators the ability to increase daily sales. However, operators are still figuring out how to best work with these companies without adding more stress to their restaurant personnel and day-to-day operations. So everyone is still trying to figure out how to adjust to what consumers want compared to what’s in the best interest of the restaurant brand.
All the hype and friction will calm down as everyone figures out what works and what does not. We're just not there yet, which is why we developed a Symposium to help people figure it out and move forward.
What are some of the challenges operators experience when it comes to digital delivery? And what solutions do you recommend?
Dardick: Some operators experience the frustration of 'brand hijacking.' This is when digital ordering apps sell a restaurant brand’s food without a formal partnership in place. Or, digital delivery channels simply fail the guest with a bad delivery experience and missed details. Either way, it’s a failed occurence. The fact that digital ordering is so closely tied into our social networks means none of these players can afford to screw up, as it can go viral and hurt the operator, even though it's not their problem.
To help solve for this in the short-term, restaurant operators can communicate to their customers those third-party delivery services they are in partnership with, and could even offer some type of incentive for using their approved partners. For a more long-term solution, there needs to be better self-regulation by these third-party digital ordering firms, and probably patience for a process of natural selection to weed out those that don't form those partnerships.
Let's talk catering. How can an operator use digital ordering channels to enhance their catering programs?
Dardick: It really comes down to how the order mechanism and resulting data ties into other mission critical systems responsible for growth. When done right, digital ordering apps encourage customers to place their order when it’s convenient for them – whether they order during standard office hours, early in the morning or late at night. Digital ordering channels also encourage add-ons and upsells, and that equates to more revenue dollars for the restaurants.
The integration of the digital ordering system into the catering/takeout management system also creates a more efficient, productive and accurate experience for both the consumer and the restaurant employees.
When all of this works together with a well-thought out guest service, marketing and sales strategy – including a CRM system – you can enhance the guest experience, drive customer loyalty and build repeat business. So digital ordering channels can be used to improve every catering order and improve every staff member's contribution to the bottom line revenue year-round.
What does the future of off-premise look like in terms of automation and technology?
Dardick: From the consumer's perspective it will be a fully automated, seamless transaction. And from the operator’s perspective it will be a completely transparent experience fully integrated to offer consumer ordering preferences and other data. As technology providers merge APIs, there also will be greater communication among the industry to create an order experience that merges every facet of the takeout, delivery and catering experience.
While the change might not be felt by larger restaurant chains that have the financial resources to fully invest in off-premise, this will be impactful for small-to-mid brands that have historically had to piecemeal their takeout, delivery and catering services based on cost. No longer will these restaurant chains have to dig deep, make a huge investment and take lots of risk to shift toward an off-premise model. It's already a lot easier now than when I started 20 years ago, and overall, in the next 20 years, you will see the power of technology actually change the ways restaurants operate. This is because off-premise will outpace sit-down restaurants in terms of revenue, and the technology will be ready to facilitate those business changes as we're seeing today.