10 Restaurant Curbside Service Mistakes (and How to Fix Them)
Restaurants scrambled to add curbside service during the pandemic, allowing customers to safely pick up their food. However, safety wasn't the only appeal.
It turns out people also enjoyed the convenience of collecting a meal at curbside to enjoy anywhere. As a result, the trend never went away. Curbside remains one of the most popular ways to dine.Curbside service is critical for local and regional restaurants that have to compete with national franchises. While large chains have plenty of money and resources to create seamless experiences for their customers, smaller restaurants have a harder time with it.
Here, we'll cover 10 common errors restaurants make when offering curbside service — and how to fix them.
1. Relying on 3rd-Party Apps
Sometimes the simplest option seems best. Why not let Grubhub handle curbside service for your restaurant?
It's so convenient. Well, the thing about convenience is that it usually costs more. Those third-party apps take a standard 30% of the order value in fees and commissions.
So the question is straightforward: Can your restaurant provide a curbside pick-up experience that's both inexpensive and simple? Check out our Arrival Toolkit if you're ready to be persuaded it's possible.
Otherwise, keep reading for the rest of the list!
2. Letting Food Go Cold
Is there anything more disappointing than cold food? Customers need those fries to be fresh, delicious and piping hot.
Our research shows that cold food is one of the worst experiences for restaurant customers.
of consumers say their food is cold when they arrive. The State of What Feeds Us, Vol. 5, 2021
The fix: Give customers an easy way to notify the restaurant when they're on the way, allowing staff to have it ready with perfect timing.
3. Making Guests Wait for Curbside Service
To avoid the cold food problem, many restaurants wait til the last minute to start prepping it. However, that creates a whole new problem: the meal might not be ready when customers arrive!
Waiting for food is nobody's idea of a good time. We have it on good authority that 4 minutes is the limit before hangry feelings start kicking in:
of consumers want wait times of 4 minutes or less. The State of What Feeds Us, Vol. 7, 2022
When it comes to ordering ahead. too many restaurants add to the misery — they allow people to order ahead, but when the car pulls up, the food still isn't ready. What's the point of ordering in advance if you still need to wait for your meal?
Sometimes, the kitchen hasn't even started the ticket when the hungry customer arrives.
The fix: Timing is everything. Offer guests the two most important touchpoints to alert your restaurant: "I'm on my way," and "I've arrived."
4. Failing to Integrate Loyalty Programs
These days, there are sophisticated methods of rewarding your repeat customers. This might seem like the domain of larger restaurant brands, but 75% of independent restaurants are eager to invest in loyalty program tech.
Our research consistently finds that people are eager to download apps to get special offers, discounts, and loyalty points — especially in response to inflation and rising costs.
However, not every restaurant knows how to integrate curbside service with loyalty programs.
The fix: Why not use the mobile phone experience to let them know about special offers, or remind them to redeem points while they're picking up their food? Even a simple, web-based tool gives you multiple touchpoints to engage your customers.
5. Unclear Instructions for Guests
Without clear directions and signage, the restaurant curbside experience can be confusing. Our 2021 study found that 40% of visitors had to wait in line due to lack of a designated pick-up area.
1 in 4
consumers experience a stress-free,
automated curbside service experience. The State of What Feeds Us, Vol. 5, 2021
The fix: Use your website or app to make sure guests know what to expect when they place an order, and then use physical signage to show them where to go on arrival.
6. Under-prepared Staff
Restaurants have been struggling to retain staff lately, and that often leads to employees feeling stretched too thin, asked to juggle multiple tasks. For the first time, our State of What Feeds Us 7 report found a new frustration for restaurant visitors: staff are too preoccupied to pay attention.
of diners placing mobile orders report that staff is
too preoccupied when they arrive. The State of What Feeds Us, Vol. 7, 2022
The fix: Make employees' lives simpler with technology, training and tools that make curbside pickup easy.
7. Offering Too Many Options
Some dishes are best enjoyed at the restaurant. Other dishes look really bad when they're thrown in a box, jostled around in a car, or spilled. All too often, restaurants feel like they need to make the entire menu available to go.
The fix: Remember that your to-go restaurant menu can be more specialized. Consider only offering a few of your most popular menu items — the ones that are easy to package up. Maybe that special tiramisu confection belongs on the table, not in a box.
8. Missing Out on Upsell
Customers often add more items when they order online than when visiting the store in person, but restaurants often fail to actively encourage that behavior. For example, when a customer pulls in to the lot to collect an order, it might be an opportunity to suggest adding a dessert, drink or side item (as long as it doesn't add extra time to fulfill the order).
The fix: Consider using your app, order confirmation screen, or employee training to remind visitors they can throw in an extra item at the last moment.
9. Neglecting to Collect Timely Feedback
Fast-food restaurants try to collect customer feedback on the back of receipts. When is the last time you thought about winning that cash prize for sharing your thoughts? It's a common tactic, but maybe not the most effective. Why not use your visitor's smartphone instead?
The fix: Offer a location-based survey! Restaurant apps with geofencing can push a survey to customers while they're still on location. Otherwise, if you use a simple, web-based "I'm here" confirmation, adding a link to the page is a great way to get responses while the curbside service experience is still fresh.
10. Not Offering Curbside At All
Is it really worth the trouble to offer curbside service? Some smaller restaurants don't bother with it. It seems complicated and keeps slipping down the priority list. Besides, guests come for the mood and the personal touch of your restaurant experience, right?
Well, the process might be simpler than it seems.
Schedule a demo and see how easy it is to set up 5 stores in 5 minutes. With no app and no web development needed.