A guide to curbside pickup operations

Curbside pickup has become a popular option for guests who are interested in outsourcing meals without dining in public, and restaurants are reacting quickly to adapt to this new trend. Curbside pickup is a good option for restaurants that may not be able to offer delivery but still need to bring in revenue with limited indoor dining available. Before you set up curbside pickup for your restaurant, take the time to think through the system you will use to avoid giving poor service to your customers.

Make a Plan

Create a document that outlines the steps you will take to implement curbside pickup. This should include:

  • The physical plan (where cars will go, where staff will go, how you will communicate)
  • What menu items you will offer curbside (this could include take & bake options, family-style meals, and don’t forget the merch!)
  • Hours of operation
  • Staffing needs
  • Materials needed (signage, marketing materials for bags, etc.) Consider how guests will pay, and if necessary, purchase a tablet that is compatible with your POS system, with ample opportunities for guests to tip employees.

Look at Your Space

Evaluate your options for curbside pickup, considering the flow of how cars will enter and exit your parking lot, how staff will get food from the building to the cars, and how many cars you can have waiting to pick up orders at one time.

Communicate with Guests

Communicate all curbside pickup directions with guests at the time of ordering. Consider creating branded materials explaining your new curbside offerings in detail with clear instructions, and then share this with your newsletter subscribers, social media followers, and anyone who places an order.

Create Signage

You will likely need to produce signs that direct the flow of traffic and tell guests where to park and what to do once they arrive. Make sure that signage is clear, easy to read, and in the same branding as your other printed marketing materials. If there is a number that guests should call to let your staff know they’ve arrived, make sure to include this on signage. Evaluate the set-up with an eye for places where guests may get confused, and address that confusion through targeted signage.

Pack It Up

You may need to upgrade your to-go packaging if you are seeing an increase in your curbside pickup. Guests appreciate packaging that keeps food fresher longer as well as packaging that holds well on their drive home.

Train Staff

Designate a few employees to run the curbside service, and train them to be as efficient as possible when filling curbside orders. Train them on wearing PPE, including gloves and masks, with special training on how to wear and remove them properly. Make sure they double check the packaged orders with the receipt and include any utensils, napkins, and condiments to avoid having to go back and forth. Consider creating a caddy of supplies that curbside servers can take with them when they distribute each order in case customers have last-minute requests for condiments, etc.

Test Your System

Before you go live with curbside pickup, do a few trial runs first. This can be among staff, to get more clarity on possible wait times, bottlenecks, or service issues; and then you can open it up to a few friends, family, and regulars who can help you work out the kinks. Provide a way for friends, family, and regulars to provide thoughtful feedback that you can use to improve your system. One way to do this is to print a comment card to give out with curbside orders, or share a link with guests to fill one out online.

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