Just as restaurant brands aim to provide exceptional hospitality to dine-in guests, it’s equally important to create a consistent guest experience for delivery orders. In other words, off-premise guests should expect the same caliber of service, food quality, ease of ordering and payment, branding, etc. as in-restaurant guests.
But how do you control the off-premise guest experience when third-party marketplaces capture the lion’s share of restaurant orders? In this blog post, we’ll explore strategies for restaurants to wow and, most importantly, retain guests who order food delivery.
1. Invest in a Digital Ordering Platform
The foundation of a positive off-premise guest experience is an intuitive digital ordering platform. If you haven’t done so already, invest in restaurant software that puts the user first.
Whether you decide to build or buy, you can help foster trust and loyalty between your guests and your brand by ensuring your website and app have the following:
- Mobile-friendly design
- Easy navigation
- Straightforward messaging
- Full menu with high-quality images
- Consistent branding
- Multiple handoff modes (curbside, drive-thru, delivery, etc.)
- Secure payment options (digital wallet support, ability to save cards, etc.)
- Frictionless path to checkout
While third-party marketplaces have proven vital for boosting awareness and guest acquisition, direct ordering channels are essential for maximizing profit, unlocking actionable guest data, and scaling your restaurant brand. The more guests you can empower to order direct, the better.
2. Prioritize Your Packaging
Your kitchen staff works hard to prepare delicious food—don’t let it go to waste with subpar packaging. To ensure takeout food stays fresh from pickup to delivery, consider investing in high-quality, eco-friendly packaging materials that are easy to seal and maintain the temperature of their contents.
Branding is a key component here. Standardized packaging that reinforces your restaurant’s visual identity helps build trust with guests, strengthens your reputation, and makes social sharing a piece of cake—especially for guests who order via third-party marketplaces. Think branded boxes, bags, napkins, and any additional marketing collateral (e.g., “Next time order direct for $5 off!” coupon).
When prepping a takeout order for transit, separate items by temperature to preserve their quality and prevent food safety issues. The last thing you want is for your guest to end up with a wilted salad or for leaks to dampen the guest experience. Lastly, to prevent tampering after handoff—and give guests peace of mind—you can add a seal to packages.
3. Implement Quality Control Processes
When guests order food off a menu, they expect it to arrive looking like (or very similar to) the photo. You can keep off-premise guests happy and protect your brand’s image online by training kitchen staff to follow standardized recipes and plating guidelines when preparing takeout food, including consistent portion sizes, garnishes, and presentation.
A quality control process can help your team verify all takeout orders meet your brand’s standards for accuracy, temperature, taste, and presentation before delivery handoff. This step is critical for preventing errors and negative reviews.
4. Equip Your Delivery Team
If you have your own delivery fleet, your couriers should serve as an extension of your brand. Provide them with the same guest service training as in-restaurant employees so they are polite, professional, and punctual. Emphasize the importance of handling food carefully and following safety protocols during transportation.
To help build trust with off-premise guests and increase brand recognition, delivery team members should have branded clothing or delivery bags. This makes them easily identifiable and contributes to the overall consistency of the guest experience.
Bonus points for branded vehicles with your restaurant’s name, logo, and contact information, which will keep your brand top-of-mind for existing guests and prospective guests on the road.
5. Add a Personal Touch
While it might seem challenging to personalize delivery orders, small gestures can help create a positive association with your brand. It could be as simple as including complimentary items like condiments, utensils, or even a little appetizer/side (egg rolls, pastries, naan, etc.) in their to-go bag.
A handwritten note thanking the guest for their order or offering a discount on their next visit can further enhance the delivery experience. This type of care and attention to detail is one way to show off-premise guests the same level of hospitality they would receive in your restaurant.
6. Clearly Communicate With Guests
Just as you would let on-premise guests know if the item they ordered is being prepared, taking a little longer than expected, or is no longer available, off-premise guests also deserve clear and consistent communication.
By sending order confirmation messages, estimated delivery times, delay notifications, and follow-up communications, you are staying true to your brand's promise of reliability and putting the guest first.
7. Solicit Feedback From Delivery Orders
One of the best ways to ensure delivery guests have a consistently positive experience is to request feedback. Use follow-up surveys, your website, push notifications, social media, and other channels to gain insight into any delivery issues or areas in need of improvement.
Consider implementing a sentiment analysis tool to aggregate, respond to, and analyze the sentiment of your restaurant reviews from across the web. That way, you can uncover emerging trends in delivery guest satisfaction, address problems before they impact sales, and win back unhappy guests.
How Restaurants Benefit From Enhancing the Delivery Experience
The key to scaling your delivery business is ensuring every part of the process—from placing the order to food preparation to handoff—meets your brand’s standards for hospitality, quality, and reliability.
By taking these steps to provide a consistent guest experience for delivery orders, you can build a 5-star reputation for your restaurant brand, foster long-term loyalty, and attract new guests.