September 08, 2022

The Benefits and Challenges of Take-Out Only Restaurants Post-COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted businesses in almost every sector, but the food service industry took a huge hit. Thousands of restaurants across the country were forced to close their doors, limit their hours, or let go of most of their staff just to stay afloat. 

The restaurants that were able to stay open had to make some serious adjustments to keep their customers happy and to keep receiving consistent business. Take-out orders became the solution.

Throughout the pandemic, the popularity of take-out skyrocketed. Many restaurants started their own delivery services or relied on businesses like GrubHub or Postmates to get people their food. While take-out was a necessity during the pandemic, it’s no longer the norm. Most restaurants have gone back to normal dining services, allowing patrons to eat their meals right there.

However, there are some benefits you might want to consider if you’re thinking about keeping (or making) your establishment take-out only. There are also some challenges you’ll have to face. Let’s take a look at whether keeping the take-out-only business model is right for you.

How the Pandemic Changed Restaurants

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, restaurants had to act quickly to decide how to keep their customers and staff safe. While that meant shutting down completely for some, others found that take-out orders would allow their customers to enjoy food while keeping their business going.

The idea of the “dark kitchen” grew, as restaurants began serving customers solely through take-out and delivery, with no room for seating indoors. This allowed most food service businesses to keep a small staff on board and let everyone else stay safe at home.

The pandemic also gave restaurants the chance to rethink and revamp the way they do business. It required businesses to rely on technology, and be more flexible and adaptable to changes. It forced a closer look at food safety and hygiene in the workplace. While it may have been frightening for business owners and patrons alike, the pandemic made some positive changes in the industry.

The Appeal of Take-Out Only Restaurants

Again, most restaurants have decided to go “back to normal” when it comes to allowing patrons to dine in. Some, however, have chosen to stick with the take-out/delivery model, and others are considering going back to it. 

Understandably so.

There are plenty of benefits that come with a take-out-only model, including:

  • Lower overhead
  • Reduced staff
  • More efficiency
  • Boosted productivity
  • Fewer misunderstandings and negative experiences 

You’re also providing customers with more flexibility, especially if you choose to expand your reach and let people order online or through third-party services like GrubHub or UberEats.

There are some changes you’ll have to consider if you want your take-out model to be a success. For example, you might not be able to have an expansive menu the way you would with a sit-down establishment. Cutting things down and offering only a few signature items will make it easier on your kitchen. You’ll be able to perfect those items and deliver them quickly.

You’ll also have to determine exactly how your take-out system will work. Will you offer delivery or require people to pick up their meals? Will you offer curbside service? Are people allowed to enter the building for grab-and-go items? There are plenty of details to consider and discuss, but once you have a plan in place, it can become efficient and productive very quickly.

Understand the Risks

Switching to a take-out-only model can offer an amazing opportunity for profitability, but it doesn’t come without challenges and risks. That’s especially true if you plan on incorporating delivery into your plan. It’s a great way to hire more staff members and expand your business. However, some of the common challenges you’ll face with delivery include: 

  • Insurance costs for your drivers
  • Timely food delivery for your customers
  • Proper pricing
  • Higher traffic 

These aren’t huge challenges, but when you consider some of the supply chain issues still going on (that began during the pandemic), it’s definitely a risk. You might struggle to get consistent ingredients or other supplies you need to meet your take-out demands. You can combat these issues by being transparent with your customers about delivery times and anything that might be out of stock. 

It’s also important to realize that a take-out-only model isn’t for everyone. It requires specific soft skills to succeed, including excellent communication, the ability to problem-solve quickly, and an emphasis on customer service. Obviously, hiring the right people to work for you will make a big difference, but it’s essential to make sure you have those skills, too, so you can be the leader your staff needs.

It’s hard to think that anything “good” could come out of the pandemic. However, take-out-only models might be an exception. If you’re willing to change up the way your restaurant works and tackle any potential challenges that might arise, switching to a take-out model could allow you more growth and less stress.

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