In 2020, the restaurant industry saw firsthand that COVID was accelerating trends related to consumer adoption of off-premises dining. While COVID restrictions have been the catalyst, the adoption of online ordering and off-site related technologies is what will enable the growth of these channels for many years to come. Consumer behavior and habits in off-premises dining have changed, and successful operators will be those who can effectively manage this growth and meet rising customer expectations for convenience and overall experience.
Operators can start by focusing on how to leverage available technology to enable their staff to handle this influx of offsite orders, especially digital orders. “The goal for restaurants now is to acquire and retain regular users aand be a priority for frequent users who have takeout or delivery several nights a week. This means delivering a great offsite experience that meets and exceeds customer expectations for quality and convenience,” says Mike Rizzo, Director of Growth at Apex Order Pickup Solutions.
Yet controlling this experience is not easy. Relationships with delivery services can be difficult to manage. While participating restaurants gain access to the customer base of these services, they also give up some of their markups and connection to their consumers. Additionally, while curbside pickup was an effective tool during the height of COVID, the service format is both “clunky and laborious,” says Rizzo. Meanwhile, all of these challenges – and many more – mean that staff are stretched even harder between competing demands amid a tough job market.
Restaurant owners and food service operators have realized that there is a great opportunity to leverage “food technology” to drive increased sales and profits. Many have found that smart food lockers, such as those offered by Apex, can dramatically improve both measurements and the customer experience.
More than just a pick-up locker system – and far more secure and organized than a shelving system, Apex Food Lockers use powerful ApexIQ software to help restaurants seamlessly manage pick-up and delivery orders . Apex digital lockers also provide data insights that eliminate blind spots when transferring orders and give brands the information they need to meet and exceed customer expectations.
“Our solution gives operators access to more data to accurately measure performance around each order’s journey, documenting exactly when the order was picked up and how long the order waited to be picked up. We call this ‘dwell time’ and it’s a critical metric in the order pick-up process,” says Rizzo.
Additionally, Rizzo says the software integrates with dozens of restaurant technology partners, allowing it to work seamlessly within a brand’s existing technology stack. This means that the Apex operating system is able to communicate with mobile orders, order aggregators, and kitchen display systems to give restaurants deep insight into the efficiency of their delivery and pickup programs.
Apex food lockers are easy to use for consumers and back office staff. Once an order is prepared, it is placed in a locker, triggering an SMS notification with a personalized QR code to a guest or delivery driver that the order is ready. Diners and drivers can then use the pick-up code on their phone to scan the QR code and open the appropriate locker, ensuring food safety, reducing errors, improving efficiency and eliminating confusion.
Rizzo adds, “While offering takeout or delivery was an afterthought, now and in the future it will represent a critical percentage of total revenue. Our Apex solution enables operators to improve the customer experience and create operational efficiencies to support unit economics and provide data to measure performance in this critical segment.
To learn more, visit the Apex Order Pickup Solutions website.
By Peggy Carouthers