Business and Operations
Tips for better take-out and delivery service
By James Careless
By James Careless
Pizza and the words takeout and delivery are synonymous. When customers think of one, they can’t help but think of the other. For pizzeria owners, takeout and delivery are critically important.
Pizza and the words takeout and delivery are synonymous. When customers
think of one, they can’t help but think of the other. For pizzeria
owners, takeout and delivery are critically important.
|Joe Hanna, one of the founding brothers of Gabriel Pizza company and a store owner in Orleans, Ont.|
If that isn’t enough, takeout and delivery is one of the factors that
sets individual pizzerias apart from each other in customers’ minds,
says Ron Yudd, president of Points of Profit Leadership. Yudd is a
customer service expert who will be speaking on this topic in March at
the CRFA show in Toronto.
“In fact, there are only two ways that a restaurant can differentiate
themselves from the competition. The first is quality product. The
second is customer service.”
Despite the facts listed above, many restaurants approach takeout and
delivery with an unenthusiastic attitude. They work hard to get orders
taken through the phone and front counter, and then they push whichever
delivery person is available to get to the customers’ homes, but that’s
it. That’s a shame, says restaurant marketing expert Joel Cohen,
because takeout and delivery offers tremendous opportunities for
impressing and keeping customers.
“Most guests only remember three restaurants at any given time,” says
Cohen, president and founder of the Cohen Restaurant Marketing Group.
“When it comes to takeout and delivery, they usually only remember one
restaurant,” he adds. “Typically, they’ll choose their takeout and
delivery restaurant because it’s convenient, but they won’t stick with
it if they are unhappy with the food and the service. If you want to
hold ’em, you have to wow ’em!”
It starts with the menu
Savvy restaurateurs know that effective communication counts. Take
DelMonaco Prêt-a-Manger in Pierrefonds, Que. This established
family-run business prides itself on the distinctive quality and
authenticity of its rectangular Italian pizzas. But none of the effort
that goes into DelMonaco’s authentic pizzas – such as using dough
proofed for hours before entering the oven – would matter if customers
didn’t know about it.
“This is why communicating all the care we take in making our food is
vital to our success,” says DelMonaco’s co-owner Luigi Sabelli. “They
see how hard we work, how everything we do is basically homemade, and
how we use fresh items like big chunks of pepper and Italian sausage to
make our pizzas special.”
Most restaurateurs understand the importance of spotlighting their
products to customers, at least when it comes to in-house menus. The
same cannot always be said about takeout and delivery literature.
“When it comes to takeout menus, most pizzerias photocopy their menus
in miniature and in black and white,” Cohen says. “You need a
magnifying glass to read them!”
The problem with nondescript takeout menus occurs in households where
people keep a bunch of menus stuck in a kitchen drawer. When it comes
time to pull them out and pick one, chances are that the customer’s
attention will go to the best-looking one first, especially if the
print is big enough for middle-aged eyes to read.
“You need to invest in the look and quality of your takeout menu,”
Cohen says. “You also need to proofread it carefully before you print
it, to make sure it’s accurate and complete. I’ve seen takeout menus
where the store has forgotten to put on their address and phone number.
How effective is that?”
The telephone: pain or progress?
Takeout and delivery is built around the telephone. So it only makes
sense for pizzerias to ensure that the people answering the phones are
friendly, knowledgeable and accurate.
To make sure this happens, “you need to create a telephone script for
your employees,” advises Yudd. “They don’t have to repeat it
word-for-word, but they do need to know what needs to be said, such as
the restaurant name and slogan, daily specials, delivery times and
anything else that matters.”
Customers also care about getting the food they ordered – not a close
approximation – and they hate to wait for their calls to be answered.
“Every second a person spends on hold feels like an eternity to them,”
says Cohen. “You don’t want to do this to them. Make sure you have
plenty of phone lines. And when you tell someone what time their pizza
will be delivered by, be aware that they will hold you to this.”
In Ottawa, Gabriel Pizza has set up its own professional call centre to
receive, route and manage its calls. “By doing this, we have managed to
cut customer wait times,” says Gabriel’s communications manager Cory
Boast. “Our dedicated call-takers have the time to repeat orders back
to customers to ensure that they are correct. We even have an incentive
program in place for them, to reward good service and call-taking
“You may want to give your best employees and drivers a raise,” Yudd
adds. “Good people are hard to find, and you will want to hold onto
them when you do.”
It goes without saying that takeout orders should be speedily prepared
and turned over to customers with a smile. But your duty doesn’t end
when the product goes out the door: The food has to look as good coming
out of the box as it did going in.
This is where using devices to keep the lid off the centre of the pizza
– whether it be a plastic support or a ball of baked dough – make
sense. But what also matters is proper packaging: Don’t send your
customers out carrying bags that will break and dump their dinner in
the parking lot.
“And whatever you do, pack the cold items away from the hot,” Cohen
advises. “No salad can stand being stored next to a hot pizza.”
“We do our best to deliver pizzas in the time we say we’re going to,”
says Juan Ramirez, an employee with Salvatore’s Pizzaiolo Trattoria in
Halifax. “And if something isn’t right, we do our best to make it
right. We want our customers to be satisfied.”
This is good starting advice for pizza delivery, but there is still
more that can be done. Take your delivery driver and car: Are they neat
and professional looking? Is your driver in a recognizable uniform
branded with your name?
“Or is he just dressed like a slob?” says Cohen. “This matters, because
the delivery person is your restaurant’s face to the public. He is what
they will think of, when they think of you.”
Cohen is a big fan of well-dressed, well-mannered delivery people. He
even likes to see the owner do the job once in a while; both to
remember what this work is like and to meet customers in person. “On
weekends, I suggest that you have your drivers wear ties,” he says.
“This will impress people at the door – they’re not used to seeing
Are you catering a really big party? “Then bring the order in a
limousine,” Cohen says. “People will be really blown away by this, and
they will remember it the next time they call for pizza.”
It doesn’t hurt to offer box-top specials to delivery customers – as
Gabriel’s does – to make your delivery customers feel special. Every so
often, you or your manager should call delivery customers to ask how
they liked their pizzas. Again, this shows caring on your part, and
motivates customers to be loyal.
The bottom line
Retaining takeout and delivery customers is an end-to-end process. “It
is a major mistake to think that the job of pleasing customers ends
once the pizza leaves your restaurant,” says Yudd. “In truth, the job
continues until they have finished enjoying your pizza, and declared to
each other that they should order another one soon. Do the entire job
and you’ll keep your old customers, and attract new ones through
James Careless, an Ottawa based writer, is vice-president of TJT Design
& Communication. He has worked in the restaurant trade doing
everything from food prep to management. His foodservice writing
credits include Canadian Hotel & Restaurant, Restaurant Hospitality
(U.S.), and the Ottawa Citizen.