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There is no denying the uptake in the take-out food industry in recent years. The ability to have food delivered from your local take-out (or even one slightly further afield) in as little as thirty minutes has combined with a faster-paced lifestyle to create opportunities for aspiring owners.
For these owners, they might know all they need to know about cooking the dishes, but they might have little or no knowledge about how to take that business to the next level. It is still possible, even as a complete beginner, to build a take-out business up to larger or multiple locations, but there are some vital areas that they need to prioritize.
Explore new dishes (but don’t go too left field)
The first place to start is with the variety of dishes available. The equation is simple here is that regardless of niche – the more choice they offer to customers, the more customers they are likely to have. This does also come with the caveat that the dishes involved don’t overstretch the staff and equipment they currently have and that they are not too far a departure from what is already offered.
This will rely, for the most part, on other people’s perceptions and what they are used to. For instance, they will have seen shops that sell kebabs and burgers also selling pizzas, so that would be a logical step forward for a kebab shop owner to take. However, if they were to move to offer dishes customers might normally see on a Mexican, Indian, or Chinese take-out menu, they might be hesitant to order, regardless of the quality of the dish.
Ensure the quality and availability of dishes
As well as congruency, the aspiring take-out business owner also needs to look at maintaining quality as they get larger and busier. This can be achieved by just putting more pressure on the existing structure, but that can only continue until it reaches breaking point, quality suffers, and the outlet begins to lose customers and gain an unwanted reputation. To avoid this from happening, the owner needs to invest in two main areas.
Newer equipment tends to work faster than old equipment and will typically be more reliable as long as staff are trained to use it correctly. Replacing repetitive manual tasks with a machine can also help, especially in the preparation that often takes place in the afternoon before opening time. This will have a price tag attached to it, of course, but owners are likely to see it as money well spent.
Maintaining the quality of ingredients is not just about sourcing fresh ingredients but also finding a quality supplier of bulk store cupboard ingredients as well. This includes items like dried ingredients, which can be used to reduce wastage often caused by their fresh counterparts, as well as the bulk spices which are used by so many takeouts, regardless of the types of food that they offer. Unlike buying new equipment finding the right supplier for these types of ingredients can actually save the owner money, rather than putting a dent in their budget.
Build an online presence
More customers will come via word-of-mouth recommendations and local advertising via leaflet drops. Still, any business owner who is not looking at sourcing more customers online is missing a trick. They might think that they don’t need to go to the effort of doing that as they only want customers within a 5-mile radius, but almost everyone’s first act is to search online when they are looking for anything new, even takeout food.
This means the business owner needs to think about creating a website if they don’t have one, or if they do, that it consists of more than just a few photos of their menu. More details about the business are essential, with a bit of a back story about how it got started, and how long they have been going. Plenty of genuine pictures of the dishes are also a good idea, and if the owner has no plans to connect with one of the bigger app ordering services, the ability to order online as well, if only for in-person collection.
Don’t neglect social media
There is also social media. Some behind-the-scenes videos of dishes being created are bound to get lots of views, and although not all of those views, shares, and follows are going to be within ordering distance, they will build legitimacy for anyone who is thinking about ordering for the first time.
Work on customer interactions and creating repeat business
With all of this effort going into creating the right impression, it is imperative that businesses do not fall at the final hurdle. Many take-out businesses do not have the greatest reputation when it comes to customer service, so one that builds on improving customer interactions is going to stand out from the crowd.
The website was a good start, but also having a phone system that doesn’t simply show as busy when somebody rings to order is another step forward. Also, many employees are often in place because of their culinary skills rather than customer service abilities, so some additional training should also pay dividends. Putting all of this together should not only add to sales via upsells, but contribute to repeat sales as much as the quality of the dishes offered by the outlet.
To wrap everything up
Despite undoubted expertise in the kitchen, when it comes to expanding their business, many takeout owners might be found wanting. However, by looking at areas where they can build on what they already have, they can start to take things to the next level.
This will, of course, include introducing new dishes, or at least vegetarian or vegan versions of what they already offer. Sourcing quality bulk ingredients will also be important to meet the new demand, most likely created by an improved online presence. This will all be dealt with in a manner that gets them to repeat business and positive reviews that leads to even more orders.