Order and delivery are no longer optional for quick-service restaurants. Establishments must embrace in-store pickup, delivery, or both to compete in a post-pandemic market. While many businesses understand the necessity, knowing how to optimize delivery and pickup is another matter.

It’s not enough to simply offer a to-go system. Virtually everyone does today. Quick-service restaurants must optimize order management so their offerings are faster, more cost-effective and more convenient than their competitors. Here are seven ways quick-serves can achieve that.

1. Go Digital

Digitization is the first and most crucial step in order and delivery optimization. Restaurants must support online and in-app orders to appeal to today’s digital-native consumers. Orders placed over the phone account for just 11.5 percent of quick-service restaurant sales, while online channels like aggregators and mobile apps account for 47.3 percent.

Non-customer-facing processes should go digital, too. Switch to an electronic ticketing system instead of relying on paper or verbal communication. The more automation a platform offers, the better. Removing manual steps between ordering and service will streamline the process and minimize errors.

Digital delivery-tracking solutions are also ideal. Customers will appreciate the convenience of tracking orders in real-time using drivers’ GPS data. Restaurants can use the same tools to keep an eye on delivery efficiency.

2. Support Multiple Payment Options

Maximizing convenience is another key way to optimize delivery and pickup. Supporting customers’ preferred payment methods is an important step toward that goal. The more payment options a restaurant supports, the easier it makes ordering for a wider customer base.

Quick-service brands must support digital wallet apps like PayPal and Apple Wallet. Roughly 64% of all consumers use these platforms as much or more than conventional methods, and 47% use them at restaurants. However, consumers are divided on which of these payment platforms they prefer. Supporting multiple ensures restaurants appeal to all customers.

This accommodation has efficiency benefits, too. When customers use the payment methods they’re most familiar with, they place orders faster. Faster payments enable speedier order fulfillment.

3. Consolidate Digital Tools

Digitization is necessary, but it’s important not to get carried away. Quick-service chains can easily rush to embrace digital solutions and end up paying for multiple platforms that don’t work well together.

Restaurants should consolidate digital tools wherever possible. Often, that means finding a single platform that can manage multiple aspects of ordering and delivery. If no one solution can support everything an establishment needs, then managers should at least use systems with cross-compatibility.

This consolidation has two primary benefits. First, it minimizes software spending. Second, it reduces how often data must change hands. Fewer steps mean less room for error and fewer bottlenecks in the pickup or delivery process.

4. Consider Handling Deliveries In-House

Third-party delivery apps are largely responsible for the surge in online ordering. However, some establishments may find it easier to optimize order management without them.

Delivery apps can extend a restaurant’s reach and meet different customers’ needs but carry high fees. Relying on a third party also means relinquishing control over delivery speeds and customer service. Consequently, sometimes quick-serves should handle their own deliveries, as they can control their costs and hold employees accountable.

Whether this strategy is appropriate depends on how many sales restaurants get through aggregators and if they have a sufficient workforce. It’s also worth noting that in-store pick-up is growing faster than delivery, further making the case for moving away from these third parties.

5. Emphasize Training

Employee training is another crucial step to optimize quick-service restaurant delivery and pickup. Whichever digital systems or streamlined workflows a restaurant employs, they’ll only be as effective as the workers using them.

Switching to a new system will make mistakes more likely. Restaurants can prevent these errors by preparing their workforce ahead of time. Explain the upcoming change before it happens, then provide ongoing training and support after the implementation. Managers should encourage employees to ask questions to make this training more effective.

QSRs must approach training as an ongoing process, not something confined to onboarding. Managers should help employees set goals and meet with them regularly about their progress. Ongoing check-ups and tips will ensure employees live up to their full potential, making quick, accurate pick-ups and deliveries much easier.

6. Optimize Schedules

Another easy-to-miss way to optimize order management is to rethink employee scheduling. Preparing and delivering orders efficiently is difficult without proper staffing, but that’s difficult in an industry reliant on part-time workers. Schedule optimization can help.

Try to keep schedules as consistent as possible. Frequent changes, especially last-minute adjustments, make no-call-no-shows more likely. Many workers are leaving the restaurant industry for more stability, so by offering more predictable schedules, quick-service restaurants can maintain higher staffing levels. Doing so will require understanding each employee’s personal schedule, so maintain frequent communication.

Schedule optimization is also about understanding which employees should be present at which times. If delivery orders tend to be highest on a certain day or time, schedule more drivers to come to work on these days but take others off. Adjustments like this will help balance the workforce to accomplish more without needing more employees.

7. Adapt to Feedback

Finally, restaurants must be flexible. Businesses can only optimize what they know doesn’t work. Similarly, they must know why something is failing to improve it.

In order and delivery, that means listening to feedback from employees and customers. Delivery drivers, cooks and other workers involved in the process have firsthand insight into what slows them down. Customer feedback can help brands gauge whether their ordering interface needs improvement or delivery times are too slow.

To adapt to feedback, restaurants must first ask for it. Prompt app users for reviews, even offering coupons for their involvement. Reward workers whose suggestions lead to tangible improvements.

It’s not easy to optimize delivery and pickup, but it’s necessary. Establishments need to capitalize on all the revenue streams they can to compete in an increasingly crowded and challenging market.

These seven tips provide a baseline for any quick-service restaurant to make their order and delivery process faster and less error-prone. Doing so will impress customers, ease the burden on staff, and help restaurants survive.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over five years experience writing for the food and beverage industry.

Ordering, Outside Insights, Restaurant Operations, Story, Technology