No doubt curbside pickup has emerged as a key service delivery method as a result of COVID. It enables all restaurant brands, and particularly those without drive-thru, to provide their customers with contactless pick up. Curbside also enables restaurant brands to help offset sales declines that have resulted from having to close down or limit their dine-in service. That being said, curbside pickup is here to stay post COVID, primarily because customers see it as a safer and more convenient form of takeout.

Curbside: The Current State

When restaurant sales plummeted as a result of COVID, many restaurant brands scrambled to implement curbside pickup. Not surprisingly, these quick-fix curbside solutions consist of rudimentary elements such as a minimal signage package, a few designated parking spaces and a restaurant employee to hand deliver the customer orders curbside. While these initial solutions are contactless and convenient, they deliver a generic, non-memorable customer experience.

Curbside 2.0

There is a significant curbside business- building opportunity as we continue on with the “new normal” created by COVID. Specifically, this opportunity involves advancing curbside from a generic experience to an ownable, branded and memorable customer experience.

  • Innovative solutions are needed. Here are just a few examples to consider.
  • Design a curbside customer experience that looks and feels like no other
  • Create a prominent welcome and pickup zone that makes your curbside experience unique
  • Observe and understand how customers use curbside, and make continuous improvements that create a dazzling customer experience
  • Consider a specially designed area where your customers can “drive inside” during inclement weather (the curbside corral)
  • Reduce perceived wait time and improve the customer experience by providing entertaining merchandising and communications.  Give waiting customers something to read, do and enjoy.
  • Create innovative packaging, both structure and graphics, that is designed specifically for your menu and curbside experience.
  • Brand your curbside experience. By doing so customers will easily be able to differentiate and remember you’re your brand’s curbside experience and benefits
  • Think in terms of curbside innovations. Not just curbside improvements. Improvements include things like better wayfinding, improved parking, easier-to-use mobile apps. Improvements result in a better version of curbside than what competitors are doing. And they are worthy initiatives. But innovation is about creating something entirely new—an idea, service or feature that has never been implemented before. The need for it may never have been expressed by customers. But they are a game-changer. Think of Apple’s introduction of the smartphone. That’s innovation.


Meaningful Benefits

For restaurant customers, curbside provides contactless pickup, which is “the new gold standard,” greater convenience than takeout and no delivery fees.

For restaurant brands and operators, the benefits of curbside are immediate and direct:

  • More profitable sales than delivery
  • A cost-effective investment and solution to increase sales
  • A superior service delivery method that will drive incremental traffic
  • The time to develop and implement is shorter than many other business building initiatives


Keep in mind, the curbside restaurant winners of tomorrow will take the lead to develop a proprietary and memorable branded curbside experience.

Tom Cook is a principal of King-Casey. For more than half a century, King-Casey has been helping restaurant brands grow their businesses and dramatically improve the customer experience. King-Casey’s solutions are firmly grounded in insights derived from hard data and analytics relative to consumer behavior. King-Casey provides a complete range of services including assessment, research, branding, visual merchandising, store design, and rollout.

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