In 2020, the restaurant industry saw firsthand that COVID was accelerating the trends related to consumer adoption of off-premises dining. While COVID restrictions were the catalyst, the adoption of online ordering and technologies related to off-premises is what will enable growth in these channels for many years to come. Consumer behavior and habits for off-premises dining has changed, and successful operators will be those that can effectively manage this growth and meet rising customer expectations for convenience and overall experience.
Operators can begin by focusing on how to leverage available technology to allow their staff to manage this influx of off-premises orders, especially digital orders. “The goal for restaurants now is to gain and retain regular users and be top of mind for frequent users who have pickup or delivery meals several nights a week. That means providing a great off-premises experience that meets and exceeds guest expectations for quality and convenience,” says Mike Rizzo, chief growth officer at Apex Order Pickup Solutions.
Yet controlling that experience isn’t easy. Relationships with delivery services can be challenging to navigate. Though participating restaurants gain access to the customer base of these services, they also give up part of their margins 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 labor intensive,” Rizzo says. Meanwhile, all these challenges—and more—mean staff are stretched even thinner between competing demands in the midst of a difficult labor market.
Restaurant and foodservice operators have come to understand that there is a great opportunity to leverage “food tech” to capture increased sales and profit. Many have discovered that smart food lockers, such as those offered by Apex, can greatly improve both metrics and guest experience.
More than just a pickup locker system—and far more secure and organized than a bookshelf system, Apex food lockers use powerful ApexIQ software to help restaurants seamlessly manage pickup and delivery orders. Apex digital lockers also provide data insights that eliminate blind spots in order handoff and give brands the information they need to meet—and exceed—guest expectations.
“Our solution provides operators with access to more data to accurately measure performance around the journey of each order, document exactly when the order was picked up and how long the order was waiting to be picked up. We call this ‘dwell time’ and it is a critical metric in the order pickup process,” Rizzo says.
Additionally, Rizzo says the software integrates with dozens of restaurant technology partners, allowing it to function seamlessly within a brand’s existing tech stack. This means the Apex operating system is able to communicate with mobile ordering, order aggregators, and kitchen display systems to give restaurants deep insights into the efficiency of their delivery and pickup programs.
Apex food lockers are easy to use for both consumer and back-of-house staff. Once an order is prepared, it’s placed in a locker, triggering an SMS notification with a customized QR code to a guest or delivery driver that the order is ready. Diners and drivers can then use the pickup 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 used to be an afterthought, today and in the future, it will represent a critical percentage of total revenue. Our Apex solution allows operators to enhance the customer experience and create operational efficiencies to support unit economics and provide data to measure performance of this critical segment.”
To learn more, visit the Apex Order Pickup Solutions website.
By Peggy Carouthers