Everything You Need to Know About Restaurant Curbside Pickup

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Curbside pickup is a safe and convenient dining option. Are you using it to its fullest potential?

Nontraditional restaurant experiences didn’t just start during the pandemic. Customers have been moving toward and embracing off-premise dining options like delivery, takeout, drive-thru, curbside pickup for quite some time. A 2019 study by Technomic for the National Restaurant Association found that 60% of restaurant experiences were off-premise. 

Restaurant curbside pickup, in particular, is a feature that some brands already provided pre-pandemic, and one that many restaurants that had never considered it before added this past year. 

Curbside pickup is likely to remain popular in the coming years. Eighty-seven percent of respondents surveyed for the “COVID-19 & the Future of Commerce” study hope restaurants continue to offer convenient options like restaurant curbside pickup in the future.  

Perhaps most importantly, curbside pickup is an easy to set up off-premise dining option that keeps all the revenue in your pocket — unlike using third-party delivery services. 

How can restaurant owners adapt to keep meeting the moment and preparing for the future? By recognizing the tremendous potential and flexibility that exists within curbside pickup and weaving that into how this option is presented to customers.

What is curbside pickup for restaurants?

The term restaurant curbside pickup sounds pretty cut-and-dry, right? The name should say it all. But don’t let the “curbside” part limit how flexible this off-premise dining takeout option is. 

Sure, customers can place phone or online orders, wait in their cars, and have their items brought out to them in a bag, as the name implies. But there are numerous delivery options restaurants can use that fall within the confines of curbside pickup.

For starters, customers can place their orders at a portal, stay in their cars, and have their food brought out to them by an attendant (think Sonic). Or, restaurants can have a designated takeout station inside where customers can walk up and grab their things with as much or as little interaction as they want. 

Curbside presents added convenience for the customer and the restaurant. For diners, it cuts down on the wait time that many restaurant goers don’t like to take part in. And for restaurants, it keeps lobbies and shared areas clear of lingering takeout customers, allowing staff to work without interruption and maintain high levels of efficiency. 

The more convenient a process it is for customers, the more added value the restaurant will experience down the road. 

How does curbside pickup work?

As mentioned earlier, restaurant curbside pickup isn’t limited to the image it conjures up in the minds of its customers. It is a flexible off-premise dining option that restaurant goers can customize to fit their immediate needs and wants. 

For restaurants wanting to build an engaging curbside pickup option for customers, here are a few variations to offer:

  • The Traditional Way: The option that brings diners to the dance or curb, in this case. Takeout customers can either use the phone or place online orders via a restaurant’s app, its website, or a third-party platform. No matter where that order is placed, customers can elect to have their items brought out to them, whether they’re in a car, on a bike, or on foot. 

  • The Drive-Thru/Curbside Hybrid: The restaurant experience continually evolves and this “best of both worlds” option takes two crucial elements of off-premise dining and combines them into one. Customers can drop in an order from a traditional drive-thru portal, a makeshift drive-through with handheld POSs, or an online platform from outside the restaurant, then have their food brought out to them.

  • The Curbside Walk-In: For the customer who wants the curbside experience from inside, but wants to avoid the sit-down vibe at the restaurant. Customers can place orders online or through a portal, then retrieve their belongings at a manned- or unmanned pickup station. 

These offerings vary on pickup options, but provide convenient, contactless off-premise dining choices for customers. And restaurant goers will appreciate the gesture.

Check out how Brevity Coffee Co. uses Toast Go 2s to process curbside drive-through orders all day. 

Toast Go® 2
The Next Generation of Handheld POS

Why do customers love curbside pickup?

A pre-pandemic, 2019 Vixxo study discovered that 2 out of 3 restaurant consumers prefer the dine-in experience over the convenience of takeout. 

But in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, safety and distance became must-haves for restaurant goers. Curbside gets them their food quicker and safer than perhaps ever before. Enter curbside restaurant pickup, a setup that offers more than the ability to have off-premise dining items brought directly to them.

Texas-based fresh-food restaurant and grocery store, Herb & Beet chose not to reopen right away for dine-in or in-store traffic once the state lifted indoor capacity limits. The restaurant didn’t immediately resume business as usual, instead choosing to fashion a makeshift drive-thru tent to enable pickups and limited contact transactions processed on Toast Go handheld POS systems. 

“As a small, fairly new restaurant in the area, we have never been more proud of our little restaurant,” Herb & Beet co-founder and general manager E’Leece Miner-Lorey said. “Our team members have readily adapted to necessary changes, and we are very honored to receive much-needed community support during these trying times.”

Post-pandemic, there’s likely to be a surge of newly vaccinated diners eager to sit inside a restaurant for the first time in a year — but that doesn’t mean that guests will forget the ease and convenience that they’ve come to love over the course of 2020. 

When orders are placed online, details don’t get lost in translation, making for a more pleasant experience for both the customer and the employee. Plus, a curbside order is perfect for various types of meals: picnics, a night in for small groups of friends and families, or for working parents grabbing something quick on the way home from the office.  

Curbside pickup is a convenient and helpful off-premise dining solution. And it’s one many customers can benefit from.

How to get the word out and advertise your curbside pickup

You'll get the most ROI out of a convenient takeout dining option like curbside pickup if your whole customer base knows it’s an option. Restaurants that want to spotlight their curbside takeout can leverage a slew of platforms to promote all the ways to get their food. 

Creating posts on all your social platforms will attract to on-the-go diners looking to pick up a quick meal, as will featuring curbside pickup prominently on your website. 

To hype the Buckhorn Grill’s curbside pickup availability, Doug Brown got creative and posted an Instagram video to walk customers through the process. 

Restaurants can also promote this dining option via email marketing, notifying customer lists about coupons, specials, or deals they’re wanting to highlight. When setting up these customer communications promoting your curbside restaurant pickup, be sure to target your efforts to the groups you’ve identified as takeout-lovers, like working parents who live near your restaurant or college students who tend to order after evening classes.

Should I keep curbside pickup after COVID?

Yes! Curbside restaurant pickup is a quick, contactless off-premise dining feature that provides a convenient restaurant experience. For guests who might have a taste for your restaurant but want your food on their terms, curbside meets them halfway.

On a macro level, however, we’re in a new frontier for the restaurant business. Traditional dining options are still in high demand, but customers now know they can eat their favorite independent restaurants on their own time and from the comfort of their own homes. Restaurants that embrace a variety of takeout options like curbside will find themselves in those homes more often.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.