Hospitality in Off-Premises Service

Written by: Richard Hodges

I believe the two most important service centric key result areas of off-premises orders are still accuracy and timeliness.  Many brands have built in metrics and reporting that allow them to measure and assess their performance for success and defects in the order process. Technology usually provides reporting of time in the order taking process, pick-up and delivery processes.  

However, these two vital key areas are taken for granted by our guests and clients.  To exceed expectations on accuracy and timing of an order is really not an easy task.  When is the last time you wrote a review on yelp praising the amazing speed and precision of your coffee machine?  OK, maybe some of you have.  But I think we can all agree, accuracy and timeliness are supremely important in off-premises operations and the guests expect it every time.  

A difference maker that may be underappreciated, seldom evaluated, and often low on the priority for operations execution or commitment is the hospitality of our service in the off-premises dining experience.  

Training departments roll out service training modules and may include hospitality components, but their focus is likely on the dine-in experience.   Hospitality in service has always really been a realm of consideration for the guests in our dining room.  The off-premises guests and clients deserve that focus now that they are a part of the fastest growing restaurant sales channel.

Many operators, catering coordinators, and associates come to the restaurant built with hospitality in their DNA.   We are grateful and lucky to have these folks on our teams.  Many teams hire for these qualities to address the need for “people persons” to work in off-premises.  Hire a friendly person and have them execute a program.  But do we assess this?  Often, many of our staff do not have this built in and our efforts to train hospitality was a 15-minute module during orientation.   Sometimes our best off-premises associates are built for multi-tasking, organization, and a sense of urgency, but may lack some of the personal skills to connect with their guests more than transactionally.  

Off-premises training can get even less hospitality training than other positions in the restaurant.  And if you are lucky enough to have the gold-plated unicorns of the perfect off-premises teams you are luckier than most or deceiving yourself.  

When road-mapping the guest journey of an off-premises dining experience we can define several important checkpoints that are relevant to measuring hospitality in your service and train how to improve the experience.  I call these checkpoints Guest Impression Moments when a guest has the opportunity to make a judgement on your service.  

Voice only Interactions:

  • Attitude 

  • Order Taking

  • Demonstrating Care 

Order Execution 

  • Food Quality

  • Flexibility 

  • Packaging and  Packing

Parking Lot/Curbside/Drive Through 

  • Greetings & Goodbyes 

  • Friendliness 

  • Food Delivery 

Follow Up and/or Guest Recovery

  • Handle with C.A.R.E 

  • Satisfying Solutions

  • Exceed expectations 

Hospitality metrics can be in friendliness, flexibility, demonstrating care and even attitude.    The over analytical among us, you know who you are, will say that these metrics are subjective and therefore squishy metrics. Here is a link to a three-part video on Pour Over Coffee Methods.  

Please enjoy that while we discuss how simple hospitality can be measured in off-premises.  Don’t overthink or give excuses.  We know friendly when we feel it; we love to work with people with great attitudes; we post it on Instagram when we see examples of demonstrating care; and when rules and processes get in the way of guest service, we know we are not being flexible.  Are you still waiting for that 10-minute pour over coffee? Evaluating hospitality should be simple, and if it is not, or you have to debate it, then you likely have an opportunity to improve it.  

A distinctive aspect of great service hospitality is demonstrating care to our clients or guests.  This may sound a bit silly in such a transactional and sometimes social distant world.   Being able to show the guest they are more than a transaction is not only a good sign of hospitality it can be the saving grace when defects in other areas of execution falter the guest experience.  

For hospitality, caring is not just about the super sweet moments often captured and trending on the internet of giving away stuff, or surprising the aging veteran with free meals for a year.  Those are great stories!  We love them!  We love them because they are the exception not the expectation.  

But a commitment to hospitality and caring for your clients and guests in your off-premises services really needs to be embraced culturally by our teams if it is going to stick.   Like timeliness or accuracy, it is the expectation, not the exception.  What social media reveals are these amazing exception stories in hospitality.  We should strive for better with our service hospitality than someone just tweeting once or twice about it.   Great hospitality and a service centric culture will create guest frequency and repeat traffic.  Sorry, but positive growing sales and guest loyalty is such a better reward than trending on the internet for a few days or hours.  

I would like to continue this conversation about how hospitality has been underserved in our transactional off-premises channels. However, I believe there are many examples of how good operators have stepped up their game and augmented their guest’s experience with elements of hospitality.   

Please in the comments below let me know what you think and any examples you may have about hospitality in off-premises.