From online order management to contactless delivery – our guide to becoming a takeaway.

“I want to set up a takeaway / delivery service from my business – what do I need to do to get set up and become operational?”  Michelin starred chef and hospitality business consultant, John Wood, shares his advice for getting your online operation up and running, from adapting your menus, to order management, to contactless delivery…

For restaurateurs, publicans, café and deli owners the next 6 months are going to be challenging. Whilst many businesses have been forced to close, others are operating with limited opening hours or continuing with an online offering. Even businesses that have closed for the time being will need to think about a strategy for re-opening and for many, until all restrictions are lifted, that will mean getting set up for takeaway and/or delivery. So what are the steps that you need to take and consider before launching your online services?

Am I allowed to operate as a takeaway? What are the rules?

The short answer to this question is ‘YES’. In a direct response to the Covid19 outbreak, the Government has relaxed legislation for businesses that do not have a takeaway or delivery licence.

These measures apply to hot and cold food and soft drinks. Serving of alcohol will continue to be subject to existing licensing laws. Consequently, you’ll need to check what you are licensed to sell.

In order to help businesses, for the next 12 months, planning rules have been relaxed so that pubs and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak. As a result, there is no requirement to carry out a change of use application.

Do your research

Before diving into a complete shift in the way your business operates, there are some key things to think about:

Takeaway and/or delivery – are you going to offer both options to your clients? If delivery is something you want to do, what will your delivery area/prices be and do you have the staff to facilitate this? External delivery partners are likely to be expensive and will quickly eat into your profits.

Suppliers and stock availability – are all your regular suppliers operating a normal service? Where will you source your takeaway containers from and are you guaranteed to be able to buy enough?

Cashflow – do you have enough cashflow to operate? What additional equipment will you need to invest in? Are there order management systems that will help you get set up and how much do they cost?

Assess demand – how many of your competitors are offering takeaway and or delivery services? Ask your customers on social media if they’d be interested and what favourite dishes they’d like to see on your takeaway menu.

Adapt your menu

The stars and plough horses of your eat-in menu may not be practical for takeaway and delivery. Consequently, it’s a good idea to think about the dishes that are likely to be popular, easy to package and transport and also not too demanding for a reduced number of kitchen staff. Our food cost calculator will help you to determine the most cost effective choices for your business. Similarly you may want to think about reducing the number and variety of dishes on offer, focussing on quality rather than quantity.

Order management for takeaways

Food preparation – safety first

Scientific advice says that it is very unlikely that COVID-19 can be spread through food and drink. However regardless of the food safety and control measures you have in place, it makes sense to be extra vigilant when dealing with preparing/ cooking/ chilling/ packing and distributing of foods.

Normal rules apply with keeping chilled foods cold and hot foods hot, and some specialist reusable bags for deliveries and chilled packs for cold food are advisable.

Kitchen and service staff should change gloves regularly and ensure they are washing hands more frequently and for the full 20 seconds. Wearing face masks is advisable too. It goes without saying that any team member displaying any signs of the virus must be sent home immediately.

There’s some additional guidance here:

To reassure customers, you can use your website or social media pages to publish the extra safety measures you are taking.

Making Order Management Seamless

You’ll need to decide how you are going to take orders. Many businesses have been forced to set up their takeaway offering quickly, taking orders by phone or over social media. This can be a little haphazard. A more streamlined approach to order management will help you provide a consistent and reliable service that customers are likely to use again.

Linking through to digital menus, so that customers can order online is a great way to ensure seamless order management. An online ordering system will enable you to collect and manage orders in one place. Customers can browse, click and add your menu items to their basket. New orders arriving in the system can then be monitored throughout the production process, so that you can easily keep track of each order and when it will be ready for collection/delivery.

Keep it contactless

In order to provide a safe service, ensure that you’re able to take card payments – cash carries an additional risk to customers and to staff. If you’re taking phone orders, you can take card payments over the phone, or alternatively via an online ordering system.

Always try to avoid getting within 2 metres of any customers. Depending on the space around your premises, you may want to implement a drive-thru system for collections to limit contact. Similarly, drop deliveries at the door and step back over 2 metres until the customer has taken in the order inside.

Make sure collection/delivery arrangements are made clear via your website, social media platforms, or upon confirmation of an order.

Spread the word!

Once your menu is finalised and your safety measures are in place, you can let everyone know that you’re open for business. Use social media to share your new menu, spread the word and to promote your tasty dishes. For example, local groups and forums are great places to target. Also, do some research into any hashtags that your local communities are using to find your services – eg #supportyourlocal #nowdoingtakeaway.

Reap the rewards.

Starting up a takeaway operation isn’t all about keeping money coming into the business. There are many benefits that will continue to impact your operation and your staff in the months to come…

  • Keeping as many of your staff on full salary so they don’t have to struggle financially.
  • Caring for the mental health of your teams. Coming to work and having a purpose each day is preferable form a mental health perspective to being at home doing nothing.
  • Providing an essential service to your loyal customers and creating new ones for when you reopen.
  • Continuing to market your business, so you keep at the forefront of people’s minds.
  • Supporting your community

More information

COVID19 Guidance for Food Businesses:

Food Standards Agency – Distance selling – mail order and delivery:

Find out more…

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