Pros and Cons of Takeout and Delivery

Anyone who worked with or for me when I was in restaurant operations will tell you I’m not a fan of takeout or delivery for most restaurant concepts. Whenever I’d see the Postmates/GrubHub/You-Name-It drivers come in to pick up an order and walk past all my guests patiently waiting for a table, it would drive me crazy.

They’d inevitably come in when the kitchen was pushed to its max. My staff would have to deal with all the clam-shell boxes clogging their stations, with one guy at the bar representing 10 people who all ordered roasted chicken or baked potatoes that took an hour to bake. And we’d always receive a phone call the next day about the fries or crab cakes not being crispy enough after they’d sat in a box for 45 minutes.

Times have changed.

Let’s face it. If your restaurant can only seat 50% (or even 75%) of your tables, your kitchen is never maxed out. Delivery and takeout orders can replace the tables you aren’t allowed to fill. And even when dining rooms are back to full capacity, guests’ dining habits have changed, and people who are used to eating your food in the comfort of their dining room won’t be happy about losing that ability. Competition is too stiff for people to accept that you will only take their money on your terms, not theirs.

The bottom line is if you’re not doing takeout or delivery in 2021, you run the risk of becoming obsolete. So, let’s look at the pros and cons of these services:


Lower Food Quality

The act of putting hot food in a box changes the texture and temperature. It virtually guarantees the quality will not match the plates you serve in your dining room.

Lack of Control

Once you put a lid on it and send it out the door, you have no control over the food that’s representing your chef, your kitchen, and your restaurant. Every plate is a pass-fail scenario. Unlike in your dining room, if someone doesn’t like a part of the dish, they can’t ask for a quick fix or replacement. Instead, they just don’t eat it or enjoy it and that’s the memory they have of your restaurant.

Slowed Down Line and Execution

To-go boxes are usually bigger than plates, and they are touched or moved 2-3 times more than a plate. Once an entrée is plated for dine-in service, it goes from the line to the server to the guest, hopefully with culinary or management eyes to quality check it along the way. But a to-go box has to go from the pass-through window to some staging area to the server to the delivery driver (who has no training in your standards). The extra steps to make sure all the boxes go to the right place and are labeled just take longer.

Hurts Service for Guests Dining In

If you’re spending your time doing all the things listed above, it doesn’t leave extra room to wow the guests who spent time and energy, let alone the money in tips for your servers, to come to your restaurant. This can send a bad message to them and your servers in the dining room.

Higher Costs

The costs here are not just in higher paper costs for boxes, bags, ramekins, flatware, and napkins. The environmental costs of single-use items like this are extraordinary.


Builds Sales

The only pro that really matters is that delivery and takeout can build sales, because these options can take place:

  • During times of the day when your dining room is nearly empty
  • On nights when most people aren’t going out to eat (Sunday-Wednesday)
  • When your restaurant is full, but your kitchen has the capacity to do more, ultimately increasing the size of your dining room

And with takeout and delivery options, guests who otherwise wouldn’t have come in can be introduced to your restaurant. If they end up liking the food they ordered and want to come back for more, it can build dine-in sales in the future.

What Can You Do?

To mitigate the cons and maximize the pros, you need to treat takeout like the additional segment of service that it is. Plan for it, embrace it, and think it through by:

  • Selecting to-go boxes the way you select your plates: what will work on your line best, protect the integrity of the food, look decent, and be efficient for your staff to handle. Reorganize your line to accommodate the to-go boxes, too.
  • Staffing accordingly. Just as you would a cocktail lounge during happy hour or an extra busser on the weekend, staff the “to-go” station so it doesn’t hurt your dine-in guests.
  • Writing your to-go menus to only include items that travel well and changing the way you plate some items to keep the food quality as close to dine-in as possible. If it’s supposed to be crispy or crunchy, it’s probably not a good to-go item.

Ready to consider adding these services to increase your sales? Set up a free consultation to talk more about takeout and delivery solutions for your restaurant.