Full-Service Restaurants Take Advantage of Off-Premise Potential

Table-service operators are competing with off-premise specialists by improving their packaging, streamlining technology and creating virtual brands.

Full-service restaurants have long been places to refuel and reconnect – to share food, drink and stories.

But sometimes, especially during the pandemic, people are less inclined to spend time in dining rooms. The convenience of off-premises dining has taken hold. Though customers will return to bars eventually, they continue to enjoy the convenience of more transactional, less emotionally engaging and time-consuming meals they can pick up or get delivered.

Full-service operators that have figured out how to compete with the off-premise professionals during the pandemic now have entirely new avenues for revenue.

Californian Applebee’s Neighbourhood Grill and Bar offered takeout and delivery before the pandemic, but it only made up 10 percent of sales. However, the chain shuffled its menu, updated its pickup technology and adjusted its marketing to tell customers Applebee’s was in the off-premises ring.

As a result, takeout and delivery increased to 30 percent of sales since April. Although Applebee's president expected this percentage to drop as the dining rooms opened again, off-premise sales remained steady at $17,000 per week per restaurant.

Hooters jumped on the virtual bandwagon during the pandemic as well.

At the request of Uber Eats, Hooters launched Hootie's Burger Bar, Bait and Tackle and Chicken Tenders virtual brands. All meals for each brand are prepared in the same kitchens at Hooters restaurants, just packaged differently and sent out for delivery. As a result, sales of burgers, seafood and tenders have increased, according to the CEO.

Customers go to restaurants for an experience, but if they don't want that or aren't comfortable dining out yet, they still have the opportunity to pick up their favourite restaurant meals or have them delivered.

The rise in takeout and delivery has seen some companies improve their curbside notifications to better management takeout, switching to recyclable containers that can be put in the oven, and keeping themselves top-of-mind with artistic packaging. Others offered discounts for off-premise orders.

Whilst dining in will rise again, takeout and delivery will hold its rank long after the pandemic has calmed down.