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Winning over millennials’ takeout business

millennials takeout

The number one takeout driver for millennials: speed of service. Sixty-seven percent of millennials name speed as the top reason they choose a restaurant for takeout and delivery, according to Technomic’s Generational Consumer Trends Report. There’s no denying that the takeout and delivery businesses have been booming of late, and according to the report, we can expect to-go services to grow even more to meet the needs of millennials and their younger Gen Z counterparts.

But speed isn’t the only reason millennial consumers lean toward one restaurant over another when it comes to to-go orders. The stereotype is true—millennials are digital natives who often want tech as part of their restaurant experience. So it makes sense that some 39% of millennials say the ability to place an order online is a takeout driver. And, according to the report, tech-based amenities—such as online ordering—will become an even greater expectation in the future.

This millennial, however, is here to tell you that simply having online ordering isn’t enough. As someone who orders takeout and delivery via the web a fair amount, I’ve noticed an issue creeping up: discrepancies from unit to unit.

The Restaurant Business office, for example, is positioned between two Chipotle units. Now, this chain prides itself (even during a health scare) on its almost factory-like approach to foodservice. The systematic way its line operates has allowed the fast-casual darling to increase throughput in the past, resulting in higher sales (again, all pre-breakout). Yet even its formulaic approach—the one we’d expect to be a prime example of execution—looks totally different between stores when it comes to online orders. 

Like most chains, Chipotle’s online-ordering platform is the same across the company—and it’s an easy system to maneuver, whether ordering for one or for a group. But this store-to-store discrepancy became quite evident when placing an online order for a group at work the other day. The system was prepopulated to the store we’d ordered from before (store No. 1), with the option to change locales at the end. And it wasn’t until all five orders were in and I had to confirm the pickup location that the variations began. The time: 1:55 p.m.

Store No. 1: The first available pickup time was 3 p.m.
Store No. 2: The first available pickup time was 2:15 p.m.

Obviously, we switched away from our normal store to go with the faster time. But for a company that trades on its ability to crank guests through the line—so much so that it even built a second line to accommodate online orders—how can it take over an hour for some taco salads and burrito bowls at one location and just 20 minutes at the one down the road? Now we are converted store No. 2 regulars—but the speed was only a part of it.

Store No. 1: It usually hands off food to our group in two bags with the tops folded over.
Store No. 2: It gave us our meals in two bags with handles, making it easier to carry for the person who went to get the food for the group.
Why it matters: Almost 40% of millennials name a restaurant providing convenient takeout services as a driver.

Store No. 1: We usually grab a handful of napkins and plastic forks on our way out, and toss them in the bag.
Store No. 2: The staffer put forks and napkins in our bag when we came to pick it up, and let us know they were in there.
Why it matters: Some 35% of millennials are driven by restaurants providing utensils, sauces and other items, according to Technomic.

Store No. 1: Food was well-packed and accurate.
Store No. 2: Food was well-packed and accurate…and cute. Staffers drew happy faces and hearts next to the names on the orders.
Why it matters: It got the attention of our team, which thought it was a nice gesture. While accuracy is the second-highest driver for takeout, consumers still want to feel like a restaurant cares about them.

So while the first step might be to get an easy-to-use system in place, store-level operations and execution still matter to the millennial diners. And even with a factory-like system in place at a high level, how do you control that consistency store by store?

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