Covid-19 Resources | Delivery

How to set up your operation for more efficient delivery and takeout

Sep 02, 2020

Delivery and take out

According to the National Restaurant Association, the operational aspect of implementing off-premise programs is most daunting to restaurant operators1. So if you’re overwhelmed by getting set-up, you’re not alone.

Getting food ready quickly and efficiently is always important to keep guests happy, but with takeout and delivery, the stakes are a little higher. When dine-in guests have to wait a little extra time for their food, there are a lot more options to keep them happy. But with everything virtual, it’s even more important to avoid mistakes or slow downs so customers will keep coming back.

Ideally, you want to maximize operations so that once an order comes in it only takes 10 minutes to prepare. It will likely take longer than that and, if you’re using any of the online order systems, you can set the wait time. But it’s always better to under promise and over deliver so that the food is waiting for the customer, not the other way around.

There are three main things to watch to help reach that target: labor and staffing, optimizing your physical space, and integrating technology. There are a multitude of available technologies which we’ll dive into more in other posts. For now, we’ll focus on the first two things.

Get your labor and staffing right
One of the main challenges that many operators face is forecasting the prep and labor associated with increased orders from off-premise options. Think of the process as an assembly line. Where are the biggest slow-downs or bottlenecks? If you give special attention to those pain points, you can make sure you have the dedicated staff to streamline it.

  • Designate proper staff. Have at least one person purely designated to off-premise expo or food runner. This person will organize, bag, and check that each order is correct. This person can also be in charge of making sure side sauces, utensils, napkins, and pre-packaged beverages are all stocked and ready to go before you start accepting orders. There should also be someone dedicated to helping couriers and customers find their orders. If you do a curbside program, have a dedicated runner there as well.
  • Forecast labor. Use the analytics associated with the various online ordering apps to understand which menu items are selling and when you are the busiest. This will help you forecast when you need dedicated staff for off-premise and extra back of house staff for certain stations. Though you can always get unexpected spikes or dead times, forecasting will help you control labor.

Optimizing your physical space
How can you organize your physical space to efficiently run delivery and takeout options, even if you’re still operating a patio or dining room? Here are some tips.

In the Front-of-House

  • Shelving. Have a dedicated shelving unit organized so an employee, courier, or customer can quickly find their order. You can do this by order method (online, phone, or app), alphabetically, or by order pickup time.
  • Separate entry. This is not an option for all restaurants, but if you have multiple entries, consider converting one into a separate door for folks to enter to get orders. If you don’t have a separate entry, at least have a designated area for pick-up so that folks coming to pick up food don’t have to wade through guests waiting to be seated.
  • Curbside. Convert parking spaces in front of your restaurant or a section of your parking lot to “pick up only” spaces to do curbside pick up.

In the Back-of-House

  • Reorganize stations. Reorganize your line so that all menu items offered for takeout and delivery can be packaged on one station. Your takeout menu should be a simplified version of your regular dine-in menu, so you will ideally not have too many items coming from one station. If you don’t have the space to do that, at least make sure that all to-go items are finished on a specific station so that there is one person in charge of checking the orders to make sure they are prepared and packaged correctly. These items should come off the line close to the packaging station.
  • Packaging station. Have one section of your expo set aside for organizing, packaging, and checking orders before they go to the front-of-house for pickup. Have a ticket printer dedicated to this section so the ticket can be stapled to the order back and checked as everything goes in.

Setting up your operation for success in takeout and delivery can be overwhelming, but if you think through the labor needs and optimize your physical space for efficiency and safety, you can make a plan that will help you be successful.


  1. National Restaurant Association and Technomic Inc., Harnessing Technology to Drive Off-Premises Sales, 2019