Why restaurants should be more diligent about takeout orders


Let’s say that you order the same meal from the same restaurant on two different days. The first time, you eat at the restaurant itself. There’s a small problem with the order — like some missing vegetables — so you ask the server about it. The server quickly brings out the extra items, and you’re all set. The initial error was a minor hiccup in the experience, and nothing more.

The second time around, you get that same meal as a takeout order. The restaurant hands you a bag that’s carefully wrapped, with utensils, napkins and other items on top of the food container itself. You assume the order is correct — after all, who wants to open and inspect a tightly-packed tin and risk making a mess — so you head back home to eat it. But once you open the container, you see they’ve made a similar mistake with the vegetables. Even if you call the restaurant and they offer a refund, you’re still stuck with the wrong food.

This underscores the big difference between dine-in and takeout orders: with takeout, there’s no do-overs. Customers are basically stuck with whatever you give them, since by the time they’ve taken it home, they probably aren’t in the mood to call you, complain and then go back to pick up the corrected order. Screwing up a takeout order does far more damage to the customer’s perception of a restaurant compared to making the same mistake on an order that’s going to a table right across the room.

With this in mind, it pays to train your staff to check each takeout order at every step in the process. For instance, verify that the order is correct when the customer calls it in, when it reaches the kitchen, and when it’s placed into the takeout containers. Since there are no second chances with takeout, you need to be even more diligent about getting things right on the first try. But there’s an upside, too. If you do this correctly, you should enjoy a lot more repeat business from customers who enjoy ordering takeout. Instead of being turned off by getting the wrong item, they’ll associate your restaurant with consistent and high-quality service, and keep ordering from you again and again.