Keeping Up with To-Go Orders in Understaffed, Overworked Restaurants

This image is of a person holding 3 take out coffee cups.

Takeout is billed as a convenient, and safe, way to serve food. But it can take a toll on restaurant staff.

Takeout and to-go orders are so common now it’s hard to imagine a world without them. Billed as a convenient and safe way to get food to customers still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, fulfilling takeout orders is now the focus for many restaurants. It can be hard for restaurants to keep up, however, as shorthanded restaurant staff field multiple orders at once as they come through online and mobile ordering systems. This has become a pressing issue for an industry still struggling with staffing shortages.

Here we take a look at the rise of to-go ordering and discuss a few ways to help manage when things get busy.

Online and Mobile Ordering

This is not to say that to-go ordering is a bad thing. The opposite, in fact. Takeout and to-go orders (and delivery as well) were a large part of the reason many restaurants survived the pandemic shutdown. And many restaurants pivoted to takeout full-time to better serve their customers even after restrictions were lifted.

This is fueled in large part by the ubiquity of online, mobile app and text ordering. The ease of access to restaurant menus, ordering platforms, and payment systems has helped streamline the process and push to-go and takeout ordering to the mainstream.

This is an image of a takeout food order container being placed in a to-go bag

This is a double-edge sword, however. While it’s good for business, and more convenient for the customer (in theory, at least, as we will discuss momentarily), it can be very stressful for restaurant staff.

As Sophia Um, a bakery worker at a California Cheesecake Factory location told The Wall Street Journal. “The sheer volume of what you are expected to churn out is unsustainable… I have had co-workers run to the breakroom for a mental breakdown.”

Customers order food when they want or need it. This a part of the convenience after all. But this also an onslaught of order after order after order for restaurant staff with no queue or line to help manage things one-by-one. This then leads to delays, and long lines full of customers who become increasingly frustrated by the wait.

This is a problem not only for fast-casual and fast-food restaurants. Full-service restaurants that were forced to adopt takeout and delivery models to survive during the shutdown – like the above-mentioned Cheesecake Factory – often struggle the most.

So, How to Manage Your To-Go Orders?

Here are a few tips and tricks from the professionals to help manage a breakfast, lunch, or dinner rush when the orders start piling up.

Dedicate an area of your kitchen to online orders

A separate counter or prep area gives employees space to fulfill to-go orders. This area should have all the utensils, plates, containers, and other supplies staff will need to complete the order. An added benefit would be to have online ordering station, so online to-go orders don’t get lost in the shuffle.

Food prep for to-go orders

Knowing what your most popular items are and preparing them ahead of time to store in the cooler or freezer keeps your kitchen running smoothly. Staff can quickly heat and build the order instead of starting from the beginning, ensuring customers get their food in a timely fashion.

Use technology to offload labor

Automating systems will save time and money. The DateCodeGenie, for example, streamlines your labeling process, cutting time and labor as the orders pile up. Imagine labeling special orders or allergen and diet-restricted orders at the press of a button as opposed to by hand.

Items like Sticky POS also help to easily label drinks and to-go containers as well. They also help keep things organized to ensure there are no mistakes, especially for group orders when multiple orders come in at once.

There is no telling what the future holds, but what is clear is that to-go and takeout ordering is here to stay. NCCO is here to help restaurant kitchens of all types manage orders as they pile up. Follow the link below to make the stress of takeout and to-go orders a thing of the past.