Yelp Launches New Takeout Management Tools for Restaurants

Restaurants have clearly taken a massive hit during the pandemic, but not every business is suffering equally. For those restaurants that have figured out how to balance the loss of dining room revenue against the increase in takeout and delivery orders, business has been brisk.

Nationwide, the number of consumers ordering food for delivery online increased by 14% in the second quarter of 2020. In a survey last fall, 66% of adults said they ordered takeout or delivery for dinner in the past week. The expectation is that the trend toward off-premise dining will continue, with 32% of consumers saying they expect to increase how frequently they order takeout.

As they look to minimize the costs and commission fees associated with selling through online delivery platforms like GrubHub and DoorDash, many restaurants are looking at how they can streamline their own takeout and in-house delivery operations. 

Martech companies are taking notice of the changes, and they’re adapting their products to meet the challenges that businesses are facing right now.

Yelp’s new restaurant tools

Just this morning, Yelp announced that it would be evolving its Waitlist system and introducing new features designed to streamline restaurants’ front-of-house operations. The company’s new takeout features will allow hosts to manage both dine-in and to-go parties at the front of the house using the company’s own tools.

Yelp’s decision to expand its takeout management capabilities came as the company’s own internal data showed a marked uptick in searches for takeout. According to Yelp, consumer searches for restaurant takeout increased by 3,200% since March 1, 2020. Even as recently as this month, restaurant takeout searches have remained 2,265% above prior levels.

In a blog post, Yelp’s vice president of product, Rahul Hampole, said he believes consumer interest in takeout will remain high long after the pandemic eases.

Pivoting amid the pandemic

Although Yelp Waitlist is not new, the product was originally designed to meet different needs before the Covid-19 crisis. It was set up to focus solely on managing dine-in service. However, Yelp’s team began to notice a change in how restaurants were using the product not soon after the pandemic took hold, and restrictions on in-person dining began sweeping across the country. With restaurants fielding so many more orders for takeout and delivery, Yelp’s team decided to expand its Waitlist system to focus more distinctly on efficiently managing takeout and safely communicating with customers. 

Restaurants using the expanded Waitlist features will now be able to communicate with customers through text message and share updates on their order status. Hosts will be able to manage dine-in and to-go parties via the Waitlist kiosk, and they can enter and keep track of all takeout orders placed online and by phone using a special app.

The redesign includes features like new space to input the type of car a customer is driving for curbside pickup, and the app autofills pertinent details from Guest Profiles, like phone numbers and dietary restrictions. Yelp is also releasing new analytics and an upgraded point-of-sale integration so that restaurants can balance in-person dining with takeout and delivery.

Real-world proof

One of the first companies to pilot the new features is Mr. Stax Inc., a management company that operates several IHOP Franchise Restaurants. When the company piloted the Waitlist takeout feature in January and February, it saw 36% of Waitlist usage for takeout, totalling nearly 3,500 total to-go orders across its top 30 locations.

“Any off-premise sales are certainly fundamental to our business at IHOP, whether it be a to-go order placed over the phone, in person at the restaurant, online or through our app,” noted Nathan Hughes, Director of Operations at Mr. Stax Inc. “For us, the greatest benefit of the new Takeout feature is that we’re able to communicate directly with our guests – for instance, letting them know if their order isn’t quite ready when they arrive and then texting them once it becomes available.”

Yelp says current Waitlist customers can find the new takeout feature in its Waitlist app as of this morning. For restaurants with nine or fewer locations, it’s being made available at no additional cost.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

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