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The Takeaway revolution: doing more damage than good?

Published under Casual dining , Covid19 , Behaviour , Customer journey , Customer experience
Written by Tim Bacon

As the country slowly wakes up from eight weeks of lockdown, the weekend takeaway options seem even wider ranging than usual.  Many of the independent casual dining operators are converting to takeaways and are now in direct competition with the big fast food names, but at what cost?

In our latest COVID-19 sentiment tracker report (email [email protected] for details), we saw that 88% of people miss being able to go out to eat and as the lockdown rolls on, people are becoming more likely to turn to takeaways.  45% of us are currently ordering takeaways, a figure which has increased significantly from end of March.  We’re an adaptable bunch!

I was extremely excited when I got a Facebook notification announcing that a local favourite of mine was opening up for takeaway collections last week.  It’s an American style diner serving burgers, dogs etc. and I’ve been craving a visit since the end of March.  To order, I had to download their app and pay through this.  Due its popularity, the lead time for ordering was around 3 hours, so I was able to order, go for a run (to feel less guilty about what I was about to eat!) before going to collect.  I was instructed not to approach the store until I got a notification to do so and was greeted by a lady in a face-mask, who handed me my food across a table blocking any customer from entering the store.  All very odd, but a process I think we’ll all be used to in a few months’ time.

When I got home, the first thing I noticed was just how much plastic was used.  For an outlet that previously was very environmentally conscious, I was astounded at how much packaging was required for my order.  The chips came in one container, with the “dirty” sauce in another and even a few bits of lettuce in a third container.  And that was just the side!  I wonder how many casual dining operators are going to have to abandon their sustainability aspirations in order to ride out the COVID-19 wave? 

Unfortunately, the food itself was also rather disappointing.  By the time I got it home (a 5 minute drive), the chips were cold and I discovered the burger itself was burnt.  For the money I’d paid, I was unimpressed and I don’t think I’ll be rushing back.  I’m sure one of the ‘big name’ fast food outlets would have been a safer (and cheaper) option.

I was, however, glad I gave it a go.  It’s great to see so many independent casual diners offering their customers a semblance of a 'dining out' experience and definitely contributes to the growing feeling of optimism that things are getting back to normal.  It does, of course, also allow us to reconnect with our favourite casual dining brands.  Let’s face it, it’s the physical human connection that we are all missing the most!  From an economic point of view it is also positive that these companies are removing their staff from the furlough and back into work.  I’m sure this will do the morale of their staff the world of good as well as lessen the pressure on the tax-payers purse!

Overall, I think it’s great that casual diners are starting to adapt to this 'new normal' and offer a takeaway service but after my experience, I was definitely left with the feeling, if you’re going to do it, do it well, or risk damaging your reputation.