Meet Your Newest Competition: Mobile Order Ahead For Pickup

by Paul Schlossberg
Posted On: 12/3/2019

  • Printer Friendly Version
  • Decrease Text SizeIncrease Text Size
  • PDF

No matter how well we serve our locations, some proportion of the shoppers we feed are willing to leave their workplaces to get lunch. We’ll focus on lunch to keep it simple. Don’t overlook the 15-minute travel-time limit. That is typically the maximum duration people will drive (or walk) to go for lunch -- especially if they’re planning to sit down and eat at a restaurant. It doesn’t matter if it will be table service or ordering at the counter in a fast food restaurant.

Watch out because there is a new competitive threat arising. That is Mobile Order Ahead for Pickup. We will explore that new challenge – a few paragraphs below.

Delivery has become an even tough competitor. We know well that delivery orders are capturing transactions that would have been ours. Restaurants have delivered food in the past. What happened in recent years is that delivery became a serious focus to drive incremental sales. Most restaurant chains have assigned the delivery process to outside companies. There are lots of players in delivery. You’re probably familiar with Grubhub, DoorDash, UberEats and many others.

Delivery is a subject we’ve addressed here frequently. It’s a serious competitive challenge for our business. We’ve always competed against brown-bagging -- people bringing food from home. How well-prepared are we to compete and win with the increasing intensity of delivery from competitors? Three of my posts here in 2019 focused on delivery.

Ÿ Delivery -- But This Is Something New: It's The Virtual Restaurant This is from Sept. 26, 2019 and addresses the newest wrinkle in delivery. Some restaurant operators are using “ghost kitchens” with no table-service -- and in some cases there is no public access.

Ÿ Did That Delivery Driver Eat Some Of My Food? The Aug. 7, 2019 blog pointed out some “problems” for the delivery companies. Food safety and quality assurance are among their pressing issues.

Ÿ You're In The Delivery Business. Delivery Is Also A Competitive Threat. Is It An Opportunity Too? There are opportunities for our industry in delivery if we consider some new approaches to how we serve our locations. The posting was from April 29, 2019.

Ordering ahead for pickup is not a new thing. People have done that for years. What is new today?

Ÿ First is the intense marketing effort to promote the order-ahead program.

Ÿ Second is the sophisticated technology being deployed -- especially by the restaurant chains and the delivery companies. There are apps for your smartphone. You can customize your order across the scope of the menu -- food, beverages and sides or snacks. You can set a pickup time and you’ll be notified, by email or text, that your order is ready for you.

Ÿ Third is that there are payment capabilities in the app. You won’t lose time waiting to pay when you arrive to get your order.

Ÿ Fourth is the instore order processing operation. Many stores have created a pickup point with signage and/or staffing ready to let you grab your order and go. They want you to get your order and depart quickly. had a posting you should read: “Delivery Wars Are Out, Food Pickup Is In, New Study Shows.” One key point was that while delivery is still growing, order ahead for pickup is increasing at a much faster pace. It is interesting that the article mentions two minutes (or less) as the time period that will influence customers to be much more likely to reorder. Taco Bell, Chipotle and Starbucks were noted for being the leaders among quick service restaurant chains.

Is order ahead for pickup more convenient than delivery? That’s hard to say. If you need to leave your office for an errand around lunch time, it’s relatively easy to make another stop -- you can order ahead and pickup your lunch at a nearby restaurant.

If you want to sell more stuff, try this -- order ahead and pickup your lunch. You could do it for dinner if you wish. Did you think it was easy? What did you learn -- positive or negative? Doing this will help you understand what your shoppers are experiencing when they order ahead for pickup.


Paul Schlossberg is president of D/FW Consulting, working with clients to merchandise and market products in impulse-intense selling environments, such as vending, onsite foodservice and convenience stores. Based in the Austin, TX, area, he can be reached by emailing to, calling him at (972) 877-2972. The company is online at