Digital Ordering

Designing an Efficient Curbside Pickup Experience

Curbside pickup has become increasingly popular among restaurant guests. Find out how you can provide an efficient and seamless curbside takeout experience.
Samuel Kusinitz

Several months into the COVID-19 pandemic, it looks like changes to the restaurant experience will be here to stay for longer than we thought. One question we’re often asked is – how do restaurants design an efficient curbside process? We’ve seen many different operational models, and the best one for your restaurant will depend on a number of things like your staff, parking availability, and even hours of operation. 

If you operate a drive-through

If you already have a drive-through, you probably won’t even need curbside unless your drive-through lines are long. While your restaurant is already designed for a great pickup experience, there are still some things you could do to speed up operations. You ideally want your customers using your app or website to order and pay ahead, reducing interaction time by as much as 50% and allowing guests to completely bypass the speaker or first window. By the way, a speaker or first window is a great place to promote your mobile app for the next visit!

If you have a dedicated parking

Designate a number of spaces for curbside and make sure guests driving in can see them clearly. If you have a line of sight to the parking lot, consider collecting car make, model & license plate number when customers order ahead, and make sure this can print on the check. This way, you could have an expediter monitor the parking lot and run the food out when the cars arrive. If you don’t have a line of sight, CCTV is a good way to monitor your curbside lot.

If you have no dedicated parking

If you’re in an urban area or don’t have parking curbside operations will be a little more difficult. You need to decide how customers will let you know they have arrived – texting or calling in with their order number are good options. An expediter would both monitor the phone/text as well as run out the orders.


In areas or seasons with a higher ratio of inclement weather, consider designing curbside pickup so guests don’t have to leave their vehicle, or even open their windows. A runner that puts the food in the trunk is a perfect solution. 


Communicating is without doubt the most important part of the experience. Think about how you can communicate the process to your customers before the order is completed, right after the order is completed, and at any point until the food is picked up.  
You also want your staff to have the information they need for operations. If guests provide vehicle details, make sure they print them out on your ticket so your expediter staff can see the information as they’re running out the food orders.

What restaurants are doing

Thanasi Pantazelos, owner ToppSalad, iterated on their curbside experience several times – “I found that communicating with my guests was our biggest learning point. It took us a few tries to describe and communicate the process clearly and concisely, and I highly recommend reinforcing the communication at multiple points along the guest journey.” After closing its doors at the start of the pandemic, Topp Salad re-imagined its pickup operation with contactless curbside pickup and now operates a thriving curbside business. 

“Incentivio has helped us tailor our takeout and delivery options to the specific needs of our customers, with no limits. We can communicate any type of option needed to suit our customers. Communication is the key to success” says Steven Salazar, the founder of Click Virtual Food Hall. Based in Texas, Click runs on an exclusively off-premise model with curbside accounting for a significant portion of its revenue. 

Tom Dekle is the CEO of the iconic southern chain Milo’s Hamburgers. “We’ve been fortunate enough to have been affected a little less by the pandemic, but we’re always looking for ways to optimize our operations and serve our guests better”. Milo’s is promoting the ability to order ahead on the app or website, and pick up orders in the drive-through. “Incentivio’s platform has allowed us to stay nimble and adjust our operations during the pandemic,” says Tom.

While there is no single process that will fit all restaurants, we hope we got you thinking and potentially tweaking your own curbside experience. If you’d like to discuss some more ideas, we’d love to! Please schedule a time with us here!