More than any other time in the industry, the future of food delivery is starting to become a reality that many restaurants and commercial facilities must grasp. From large chains to small neighborhood restaurants, customers want to enjoy their favorite foods from the comfort of their homes or offices. So how do you navigate through these potentially uncharted waters? Whether you’re adapting to current changes or trying to update your operations, below are ways to smoothly transition your restaurant or facility to delivery.
NOTE: This article has been modified to include measures and designs to meet new guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please consult local health and safety protocols for the latest regulations in your area.
Allocate Space & Staff
Before you start, take stock of your space. Delivery is all about timing. The minute an order is received, it needs to be processed, prepped, cooked, packaged and out the door quickly and efficiently. Your customers expect that. To avoid any slip-ups, set up an area for just packaging and bagging. This will help reduce any confusion and ensure that orders are out the door as fast as possible. Also, to adhere to social distancing and coronavirus measures, make sure the delivery pick-up area is in a separate location from dining room or takeout station. This helps avoid unnecessary crowding.
Next, staffing is key when adding delivery to a restaurant. Consider having at least one person per shift dedicated to taking and processing orders. Do you plan on doing in-house delivery? If so, decide how many people are needed and what you can afford. As Toast Tab points out, you not only have to pay drivers hourly, but you also have to likely implement a system to track and reimburse for gas if drivers use their own cars. If adding in-house delivery people is too costly or cumbersome to manage, you can always join a third-party delivery service. However, bear in mind that there are trade-offs associated with that. We’ll address those later.
Another option to consider is investing in a ghost kitchen. A ghost or commissary kitchen is an off-site facility that a hospitality group or multiple restaurants use to prepare their delivery orders. This option not only helps reduce operating costs, but it also removes the burden of having to reconfigure existing space.
Update Packaging & Ordering Software
There are different types of materials and platforms you’ll need when adding delivery. First, find the right packaging. A dine-in restaurant might have doggy pages and small boxes to take home leftovers, but delivery packaging requires more. For the best results, look for containers that are clear, durable and can properly ventilate and insulate both hot and cold foods for long periods of time. Clear packages have the added benefit of letting deliverers confirm any order before they hit the road.
The right technology also is key for proper delivery. Make sure all your computers are up to date and that your establishment has fast internet speed to handle more digital operation. Also, see if your POS software is fit for delivery and takeout. You might need to update the system so it can better track orders and inventory.
Evaluate Your Menu
When implementing delivery, take a look at your existing menu. Ask yourself, “How can each item maintain its best quality?” For example, a fine-dining establishment might have special dishes that need to be plated and served in a distinct way. Can these maintain their same quality in specific packages and delivery bags, or do they lose that special something over the course of a 20-30 minute commute?
If you want to keep each item on the menu intact, research cooking and packing methods to ensure the quality matches your dine-in experience. Grubhub offers helpful tips to keep difficult foods like steak, nachos and burgers tasting great. If you decide to offer a pared-down menu for delivery and takeout, go with the food you know can maintain its quality and taste in a condensed package. Also, if you offer dishes with a set entrée and sides for dine-in customers, consider changing to an al-a-carte setup for delivery and takeout. Aside from convenience, customization is a major factor that patrons love about delivery.
Research Third-Party Delivery Services
As the future of food delivery continues to take shape, third-party delivery continues to grow. Places like Grubhub, UberEats, DoorDash and Postmates keep adding both large chains and independent restaurants to their offerings. One of the biggest benefits of partnering with third-party delivery services is that it helps increase your restaurant’s reach, creating opportunities to attract new customers. This not only helps drive up more volume to delivery and takeout orders, but it also encourages guests to possibly visit your brick-and-mortar location down the road.
Another major benefit is that third-party services eliminate the headache and costs of operating an in-house delivery program. However, the trade-off does come at a price. Each delivery company has a service fee anywhere from 15-30%, so it’s important to analyze any decision from a cost-benefit perspective. If implementing the right POS systems and technology cut into other budgets or your overall profit margin, then you might want to think twice.
Invest in New Automation & Robotic Technology
This option is a bit outside the box, but it’s worth researching opportunities that can help your delivery and takeout models thrive long term. Technology keeps improving at a consistent pace, and there are solutions in the foodservice space to take note of.
- Internet of Things (IoT) – You’ve probably heard this term before. In a nutshell, IoT allows different technology to interact with each other via internet connection. This allows you to create a smart kitchen that not only connects to different pieces of equipment but also connects to POS software, allowing you to track an order as it’s prepped, cooked, packaged, en route and delivered.
- Delivery drones and bots – Businesses like UberEats and Manna are testing drones for delivery, and other companies like Starship and NURO are enhancing self-driving vehicles to send orders. So what’s the benefit for restaurants or third-party services? It helps encourage contactless delivery, avoid delays from traffic and eliminates vehicle expenses.
- Robotic prep – There are robotic solutions that help you prepare different dishes. For example, the Picnic Pizza-Making Robot is an assembly line that applies sauce, cheese and topping to a pizza before cooking it in just minutes. These types of robotic solutions can help cut down on prep and cook time, allowing orders to get out the door quickly.
Of course, these solutions can be pricey, so investing in all of them at once is likely not an option. However, you should keep tabs on them and strike when the opportunity is right.