It's no secret that the pandemic caused a dramatic increase in food delivery. Even as things began to taper off, customers were already used to being able to get their favorite meals dropped off at their doors. While this started out as an expensive inconvenience for restaurant operators, things have turned around — Lux Research found that customers are willing to pay about 11% more to have food delivered versus dining in. With this in mind, what can you do to really take your delivery service to the next level?
1. DECIDE IF YOU'D RATHER OPERATE AS A "GHOST KITCHEN."
This tip doesn't apply to most of the owners and operators of existing restaurants, but it's an important one for those looking to expand their operations or start a new one. "Ghost kitchens" are kitchens without a physical location. There's a licensed kitchen to prepare the food, of course, but no actual brick-and-mortar spot for customers to visit. In other words, all of their meals are "delivery only". This deconstructs the notion that a restaurant has to be a dine-in location, and allows owners to cut down on their overhead.
If you own a restaurant and are considering opening up another location, it might be worth looking into whether a ghost kitchen is a good choice.
2. SCOPE OUT YOUR DELIVERY AREA
What's your geographical location like? How is the traffic flow, and how far is your restaurant's reach? It's a good idea to take a drive or two around your "home base" and see how much distance you can reasonably cover during your restaurant's peak hours. This will help you figure out what kind of territory your delivery service can cover, and make it easier to balance your number of potential customers with the speed and quality of your service. The larger your delivery area, the more customers you can reach — but it won't help if their food takes too long to arrive and is cold once it gets there.
3. TAKE A LOOK AT YOUR MENU
Have you ever cooked a meal, then been profoundly disappointed in the leftovers the next day? Some foods just don't hold up well unless they're very fresh. Even if they're beautifully prepared from high-quality ingredients, their texture can fall flat if they sit too long. With this in mind, go over your menu. Which dishes are still going to be good after a twenty-minute car or bicycle trip? What about a half-hour, or even an hour? Traffic jams, car accidents, and rush deliveries can all upset your delivery flow, so it's important to narrow your menu down to the foods that travel well, are easy to package, and are still profitable after you factor in the costs of delivering them.
4. CHOOSE THE RIGHT PACKAGING
Delivery food sits in a car on its way to a customer's house, but a traffic jam holds things up. People cut delivery drivers off, forcing them to stop short. All kinds of things can affect the temperature and appearance of food long before it ever makes it to your customers. One thing that can really help here: the right packaging.
Good packaging should be sturdy and well-insulated. (There's a reason why so many restaurants go for cardboard clamshells and aluminum tins!) Determine which kinds of packaging are best for your dishes, and balance this against their additional cost.
5. DECIDE BETWEEN THIRD-PARTY OR IN-HOUSE
If you weren't initially planning to offer delivery, you may not have the expense of an in-house service built into your business plan. That's okay! Plenty of third-party services have stepped in to handle things. Apps like Uber Eats, Doordash, and Postmates work with restaurants to deliver food. These services charge fees, but, depending on your situation, these fees may be less expensive than in-house delivery.
6. GIVE YOUR MENU AN ONLINE PRESENCE
The days of getting a paper menu neatly tucked in your home's front door are almost gone. Now, more and more customers simply look up a restaurant's online menu before ordering. Online menus let you update and make changes on the fly and, unlike paper menus, never get misplaced.
Before your menu goes live, be sure to test it out across multiple browsers and platforms. With how many people use their phones to browse the internet, you'll want your menu to look just as good on mobile as it does on a laptop.
7. GEAR UP YOUR DRIVERS
If you choose to use in-house delivery drivers, make sure that they're properly outfitted. That means insulated bags to keep food hot, car magnets to advertise your presence, and some kind of identifying gear for the driver. This will help your customers' food arrive in good shape and increase awareness of your products.
Customers don't want to have to go out to get their favorite meals and are willing to pay for the convenience of delivery. While delivery can be a challenge for restaurant owners, these tips will ensure that you provide the best possible service to your clientele.