After more than two years of declining sales and flat traffic numbers, the restaurant industry is scrambling to find solutions. Delivery services have been hailed as one of the industry’s biggest hopes for redemption, capitalizing on always-connected consumers’ need for “on-demand” everything. While some sectors of the restaurant industry have always relied on delivery—pizza, for example—as a way to generate revenue, delivery is a new frontier for other sectors, such as quick service restaurants and casual dining. And just like any new frontier, there are hurdles that need to be faced and decisions to be made.
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The biggest hurdles for delivery are ones that can significantly impact consumer perception of a brand: speed, safety, and quality. Finding ways to deliver food, selecting a delivery partner, maintaining quality, and keeping it safe for consumption, all while doing it in a timely manner, can create unseen operational challenges for restaurants. So what factors should be top of mind for you and your team as you branch out into delivery? Here are four critical performance pieces to consider.
1. Optimize Your Kitchen and Restaurant for Delivery Service
Operators can be unprepared for the sheer volume of orders that delivery services can add to peak times and non-peak times alike—and that can not only slow a kitchen to a crawl, but back up an entire operation, leading to customer frustration in the restaurant, in the drive thru, and for customers on the receiving end of deliveries.
Start by examining your order taking process. How are orders managed? Do you have the ability to throttle orders at peak times? How do you handle situations when the kitchen has more volume than it can handle? Re-working the kitchen to accommodate these to-go orders can help. Every operation is different but consider adding a special delivery staging area where orders can be packed and verified.
Add staff to accommodate orders at peak hours. Delivery peaks can mirror peak restaurant times, such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, but can also create new business peaks for at-home occasions, such as rainy days or big events like the Super Bowl or the Academy Awards. And be sure to determine staffing protocol. For example, if your business offers table service and servers are also responsible for preparing food items, what will the protocol be for delivery requests when these workers will not be tipped by patrons in the restaurant? Workers who feel as though they are not being properly compensated for their efforts may, in turn, have less motivation to prioritize orders.
It’s likely your kitchen staff already has a solid foundation of knowledge on food safety and your food quality standards. However, that training may need to be extended to include new elements of food safety that come into play with delivery. Order packers also need to understand food safety, and what is acceptable in terms of food quality for menu items. For example, your standard to-go box might not be adequate to maintain temperature and presentation for deliveries.
It’s nearly impossible to correct an already delivered order, so accuracy checks should be increased. Imagine ordering a salad and someone forgot to include the dressing. Additionally, if using internal drivers, they might carry with them a supply of accompanying items (condiments, plastic utensils, straws, etc.). But when using a third-party deliverer, these would always have to be included in the initial packing of the meal.
If working with a third-party delivery company, develop a clear, defined pickup and order verification process for drivers and clearly communicate it to those companies and their drivers. Some restaurants have begun designating special parking spots for delivery drivers, allowing the restaurant staff to easily identify drivers and get orders out the door fast.
2. Maintain Food Quality and Safety in Transit
In the 1980s, Domino’s pizza did something unprecedented: It launched a 30-minute delivery guarantee. If a pizza didn’t arrive within 30 minutes of order, it was free. It was a game changer in the pizza delivery business and forced the competition to rethink their strategies. It also made Domino’s a model for pizza delivery everywhere because it had figured out how to keep pizza fresh and piping hot as it arrived to the customer.