The food delivery market is currently valued at $30 billion dollars and growing. Quality food and delivery are no longer mutually exclusive—quite the opposite, restaurant food at home is becoming a standard in every major metropolitan city.
If you’re not already doing delivery, you should probably consider starting. But it’s not as simple as signing up for a service or hiring a courier. There are a lot of considerations for your business as you venture into delivery, and ways to ensure success from the get-go. Find out how you can maximize your piece of the delivery pie.
Why Do Delivery?
Generate more revenue. Most obviously, delivery is a great way to add another revenue stream to your business. “Restaurant margins are tight, and this is a great way to grow those,” says Nat Emodi, a General Manager at the food delivery company Caviar. “You are using your existing space and operation to essentially serve food to more people.”
Ray Park, Vice President of the Barn Joo Restaurant Group in New York, says that after only three months of doing delivery, it had become 15 percent of the restaurant’s entire revenue.
Reach diverse audiences. The people who order delivery aren’t always the same people who sit down to eat at restaurants. “It’s a way to introduce your restaurant and your brand and your food to a whole new audience that might not have heard of you before,” Emodi says.
Gain more exposure. In addition to reaching a more varied audience, you are also reaching a much bigger one. Hershell Taghap, Marketing Coordinator for Tom Douglas Restaurants in Seattle, says that delivery has helped the restaurants reach the individuals that live beyond the central Seattle area, where his places are located, and show those people that they can get delivery food that’s “as hot and delicious as they would get at the restaurant itself.” Park says that delivery has been especially helpful for Barn Joo, as the “storefront is very narrow. Not many people recognized it when it was a new restaurant. Delivery was the best way for us to get exposure, especially to local people.”
Maximize your slow times. Taghap says that for a lot of his restaurants, delivery is busiest during slow hours in the dining room. “We can make money [off delivery] during those times that we are historically slow,” he says. “And if one of our cafes is slow at night we can prep food in the evening for the next day’s lunch rush.”
What Should I Consider When Deciding to Do Delivery?
Is my food conducive to delivery? Delivery can be a great extension to any restaurant business, but it’s not always a no-brainer.
“Think about whether your restaurant is more about the experience of dining in-house,” Emodi says. Is your place a tasting menu? Do it lean heavily on presentation? Is the food meant to be served as a family-style feast? If so, consider whether it’s worth the extra resources and labor to substantially retool your menu for delivery.
Does my restaurant have the capacity to handle delivery? Park says that when Barn Joo first started doing delivery, the staff could not handle the sheer volume of orders that were coming in, and so the restaurant had to scale back significantly. “It was affecting our main dining service,” he says. If you don’t have the staff or the space to take on extra orders, your delivery program will suffer in efficiency and quality.
Do I work with a delivery service? Delivery services like Caviar or Seamless are great for gaining exposure to a broad customer base; plus, they have built-in delivery infrastructure and customer service. But remember: you have to pay a premium (usually around 15% of each order) for these amenities. When deciding on a delivery service, Taghap stresses the importance of choosing one whose goals align with your own. “The delivery service should believe in the same things you believe in,” he says. “We worked with Uber because they were hard-working and in tune with social media. You have to find those people and the companies that expect the same values.”
Tips for Success
1. Start small. Particularly when you’re just starting to see the additional volume in the kitchen, keeping delivery orders to a minimum at first and allowing yourself to fully adjust to delivery life is key. “Make sure that the food you put out is as solid as possible, and then you can grow from there,” Taghap says.
2. Choose delivery-friendly food. Not everything on your menu is going to be conducive to being packed and transported—and that’s okay. Just be sure that what you are putting on your delivery menu is food that you would still be proud to serve after it has sat in a car for 20 minutes. “We have three pizza restaurants and we haven’t done delivery for those because the food just isn’t as delicious when it arrives at your home,” Taghap says. He says that approachability is also key—salads and sandwich-like dishes are his best sellers, as they deliver well and are easily recognizable. “We don’t deliver any items that are raw, or are beautifully presented on the plate,” Park adds. “We want our customers to come in to enjoy those.”
3. Make your food single-serving friendly. People who deliver are often ordering food for one, so adjust your menu accordingly. Emodi uses the example of Ethiopian food, which is often served family style. “How can you make a great meal for one person, and condense it into a simple and straightforward dish that you can choose from an online menu?” he says. “Remember that people order delivery because of convenience.”
4. Clearly delineate delivery responsibilities among your staff. “Whether you are delivering yourself or working with a company, you need to decide whose responsibility it is to make sure those orders go into the kitchen, and who is making sure those orders are coming out of the kitchen and going to the delivery couriers consistently,” Emodi says.
But make sure that you aren’t sacrificing your in-house operations: “If your host is in charge of handing off food to couriers, consider whether that will take away from him or her being able to seat a patron.”
5. Prepare for the Sunday evening slam. Of course, the lunch rush will always be the lunch rush. But Park says his biggest challenge is Sunday evening. “We have a lot of traffic both in the restaurant and for delivery on Sundays,” he says. “We have to make sure we have extra capacity for delivery in case a courier doesn’t show up and it’s a busy dining area.”
6. Invest in good packaging. “Slightly more expensive packaging goes a long way,” Emodi says. “It ensures that your diners are getting the food in exactly the way you want them to get it. Compromising on packaging leads to poor experiences. You want that hot food to stay hot, and cold food to stay cold.” And, in the age of social media, “the food needs to arrive in nice shape,” Park says. “We’ve seen people post photos of our delivery food to Instagram and Facebook. And if it’s not in great shape they aren’t going to order again, because there are tons of restaurants.”
7. Make the experience user-friendly. If you’re serving ramen, for example, “maybe the best way to do it is to separate the noodles and the broth and include a card with instructions for reheating the broth in a microwave. Think about your customers as if they were having an experience in-house.”
8. Remember that quality brings repeat customers. “Don’t sacrifice the quality of the food just because you’re trying to get a couple more bucks,” Taghap says. “It is going to reflect poorly on your restaurant if the items you are delivering just aren’t as good as how you’d have it in the restaurant.”
Images courtesy of Caviar.