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5 best practices for food delivery

5 best practices for food delivery

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No one expects delivered restaurant food to match the experience they get from dining in. But how well does your operation protect food going out the door, and is the customer who ordered it pleased?

A recent experiment by food packaging producer Sabert Corp. found that more than half of the food establishments evaluated provided poor to very poor overall delivery experiences.

During the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago last month, a team of four packaging experts placed orders at four select Chicago area restaurants at 5 p.m. on a Friday. They ordered in from a high-end steakhouse, a dim sum restaurant, an Italian concept and an American eatery. To cover the full spectrum of delivery issues, the Sabert team ordered a variety of food types at a range of temperatures. The orders were made simultaneously using phone as well as mobile and web applications.  

As the deliveries came in, the team recorded the time and conducted immediate inspections of the packaging, presentation, quality and, of course, taste. Once all orders were received, the data was recorded and analyzed.

Here are some of the less-than-optimal practices this unscientific test revealed, along with suggestions for improvement:

1. Hot and cold foods placed in close proximity. Delivering hot and cold foods in the same bag or packaging container compromises the integrity and safety of cold foods. In more than one instance, a restaurant delivered and stored hot and cold foods in a single bag, causing cold foods to reach unsafe and/or unappetizing high temperatures.

The right way: Cold and hot foods should always be in separate packaging and delivery bags to ensure all foods delivered mimic restaurant quality and are served at the appropriate temperature.

2. Partially filled packaging and inappropriate packaging per food type. Improper packaging sizes led some food portions to appear smaller than anticipated, creating the impression of low value. Additionally, unsuitable packaging used for fried foods caused condensation, leading to sogginess and poor texture.

The right way: Have a variety of packaging options to fit multiple needs and volumes to create a greater impression of value and increased visual appeal. Equally important is ensuring that packaging is appropriate for certain types of food—wet, fried, messy, hot, cold—to maintain the quality of the food in transit.

3. Unprofessional delivery person. Restaurants that outsourced delivery services to an unreliable external delivery person led to varying satisfaction levels.

The right way: Ensure all delivery partners are aware of brand and service expectations prior to any food delivery. Because delivery partners can be seen as an extension of the brand, it’s important to choose them wisely.

4. Inaccurate delivery estimates. Restaurants that did not provide a delivery estimate or those that were late upon arrival created frustrations with their service and scored lower than those that both provided an estimate and arrived early or on time.

The right way: Always provide a delivery time estimate and ensure food arrives within the time frame.

5. Unbranded packaging and delivery materials. Restaurants and eateries that provided packaging and delivery bags with branded images increased the overall food delivery experience, while those using generic packaging saw no increase in overall satisfaction.

The right way: Using branded images and logos on delivery bags, food packaging and, if possible, on the delivery person’s attire creates a professional, higher-end experience and a positive association with the establishment.

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