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<p>Every delivery order should be designed to reflect well on your restaurant.</p>

Developing a food delivery game plan

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According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast, almost 74 percent of Millennials said they would order delivery from a full-service restaurant if it was available. For limited-service restaurants, the numbers were slightly higher—8 in 10 Millennials were interested in delivery. In this global shift toward convenience, is your restaurant ready to offer a delivery option?

“We’ve offered delivery since we opened in 2012,” says Carla Gomes, owner of Cobblestone in Boston, which uses an in-house delivery option and receives 20 to 40 delivery orders per day via phone or online order. “When we first started we offered delivery all day, but have since pulled back and now offer it for dinner and catering.”


Weighing the options

While you can definitely run a successful delivery service using all of your own staff like Gomes does at Cobblestone, there are other arrangements that will free up your time and staff as well as limit your liability. Third-party providers can set up your delivery website, provide an ordering portal and even deliver your food for you.

Firms such as GrubHub and EatStreet provide a place for customers to find your restaurant and order from your menu, eliminating the need to set up your own online ordering site or app. You’ll still need to make your own deliveries when using these services, but they bring the orders to you. If you have an existing POS system, ask if there’s a delivery service that easily integrates into your system before doing a lot of unnecessary research.

If you would rather hire an outside firm to deliver food, most major cities have locally owned services that can handle deliveries. National companies such as Caviar from Square, which charges a mutually agreed upon percentage rate per order, can also help. “We’re currently partnered with 1,500 restaurants in 17 markets across the U.S.,” says Katie Baynes, corporate and product communications for Square. “A restaurant can be set up in about five days, and once a customer places an order, we dispatch a courier to the restaurant to pick up the meal and deliver it to their door.”

Maya Jankelowitz, owner of Jack’s Wife Freda in NYC, has been using the Caviar app for three and a half years for about 15-20 delivery orders per day. “I enjoy the app’s ‘window shopping’ for food, the simplicity of the ordering and the details provided all the way up until after delivery,” she says. “Being on the app may also introduce us to a wider audience.”

Pros and cons

Offering delivery will open you up to a wider—and possibly new—group of customers who crave the convenience of delivery, which is one of the best benefits of a delivery option.

Other perks that come along with offering delivery include increased revenue when you’re able to sell more entrees without filling more seats, and increased exposure through online ordering hubs, websites, social media referrals, delivery menus and more.

The delivery game is not for everyone, though. You may find that there’s a detachment from the customer that wasn’t there before. “Naturally, the con to delivery is not interacting with the customer and hoping that the hospitality element is reflected in our food and packaging,” says Jankelowitz.

Additionally, when you’re delivering entrees that are normally served in-house (i.e. steaks, burgers, etc.), it can be tricky to deliver your best product at the start of a delivery program. “We deliver our food in warmers, so if someone orders a steak medium well, it continues to cook on the way to their house,” says Gomes.

If you’re just starting out with delivery, consider testing a portion of your menu that you’re confident will travel well, since deliveries can take upwards of 45 minutes depending on your location.

“Start slow and don’t offer delivery for the entire day at first,” advises Gomes. Learn what you and your kitchen can handle before you ramp things up.

Finally, remember that every delivery order that goes out reflects your restaurant. Your customers should be just as satisfied with what they receive via delivery as they would be when walking through your doors.

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