For restaurant operators, the COVID-19 crisis has had a major impact on business. We’ve seen many brands make huge operational shifts in response to mandated shutdowns of dine-in service. Some restaurants are implementing a delivery strategy for the first time. The burden of establishing these new operations—in addition to adopting even stricter health and safety measures—is no small change for restaurateurs.
However, there are a few ways restaurant operators can make delivery and off-premise operations work efficiently. Below are a few key ways you can leverage delivery to your benefit.
For restaurateurs who are just entering the space, determine what your current and potential customers want. Explore their ordering method preferences. Consider what type of menu items they are most likely to order. Understanding how to reach and appeal to your customer segments is critical for your restaurant’s off-premise success.
Another pattern to consider is how your customers order. For established restaurants, loyal customers may gravitate toward native online ordering platforms. For new businesses (or new customers), however, third-party online ordering platforms—such as Uber Eats or DoorDash—may help them discover your offerings. Through these platforms, customers can peruse available cuisine options and discover new restaurants. Consider your business and your guests to ensure your restaurant’s off-premise strategy meets digital demand.
Once you have a good understanding of your customers, don’t forget your restaurant’s needs and operational capabilities. In some cases, implementing a mix of delivery solutions (as long as they are carefully chosen) can be beneficial. Here is a look into the various attributes of off-premise platforms.
Third-party delivery platforms allow customers to browse various restaurants’ online menus before placing an order. Examples of such platforms include the “big four” (Grubhub, Postmates, Uber Eats, and DoorDash) along with other more local services. Working with third-party platforms can have many benefits. For starters, delivery marketplaces give your restaurant increased visibility, making it easier for new customers to find you. With that visibility you can tap into new customer segments and serve guests who might not have previously discovered your restaurant.
However, there are some drawbacks to working with third-party ordering platforms. In most cases, these services charge a commission fee for orders placed through their platforms. This is worth keeping in mind as you consider your menu items, pricing, and profit margins. Another downside is reduced operational control. There are many third-party platforms available. This makes maintaining control of your digital presence a potentially tedious task.
Direct channel ordering options are ones that you implement in-house rather than through a third party. These include native online ordering platforms on your website or through an app. Direct channel options are often very popular with loyal customers.
There are several benefits to establishing direct channel solutions. With a direct channel, you have the ability to build stronger connections with your customers by offering rewards for loyalty. These solutions can also be branded with your company name and logo. Best of all, the commission fees are much lower.
As with third-party solutions, there are some drawbacks to direct channel solutions too. The primary drawback is the difficulty of implementing these solutions. You’ll need the personnel, infrastructure, and operational plan to execute a direct channel solution. You will also have to decide whether to hire your own drivers or utilize a delivery-as-a-service platform. These platforms, like DoorDash Drive, leverage a network of third-party delivery drivers rather than your in-house employees.
When you’re working with delivery, it's crucial to have an efficient process. This is especially true if you work with third-party ordering platforms. A great way to stay efficient is to integrate your delivery solution directly with your point of sale (POS). POS integration enables restaurants to expand their digital storefronts with seamless connection of online orders from any origin. This includes third-party marketplaces, catering platforms, delivery dispatch solutions, and native ordering sites and apps – each of which can connect directly into your POS.
Integration allows you to avoid manual order entry and tablet hell, the situation that happens when your staff have to manage orders from each third-party platform on a collection of different tablets. You can work with companies like Chowly to implement this technology. With Chowly’s POS integration, you can easily manage and optimize your restaurant’s digital presence, no matter the channel. Enjoy features like easy menu management with MenuMatch technology. This will help you achieve consistency across all of your brand’s platforms and locations. This streamlines delivery operations for your staff. It also ensures your brand has an optimal ordering experience for customers. Many of the pitfalls induced by implementing online ordering and delivery management are made simple through POS integration.
Accelerated by COVID-19, but much more than a passing fad, delivery will remain a strong way to connect with customers off-premise and with minimal or no contact. It is important to understand delivery and how it plays into your existing strategy. More important than that, you’ll want to implement a scalable delivery strategy as your business grows. Considering the factors above is a great place to start!