Considering a food delivery service? Consider the impact on your in store guests

8/9/16 7:00 AM Natalie Appleton


It’s a phrase uttered in countless households every night.

“What are we having for dinner?”

For years, most families would have had three choices:  Heat up leftovers, cook a meal from scratch, or dial Dominos.

Today, however, in a world where families have computers at their fingertips and expect to be able to buy anything with them in seconds, a fourth choice—hundreds of choices, in fact—have emerged: Order from anywhere.In the era of food on demand, scores of restaurants are opening up their kitchens for hungry customers who want to eat well at home and on their clock.

And while it’s easy to see the boundless opportunities in expanding the number of meals you make without actually having to sit all those guests, restaurateurs have to wonder: How will all that food going affect our service here?

The writing on the menu: the food on demand trend is here to stay 

International food and restaurant consultants Baum + Whiteman call it the ‘amazoning and uberizing the restaurant industry.’

The average Joe calls it ordering dinner.

Or breakfast.

At the office or the hotel.

At any hour.

In the U.S, and in some Canadian cities, dozens of players—including middlemen such as Google, Amazon and Yelp, and delivery vendors, such as UberEATS and Skip the Dishes — are investing millions as they create a new ecosystem to help people find, order and have delivered the very food they’re craving.


“Delivery affects everyone from McDonald’s to your favourite white tablecloth emporium,” says a Baum + Whitemans’ article on 2016 restaurant trends.

“Smartphoners, latching on to the ease of locating a restaurant, ordering, paying, and getting loyalty points—without ever speaking to a human being—are driving this revolution.”

Certainly if you make great food people love, you’ve got an audience, but like any big venture, it’s going to take some thought:

“There is a burgeoning demand for speed and delivery, and foodservice operators would do well to set in motion operational adjustments in order to meet consumer expectations,” says a Mintel 2016 foodservice trends report. “Otherwise, they risk losing business and potentially alienating customers.

The writing on the menu: you need to find a way to do it well

People want good food and fast food

How long does it take to get pad Thai in Seattle?

Thirty-nine minutes if you’re using Amazon’s Prime Now app.

In San Francisco, with the Postmates Pop app, you could be unwrapping your chopsticks in 15 minutes.

In some cities, with UberEATS drivers toting popular pre-made dishes in their cars, you could be answering your doorbell in just 10 minutes (Source, Baum + Whiteman).

In Canada, and a few American locations, foodies can get their fix of great, local meals delivered through Skip the Dishes, which offers online restaurant ordering and delivery services.

Speed is so important to digital natives, in fact, that a Mintel survey showed “one-third of online delivery users agreed that they would be willing to pay a higher fee for faster delivery service.”

The average percentage willing to do so is higher among:

  • Urban dwellers (47 per cent)
  • Parents with children under age 18 in the household (53 per cent)
  • Older millenials (61 per cent)

Your restaurant has a tall order

How can your restaurant, which takes pride in its fresh ingredients and handmade preparation, possibly deliver on that 10-minute expectation?

In the JLL Real Views article Food to go: Delivery services reshape the restaurant industry, senior research consultant Colin Chan says restaurants have both an opportunity but a very real challenge: maintain quality and service, meet expectations for timely delivery, while continuing to offer a great experience for traditional diners at your tables.

“There’s a responsibility from both parties,” says Chan. “The restaurant can’t reduce their quality, nor their in-house service. If one hinders the other then it’s not a successful model.”

Four ways to deliver your best food and service to both restaurant dining room and at-home customers

1. Create a smaller, custom menu of dishes suitable for delivery 

Some foods just need to be eaten right away,” says Upserve writer Hannah Harrington. “You don’t want to ruin one of your culinary masterpieces just because it was in the back of a van for 25 minutes.”

2. Create a second assembly line just for deliveries


To ease pressure on your kitchen team and ensure your in-house guests aren’t impacted by a peak in meals made for deliveries, set up a second team just for deliveries.

This might require a different landscape in the kitchen in terms of physical space, and also a different culture: more of their work will focus on prep and less contact with and feedback from servers, which suits certain kitchen personalities more than others (although you can imagine these pre-shifts where teams scroll through last night’s online reviews…).

In this scenario, it’s going to be all the more important to have extensive sales data and labor management software to ensure you have the right number of team members in the right places. (Check out how we helped a client gain critical customer insights by integrating our restaurant scheduling software with POS systems like Silverware.)

3. Open a second delivery-only location 

It’s working for Starbucks and other big-name chains in cities where real estate is scarce and expensive, and maintaining face-to-face quality in existing prime locations is a priority. 

Since you don’t have to worry about a delivery-only location being appealing or convenient for guests, this might be an economic way to take pressure off the kitchen at your dine-in restaurant. 

4. Go local for drivers

Running a restaurant means you already wear several hats: bookkeeper, cat herder, report writer, expediter, counsellor, bartender…You may not want to add the role of running a delivery team. And that might be better for customers and the restaurant anyway.

Harrington suggests if you go that approach, to hire local: “If you can’t afford to have your own delivery team, get a local crew that focuses on delivery in your area.”

Regardless of how this structure comes together for your restaurant, making it a successful reality will become a science, and one to venture into only slowly.

There is a burgeoning demand for speed and delivery, and foodservice operators would do well to set in motion operational adjustments in order to meet consumer expectations,” says Mintel. “Otherwise, they risk losing business and potentially alienating customers.

Have some other ideas of dealing with the added volume food delivery services can bring?  We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

Topics: Restaurant Labor Control, Improving Restaurant Profit