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BFS Capital Blog

How to Set Up a Delivery Service for Your Restaurant

March 8, 2017

Eating in a restaurant is so 20th century.

Much like shopping for clothes or watching first-run features, eating restaurant food is increasingly becoming something people opt to do at home. That doesn’t mean you should scrap your whole dining room and become an upscale Domino’s. It just means that to stay competitive your restaurant is going to have to find a way to reach customers who don’t want to leave their couch to eat your food.

According to the Restaurant Marketing and Delivery Association, delivered meals account for about seven percent of all food purchases with 26% of people saying they got takeout or delivery once or more per week. That may not seem like a huge segment, but any time you can reach a new set of potential customers, you should seriously consider it. Restaurant food delivery giant GrubHub released a survey last year showing that restaurants who joined the service raised their takeout revenue by 30%, and one in five restaurants doubled their overall revenues.

So whether you deliver your own food or contract with someone to do it for you, you still need to figure out how to do it right. Reaching new customers is one thing, getting them to do it over and over is quite another. So here are some tips on how to set up a delivery service for your restaurant.
Get Your Restaurant’s Technology in Line

Some restaurants make the mistake of thinking they’re existing point-of-sale system (POS) will suffice for delivery. This is kind of like assuming you can tow a boat with a Honda Fit. Yes, you can treat delivery like phone orders and assign the deliveries to designated people. But the potential for logistical hiccups and mixed-up orders is alarmingly high. And you may not have the technical infrastructure to take online orders.

Even if you’re going to use a service to do your deliveries, you’ll need an upgraded POS to handle your newfound volume of to-go orders. Systems like OnnaWay, Onfleet, and eDelivery make the job much easier, and are set up for any type of delivery.

Once you’ve got the right POS, you’ll need to set up online ordering capabilities. As a small business, this is typically something you’d contract out unless you have someone on your restaurant staff with the technical knowledge to do it. If you’ve opted to create an App, that feature is usually built in. And if you’ve got a website for your restaurant, you’ll need to develop a designated page.
Don’t Feature Your Entire Menu

Obviously, you’d like couch dwellers to be able to sample all the amazing creations on your restaurant’s menu. The problem is that a lot of it won’t travel well. And there’s nothing more off-putting than a floppy paper container with cold chicken and soggy waffles arriving at your door – with a considerable markup due to the delivery charge.

When dipping your toes into delivery, start with simple foods that won’t be much different in-home than in your restaurant. Stuff like salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and simple pastas will still hold weight as long as you can keep them warm. Avoid any fried foods, burgers, most seafood, and anything that has the potential to get soggy on the ride over. You may even want to create menu items with delivery in mind. Brainstorm with your crew and come up with a solid delivery menu before you offer it up to the public.

And as you put that menu together, talk to your vendors to find the right delivery containers. It’s an often-overlooked feature, but if you go cheap on your delivery containers then there’s a good chance your food won’t stand up. Make sure every order is packed correctly when it leaves, so that large, heavier items don’t crush smaller ones. And offering containers that can easily be used for reheating will be a major bonus for consumers.
Do it Yourself or Contract Out?

Finally, you’ll need to decide whether offering your own delivery is a better idea than contracting out to a delivery service. Most major cities are saturated with food delivery services now, so you’ll have a lot of options. But of course, that comes at a price. GrubHub and Seamless – the food delivery industry leaders – charge about 13.5% of the total order to deliver your food for you. An added bonus of using these services is their broad reach and marketing. Since most of their customers use the sites as a food court of sorts, choosing whatever strikes their fancy when they go online, having a presence there lets the world know you’re open for (in-home delivery) business.

However, doing it yourself means you keep all of the delivery revenue, and lets you control the marketing, timing, and final outcome of your orders. You’ll incur the additional cost of delivery personnel; and if an order goes wrong, then it’s your restaurant that’ll shoulder the blame. But if you feel your brand is strong enough, and your delivery people are skilled, going it on your own has the potential for much larger returns. Many restaurants choose to do this in addition to using delivery services but, if you do, make sure you can handle the volume. Getting delivery orders out is great, but it should never come at the expense of your restaurant’s dine-in guests.

Delivery is the future of restaurants, and if you’re not doing it now, then you should be. It’s a relatively low-cost improvement you can make that comes with a huge upside. If needed, most of the improvements can be contracted out. And if you plan it right, and give in-home diners a taste of your menu items, then don’t be surprised if you see them walk through your restaurant’s door when they do decide to leave the house to dine out.