Every restaurant is constantly looking for new ways to increase profits and expand their customer base. You do it with marketing outreach, creating a presence on third-party platforms, community outreach, and of course improving your dining experience. One of the most effective ways to expand is to add an easy online menu/ordering system and delivery options for your customers.
Delivery significantly increases the number of people who effectively can become customers of your restaurant. And online ordering further increases that pool to people who are in a hurry, picky, bad on the phone, or ordering for a very large group. There's no denying that online ordering and delivery are a powerful aspect to a restaurant, but they're also not exactly added with a 'snap of the fingers',
To add this new function to your restaurant, there are a number of necessary steps and a few best practices that will help you thrive with your new online ordering and delivery service.
Know Your Capabilities
Here's the thing about adding delivery to your business: it's not like dining room service. You need the entire order ready to go at once and it definitely adds extra work for your kitchen staff. Preparing large orders can be especially tricky because you will need room to store the orders before delivery as well.
First and foremost, get an idea of how much catering your team (and kitchen) can handle. The key logistical point of managing your delivery load is the number of orders you take. Get a good idea of how many delivery orders you can fulfill in a day, including a calculation of your slow vs busy hours.
In theory, the sky's the limit. In reality, there are always limiting factors. The four most common limitations for catering operations are:
The size of your kitchen
Take the time to really understand your limitations so that you can accurately predict your capabilities. Set your initial expectations with plenty of 'breathing room', giving your staff time to learn any new delivery order routines. Then set your maximum assessment of capabilities. IE: The biggest possible order you could take in one day or the largest number of deliveries your team can handle.
Knowing your capabilities is vital to the rest of your delivery order plan.
Build Your Menu
Next, it's time to decide what you will deliver. Many restaurants offer their entire dine-in menu for delivery. But if you're in a high-demand area or want to strategise, you can also build a custom menu of foods that are easier to deliver and/or more enjoyable to eat out of a delivery container.
In fact, you might seriously consider redesigning some of your dishes to become more delivery-friendly. One way to do this, especially in urban business neighbourhoods, is to offer box lunch deliveries for professionals who are working through lunch or hosting a lunch meeting. You don't have to do catering to make bank feeding hundreds of hungry office workers each day.
Box lunches are highly popular in both corporate culture and the education system. Consider what kind of tasty lunches you can easily pack into a single container. The lunches can be hot or cold, light or heavy. But you can build a great reputation and garner a great deal of business by offering convenient lunches for online delivery orders.
Restricted Diet Alternatives
Finally, remember to have a few options for diet-restricted customers. Businesses and schools, in particular, have to make sure there is something for people with lifestyle, religious, or allergy limited diets. Fortunately, you can usually cover all your bases with two or three considerate dishes. Your Kosher and Halal options, for example, overlap neatly. And your vegetarian meal can also be gluten- and lactose-free.
Decide Your Max Size and Min Time
Now it's time to set your boundary lines. Remember that preparing delivery orders takes as much time (if not more for boxing) than dining room meals. And that you never know many orders will come in during a single day. You might even get calls akin to catering, for numbers far larger than you have ever served at one time before.
This is why it's important to set your limits. Ensure that your kitchen team can handle the increased demand of delivery orders. You also want to decide how long it should take to prepare a delivery order. Every restaurant does this calculation differently. Some have a static 40-minute estimate while others estimate based on the portions and dishes in each order.
Delivery Fee: Pass Costs On to the Customer
The rule of thumb on pricing your delivery fee is to pass any cost on to the customer. The fact of the matter is that with bags and boxes, napkins and packets of sauce you are investing in every delivery. Delivery fees from restaurants aren't just to cover the driver's time. It also covers those additional materials and any delightful little extras you pack for your customers.
If you pack plastic silverware into the catering bags, include those in the final cost. Fortunately, you can predict your own supply needs and wrap those costs up in the price of each platter or in a per-person cost that customers will expect to see. You can also offer add-ons at cost, giving customers the option to order the extras or save money based on what they need.
Appoint a Delivery Order Manager
Starting to deliver means that suddenly you have a separate set of orders coming through your kitchen that must be handled aptly in parallel with dining room service. While you don't necessarily need anyone new, it's a good best practice to have one person officially in charge of reading off delivery orders and making sure they follow through. This way, work can be carefully balanced between efficient delivery order management and your normal restaurant activity.
Do You Deliver or Work With a Service?
Of course, by far the biggest change to your business will be the addition of drivers. The question here is whether you will hire your own drivers or partner with an existing food delivery service. Services have some benefits, like exposure to platform customers and not having to hire your own drivers. But you are also likely to pay a commission fee and in many cases, delivery services are just as bad as third party menu apps when it comes to stealing your SEO hits and customers in the long run.
If possible, we strongly support restaurants who choose to hire and manage their own delivery drives. Not only will you be dodging the commission fees and long-term consequences of working with a service. But you will also have a more direct customer service connection with your new delivery patrons.
Create a Helpful Catering Portal
But whether or not you deliver, there is nothing more powerful than online ordering through your own website. Especially for catering customers who have come specifically to you to make a big order. Customers want to peruse your catering menu, compare prices, handle dietary restriction needs, and complete their order without picking up a phone. Some will spend days planning an event and lingering on your catering website. Some will click through like lightning ordering one party tray of everything to be delivered ASAP.
The best thing you can do is to make online ordering easy. Provide a menu with vivid pictures and detailed descriptions, but keep the UI simple and easy to browse quickly. Process credit cards efficiently, remember users (and their past orders), and include a loyalty program if you can. Customers who enjoy using the portal will return for future catering needs without thinking twice.
Hire More Staff As Needed
Finally, don't be surprised if you find yourself short-handed when your delivery orders start to take off. Adding delivery to your services can be incredibly profitable, but it's also time-consuming. If you are regularly getting a high-volume of delivery orders, your staff may become over-stretched between the restaurant and catering prep.
Be prepared to hire more staff as needed to take over either set of duties. If your profits have increased proportionately with the work, then there should be no problem expanding as-needed, possibly even keeping a few 'on-call' staff to accommodate larger catering orders.
Incorporating delivery into your restaurant business can be an incredibly rewarding decision, but it's also a complex one. Doing it right usually involves taking it slow, building the number and size of orders you accept over time until your kitchen runs out of space for more chefs. If you're interested in building your own online menu and ordering system, contact us today!