With the onset of COVID-19, many normal operations have changed in our restaurant industry. Let’s face it, normal is not coming back anytime soon. Dine-in is heavily restricted or entirely restricted in some regions. Take-out has always been an option. However, we are in the “service” industry. An establishment cannot stand to be closed for an extended period of time. Take-out is not enough to keep the doors open.
Let’s be realistic: our staff is the life blood of a smoothly operating machine. Without our team in place, the machine falls apart. We need to keep them employed, we need to embrace a delivery component and we need to keep our people working. If we fail them, then we’re failing ourselves when this storm lifts.
When to hire a third-party delivery service
Perhaps you cannot afford to have one of your employees deliver. That’s completely understandable. They may be an integral part of the machine. In that case, be vigilant about which delivery service you hire. Do your homework. Some companies have multiple fees, including online transaction fees, a bulk fee plus a percentage of the order. It can get complicated.
Consider searching for a delivery co-op program in your area. It’s an idea where restaurants pool their resources together to assist one another. For more information on the topic, check out delivery.coop.
Yes, dining in is a unique experience: you sit, you chat, you drink, you enjoy a good meal, you pay and you leave. With delivery you can bring elements of your establishment to the customer. However, if done incorrectly it can backfire.
Your delivery driver (in-house or outsourced) is an extension of your brand, as they represent you. Within your restaurant you have absolute control over your patrons’ experiences. Now you’re relying on those drivers to not only deliver your product but also deliver a brand experience. The customer doesn’t care if they work for you or you’ve hired a delivery service. They expect courteous, prompt and professional service.
The whole point of offering delivery is to increase profits, not to decrease them. By outsourcing delivery, expect a cut into your margins by up to 30 per cent, little or no control over customer and brand experience, and additional temporary or permanent layoffs of your team because of additional expenses.
When and how to run your own delivery service
In the event you cannot find a local co-op delivery service or you want total control over your deliveries, then may I suggest the following:
Offer delivery positions to your immediate staff. In-house delivery can benefit both employee and restaurant. By cycling staff for delivery shifts once a week, you give all team members the opportunity to interact with your customers. Everyone wants to see their favourite server: now they can through delivery service.
Staff once again have the opportunity to make tips. After all, it’s not about serving tables; it’s about customer service.
Promoting on your social media who’s delivering this week lets you show off your staff to your patrons and encourage those patrons to order for delivery from a favourite staff member.
You can justify charging a small delivery fee to cover expenses and make you a profit. Most customers don’t blink an eye at $5, but ideally, you do not want to go over $7. Your wireless delivery terminal will cost about $49 for a monthly rental: this fee will easily cover that expense and others (for example, protective masks and gloves, cellphones for drivers, in-car GPS and thermal bags for cold and hot items) and make you a profit.
Because they work for you, each driver is held accountable to uphold the standards and brand reputation of your business – no different than if they interacted with your patrons face to face in your restaurant. They now carry that responsibility with them on delivery. You can rest assured that your reputation and brand are in good hands with your staff – they have your back.
Eventually this pandemic will be over, When that day comes you’ll have created a new revenue stream where you may need to hire more staff to fill those additional delivery positions – an excellent problem to have.
Chef Maurizio Mascioli owns and operates Maurizio’s Pizzeria Inc. in Parry Sound, Ont. He is a volunteer firefighter for the Parry Sound Fire Department, two-time International Pizza Championship gold medal recipient and 2018 Master Chef recipient. He has received awards for outstanding customer service, entrepreneur of the year and business of the year from the Parry Sound Chamber of Commerce, and is an instructor for the School of Italian Pizza in Toronto.
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