Updated: May 1
Delivery isn’t simply an extra revenue channel – it’s also in high demand. But before you start packing your delicious meals in boxes and sending them out into the world, it’s best to begin with a strategy rooted in sound business and marketing principles. Here is a 6-step guide to set up a delivery operation with success.
#1 Select your audience
Even though online delivery restaurants have a greater reach than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, it’s still important to consider the needs of your target audience in order to ensure a consistent inflow of orders.
First of all you should begin by analysing your in-house customer base. What types of customers visit your restaurant? What prices are they willing to pay and what are their characteristics? Are they families with children or (groups of) young people? Try to define the most common demographic(s).
Next, consider your location. Are you in a student neighbourhood, a centre of commerce or the suburbs? Your location will play a big role in the popularity of your delivery meal offering. For instance, students and office workers are two entirely different audiences that tend to prefer quick, snack-style options versus healthy and fresh lunch choices.
Lastly, it’s important to observe what your competitors are doing. Who visits their restaurants and what are their characteristics? It’s much more profitable to target a different audience than them, if possible.
Based on your findings, you can then select your online target audience(s) - which will definitely also include new groups of customers your brick-and-mortar business may not yet have targeted before. Don’t forget to review: is your target group large enough? Are you able to define their biggest drivers (convenience? price? type of cuisine?) and their biggest turn-offs?
#2 Select delivery providers
There are both advantages and drawbacks to in-house and third-party delivery. While providing your own delivery service could give you more control over the entire process, it may be too big an investment for many restaurants. Third-party delivery, on the other hand, enables restaurants to benefit from a tried and tested approach, which includes vast experience and resources. In exchange, though, these third parties impose a monthly commission fee.
It’s important to consider all the pros & cons of both perspectives before deciding whether you take on delivery yourself or team up with a partner.
If you opt for a delivery service of your own, you’ll have to determine your business model, hire extra delivery staff, invest in a delivery fleet and develop a good ordering app. If you decide to work with external delivery providers, you should compare their offer, network, customer base and commission percentages before making a commitment.
#3 Select delivery tech for maximum efficiency
In order to create a high-quality, consistent off-premises customer experience, you should look into the delivery tech solutions that are on the market today. Delivery management software can automate your delivery order flow, maximising efficiency and helping you to focus on your core business.
Next to aggregating your online orders in one screen, elaborate food delivery hubs also integrate third-party delivery platforms in restaurants’ POS system, which makes it easier to do reporting, inventory management and online menu management. Try to define which features are a must for your delivery restaurant, and which would be nice to have, before making a decision.
Whatever online ordering integration software company you choose, know that delivery automation is crucial to be able to scale up your business quickly and efficiently, while effectively using your time and resources.
#4 Set up your menu
One of the cornerstones of a successful delivery business is your delivery menu. Carefully select the dishes you’ll be selling online, analysing each meal’s transportability, profit margins, packaging needs, prep times and so on. Do test runs to see for yourself what your food looks like after transportation, and don’t be afraid to scratch dishes that don’t make the cut.
When you have picked around 15 to 20 dishes, you can start creating an attractive online offering, including clear descriptions and good quality pictures. Don’t forget to add product modifiers, which make it possible to personalise meals, for example gluten-free pasta, no bacon, extra cheese.
Finally, consider your pricing based on your food cost, overhead and delivery expenses.
#5 Prep your logistics
Adding delivery to your restaurant ordering options will create additional workload, especially in your kitchen. It’s crucial to anticipate and ramp up capacity, if needed. The kitchen is often the bottleneck of your delivery operation, so make sure it can support handling high volumes at all times.
Another essential part of delivery is your packaging. Not having proper food packaging will lead to incorrect temperatures, tainted flavours, bad reviews and unhappy customers. Don’t skimp on packaging and use insulated bags, eco-friendly and branded containers and recyclable materials.
A range of different preparations can further facilitate delivery. Make it easy for delivery drivers to get into your kitchen, pick up the orders and get them to customers as quickly and simply as possible. Designate one of your staff members as a delivery specialist and contact person for drivers in case unusual situations – like delays, weather issues, unexpected high volumes – come up. If possible, keep delivery traffic away from in-house dining traffic, not only to help your staff, but to avoid disrupting the physical dining experience.
#6 Market your delivery service
When you have finally started with delivery, don’t forget to properly market your new venture. Advertise on social media, in local newspapers and in your restaurant, or pass around flyers.
It’s equally important to offer special deals to celebrate your online opening - especially for your loyal eat-in customer base. Think about promotions and discounts customers can use for their first purchase and reward them for referring a friend.
In the digital era, don’t underestimate the effect of social media. It pays off to post tasty pictures of your meals, user stories, and to share positive customer reviews. Use Instagram to post delightful images of your meals, Facebook to promote special offers and Twitter to engage with your customers on a personal level. Be consistent about your approach to social media – and never neglect online messages from your customers.