The Devil Came Down to Delivery – Biting the Hand That Feeds Your Customers

Delivery may be crazy important, but right now it’s just making you crazy. You’re most likely not McDonald’s, so the McMight to negotiate a drastically lower rate with third-party delivery companies isn’t in the cards. That means third-party fees up to 30% are eating into your overall business.

Approximately 51% of Americans get delivery from casual dining restaurants and 26% order takeout/delivery one time or more each week. Even the QSRs of the world are getting as much as 10% of their sales from delivery and for non-QSR restaurants, it’s dramatically more. Delivery is an essential piece of restaurant business that you can’t escape, no matter who you are.

Hand in hand with delivery growth, third-party services are continuing to grow. The five largest providers’ sales rose 55% last year to about $10 billion, according to Technomic. Meanwhile, many restaurants are gaining new customers but, in many cases, just covering food cost and experiencing declining dine-in traffic.

The truth? You cannot deny your guests delivery, but you don’t have to be stuck in a system you hate. The brands beating the system are hitching their wagons to strategic partners to guide them through the process, offering solutions rather than apocalyptic numbers. 

Common Challenges for Restaurants

Besides aggressive fees, third-party delivery poses other challenges:

  • Food that doesn’t reflect quality or flavor because it doesn’t travel well
  • Less foot traffic so your restaurant looks dead
  • Bad customer service from drivers representing your restaurant
  • Overwhelmed staff handling in-store AND delivery responsibilities
  • Interiors not set up for functional success
  • Issues with app technology and therefore communication with guests  

Turn the “Necessary Evil” Into an “Evil Opportunity”

In this new age of delivery, the restaurant behemoth days are behind us and being everything to everyone is no longer an option. Industry reactions have ranged from focusing on one specific environment element (patio, sports, upscale) to bring guests in-store, raising menu prices to cover delivery costs, and offering a bounce-back to develop a relationship with a new customer. Other solutions are out there, but they all start with how you communicate to your guest.

Are you communicating everything you need to about your delivery system? Updating Facebook with ads, announcing delivery on your website, offering promo codes, and asking your delivery partner if they’ll promote your restaurant are all essential ways to market your brand. Window clings, flyers, and other materials also work to get the word out.

Winning Grab and Go

Especially among millennials, convenience is king. According to Erin DuBois, Executive Creative Director of Norton Creative, “The vessels for your food are an important association with your brand: does it travel well or drive incremental business with a bounce-back as part of your packaging?” When creating a label for Au Bon Pain’s grab and go program, Norton created a “Bon To Go” message to resonate with lunch guests in need of a quick, “better for you” option. Since the high volume of ABP’s guests dictated the need, they updated their interiors to set up self-serve shelving for guests to pick up their meals. 

The Perfect Digital Menu

Many guests are willing to pick up in order to avoid delivery costs as long as ordering through the website is clear and easy. Norton partnered with OLO to create a functional website for Pie Five, a pizza company with over 100 locations. We utilized food styling and photography to set a crave-worthy tone for the brand, while also finding ways to announce Pie Five’s new delivery service. A delivery menu is where your ops team and chef collaborate with their expertise. What works in a sit-down environment may not work for delivery, so tailor your delivery menu to only offer what travels well and can be executed quickly. Heads up: your best seller may not be a delivery best seller. Be sure to engineer your third-party delivery menu, online menu, Google menus, and anywhere else it might live.

Getting the Word Out

One option when dealing with third-party delivery is to…not deal with it. Some brands are choosing to deliver the food themselves by scaling to a smaller footprint, saving on rent and establishing more dedicated space to delivery operations. Luckily for larger pizza chains like Domino’s, they’re founded on perfected, data-driven delivery processes. It can work for smaller restaurants as well. Norton collaborated with Fajita Pete’s to create branding work and a logo that communicated delivery and convenience of quality food. We coined the tagline “Fresh Fajitas Catered & Delivered” to clearly communicate that message. 

Our design team created a logo that featured a scooter, letting the guest know their food would arrive quickly in a quirky way. We also designed delivery bags with the logo to elevate and brand bags, boxes, and margarita jugs. Norton jumpstarted Fajita Pete’s social media, tailoring each message to lean into the convenience and delivery message. About 92% of consumers read restaurant reviews, so we also monitored social media for delivery reviews.  

Delivering Future Results 

Delivery is anything but one size fits all. The size, functionality, and goals of your brand dictate your best step forward. Norton Creative CCO Deanna Parr noted, “Even with all the doom and gloom about third-party delivery, see it as an opportunity for growth and expanding brand awareness into the orbit of a different kind of guest.” For many guests in 2019, convenience and quality are equally expected. The number of ways to meet that need may feel overwhelming, which is why it’s important to partner with someone who’s been there, delivered that.

This article was written by Norton Creative. We find solutions for brands big and small, from emerging one-off locations to legacy restaurant brands. We partner with statisticians who have spent a lifetime in the restaurant industry to develop menu engineering.


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