In the food business, sometimes delivery can feel like an after-thought. It shouldn’t be.
More and more of us eat takeaway food on a regular basis. In fact, the global market is estimated to grow to an extraordinary US$254 billion in the year 2028. And more and more of us get it delivered. So if your business wants to take maximum advantage of this emerging, accelerating trend, it’s absolutely vital to provide the best possible experience to your customers.
And that doesn’t just mean great food, it means ensuring it gets to the customer in the same condition it left your store. Put it like this: if you don’t spend time ensuring your delivery service is as good as it can possibly be, you run a real risk of undermining all your good work in the 2km or so between your store and the customer’s door.
It’s time to take delivery seriously, as a core aspect of your offering - not an add-on. Here’s how to do just that.
Be careful who you trust with your food
I’m not going to tell you that you HAVE to use your own drivers, or use a specific company or type of company for delivery. But what I am going to tell you is this: think very carefully before entrusting your food delivery to someone, and pay close attention to the standard of service you get from them.
I love bicycles. I am a keen cyclist myself. But if your food sits at the bottom of a bag, on the back of a bicycle for half an hour, and is delivered as the third drop-off in a 7km round journey - are you confident it is going to arrive in good condition? Isn’t it preferable to have your own driver, your own equipment, and total control of the process?
As a rule I would say it is. A good second best is a direct relationship with a delivery company for whom you are the customer. Probably the weakest option of the lot is delivery as part of a service from a food marketplace.
Without wanting to labour the point, the bottom line here is incentives. Your own people have a stake in your business and want to make it look good. A food marketplace wants to handle delivery as cheaply as possible and has no loyalty whatsoever to your business. So before you do anything, put delivery in the right hands.
Optimise your menu for delivery
Some things just don’t travel well. And although it can be a hard decision to make, the right thing to do is avoid pretending they do. That means adapting your delivery menu to ensure you are only serving food that’s going to survive the journey and still be great to eat at its destination.
To give one example, one of my favourite ramen bars doesn’t deliver ramen. They just don’t believe it will do justice to their work, and I respect them for that. It means, of course, that they avoid giving customers the sort of bad experience that sends them elsewhere, never to come back.
There’s a lot to be said for reducing choice on menus anyway, so take the opportunity to evaluate yours, and simplify and streamline as necessary.
Set delivery areas with care
On a somewhat related note: set your delivery areas with care, and with an understanding of how your delivery setup operates. Although most delivery areas are set on the basis of distance (usually just by drawing a circle on a map), it’s much smarter to think in terms of time: how long, realistically, can your food travel using the delivery method you’ve chosen?
If you are delivering pizza by bicycle, you might have a small delivery area. If you are delivering curry by car, it can be larger. And in all cases, it doesn’t have to be a simple circle. In most cases you will be better off considering local geography and specific journey times. It makes sense to deliver to all the houses in an estate or development, rather than draw an arbitrary line through the middle of one. And you might be willing to travel significantly further along a main road than through a warren of streets.
Lastly, do be flexible. Consumers are more and more used to being loyal to brands from outside their immediate area. If you can offer wider delivery areas (with increased delivery charges if necessary) then do so.
Take the opportunity to deliver ‘experiential marketing’....
The moment of delivery is actually the only time that your customer comes into direct contact with your business. What do they see? Is it a smart, friendly person in branded clothing (your brand, not that of some venture-capital backed marketplace), or someone not quite as smart or friendly?
When you control delivery, you are able to manage this interaction with your business closely, and use it to maximum effect. And don’t stop with your drivers. Invest in packaging and design that is original, memorable, and shows off your food to best effect. Package orders with care, in branded bags, so they are a pleasure to open up (and figure out what is what).
Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget the power of the random act of kindness. Putting an extra item into a delivery can cost very little but buy life-long loyalty!
….and to promote your business
You’re not just delivering food, or at least, you shouldn’t be. Every time a customer opens that bag, you have the chance to provide promotional material relating to your business. Use it!
Firstly and most importantly, if you are still using marketplaces or aggregators then make sure to include material asking your customers to order direct next time around. It’s better for your business, your brand, and the customer. Include an offer giving a discount on a first order via your app or website.
If your customers are already ordering direct, then broaden out the conversation. Introduce new dishes, make them aware of special offers that encourage loyalty, ask them to introduce a friend for a discount, provide a voucher for a discount on in-store dining if that’s an option - the possibilities are endless.
Just remember - every time a bag leaves your store you need to put your best food forward!