The US restaurant delivery market is projected to reach $32 billion by 2024, growing at an annual rate of 5%. To put that in perspective, that’s more than the GDP of the entire European nation of Iceland.

Since COVID-19 hit the industry this year, it’s become even more obvious how central food delivery is to restaurant operations. It’s become essential to optimize for delivery.

With so much change and uncertainty currently in the air, as a restaurateur, you might well be feeling overwhelmed by the extra training, distancing measures, and stringent hygiene standards required. Optimizing your restaurant for delivery might seem like yet another item on your long to-do list.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide so you don’t have to waste time searching around for advice. Here are the key steps to set your restaurant up for delivery success

The aim is to optimize your operations and software systems to give the customer the best possible experience – the fastest, safest, highest quality end-product. But also from the perspective of your business, you want to be increasing efficiency, minimizing the impact on dine-in business, and ultimately maximizing profit!

Commercial kitchen with packaging

 

Practical steps to optimize your restaurant for delivery

 

For a truly efficient delivery system, you need to look at the restaurant as a whole. Think about your priorities and where delivery orders fit in. You want to make the packing process, handover to the driver, and delivery to the customer as efficient as they can be, without compromizing on the rest of the business. Here are the key features to put in place for the highest chance of success.

 

Create an order packing area

For a restaurant serious about optimizing for delivery, a dedicated packing area is essential. It makes sense to locate this next to the kitchen in the FOH area to ensure food is packed up and out the door as quickly as possible after it leaves the kitchen. 

Key considerations include: 

  • Dedicated surface space for packing orders

  • Defining a workable system for organizing and prioritizing orders

  • Think about how the packing area relates to the waiting area for delivery drivers

  • Make your delivery packing materials accessible

  • Be adaptable and optimize as you learn what works and what doesn’t

The extra space afforded by having a purpose-designed packing area will help your staff ensure orders are accurate and complete. It may even be worth having a dedicated team member double-checking orders to ensure quality and accuracy. 

If a customer receives an order with missing items or if the product is poor quality, it will not only harm your reputation and risk bad reviews, but also if you have to remake orders, it will eat into your profits and impact the efficiency of your operations. 

To go salad bowls in a restaurant kitchen

 

Define a dedicated waiting area 

A common problem restaurants encounter when juggling delivery, pick-up, and dine-in orders is the clash between delivery drivers, pick-up customers waiting for orders, and dine-in guests coming in for a sit-down meal. 

Having helmeted drivers impatiently waiting around inside the restaurant doesn’t give the best first impression for customers. And they are likely to feel like the priorities are wrong.

It’s a balancing act that can be largely solved with good restaurant design and a solid system. The best way to avoid confusion and frustration among all parties is to keep things separate as much as possible. Space is at a premium in any restaurant so this is always a challenge, but careful planning goes a long way. 

A dedicated waiting area for drivers is a good idea. Keeping drivers happy by giving them parking spaces and offering water and access to a toilet makes it far less likely that they will wait in inappropriate places and put off dine-in guests.

If you can set up a window straight from the packing area to the drivers’ waiting area this is ideal. Alternatively, have a staff member run the orders out to the drivers.

Pick up sign in restaurant

 

Optimize Your Kitchen For Delivery Orders

Since the pandemic hit, many restaurant operators have switched more to delivery and now that dine-in guests are returning, the question arises: How do you organize the line for more delivery orders?

The best way would be to split your kitchen team between dine-in and delivery. Having a dedicated line for delivery means that a rush of orders won’t impact dine-in orders. If either side is quiet, staff from that side can jump on and help the other side, but keeping the two separate helps to optimize both sides for their respective priorities.

Getting staff levels right is all-important so you want to make sure you are scheduling for peak delivery times as well as peak dine-in times. It’s true that these often overlap, but consider where they differ. For example, if you get more orders for delivery on rainy days or during major televised events like the Super Bowl or the Oscars.

Chef preparing hamburgers for delivery

 

Optimize Your Menu for Delivery

It’s essential that orders travel well. You wouldn’t send out a messy plate to a dine-in guest and it’s just as important that diners at home receive your food as it was intended. Hot, intact, and delicious! 

That means designing your menu and your packaging to suit the meals that are going out. A good delivery menu should be streamlined, featuring the most popular dishes that are best suited for a trip on the back of a bike. 

Think about how different foods travel compared to others. Will certain foods get soggy? Can you package them in different ways?

For example, a hot noodle soup like a Vietnamese pho comes with a variety of garnishes, herbs, chilies, and lime juice, that give the dish its freshness. It would be easiest to throw them all in the soup and package it up. But to preserve the freshness of the ingredients and the integrity of the dish, most restaurants pack the hot soup up in one container and the garnishes separately. The customer can put the whole thing together at the other end.

If you find that it’s too time-consuming for your operations to package a dish up in this way, consider dropping it from the menu and focusing on dishes more suitable for delivery. It’s not a bad thing to exclude dishes from takeout orders. It incentivizes diners to come into the restaurant to enjoy these dishes in-house.

For delivery, choose dishes that travel well and are quick to assemble to minimize the impact on dine-in orders when both sides of the kitchen are busy.

Bento box with compartments for delivery

 

Make the Most of Your Packaging

Your packaging is also important in terms of marketing and building customer loyalty. Part of the fun and excitement of ordering takeout is the ‘unboxing’ process. Your packaging should show off the best of your restaurant: your colors, your branding, and your brand’s personality. 

Adding a handwritten note, or a message on the box saying “thank you” or “enjoy your meal” is a small touch that can make all the difference to the customer. Get creative and think of ways to excite your customers so that they can’t help but order with you again next time they want a takeaway.

You can also include promotional cards, leaflets, or branded merch offering discounts for repeat purchases. Since you are getting these messages directly into your customers’ homes, it’s a great opportunity to foster loyalty and develop a relationship with your customers.

Food delivery bag with thank you sticker

 

Implement integrated order management

If you are making the most of your restaurant’s delivery potential, you are probably maximizing exposure by using several delivery partners. This strategy is great for bringing in more orders, but it can lead to major problems when things get too busy. You might have experienced the chaos of team members juggling orders on different tablets and having to re-punch orders from multiple delivery partners into the POS. 

Aggregator tools like Deliverect allow you to accept orders from all the major delivery partners, like Foodora, Uber Eats, and Doordash without the hassle. Deliverect connects with the major players and sends the orders directly to your POS. Orders from multiple delivery partners are then sent in a consistent format to the kitchen. So you can say goodbye to iPad juggling and ordering mistakes between the POS and the kitchen. 

 

Practice on-going optimization

It’s important to always be looking to improve your delivery operations. Gather as much data as possible by conducting customer surveys, staff interviews, and mining online reviews to see what you are doing right and how you can improve – what works and what doesn’t.

Deliverect takes care of menu changes with multiple partners so you don’t have to go back and forth with several delivery partners. You just make the changes once and they are sent out to all your partners automatically. This coupled with detailed analytics and reporting on the numbers gives you the ability to be agile, continually adapting, and improving your menu design and operations for maximum efficiency.

Waiter typing in something in POS terminal

 

Boost profits by taking delivery design seriously

 

Adding Deliverect to your ordering system ties your restaurant design together and completes the delivery puzzle. Making your ordering, packing, and dispatch workflow as smooth and efficient as possible. Imagine the gain in revenue you could have by increasing efficiency by just a factor of two. 

You might think that having dedicated staff and areas for delivery will eat into profits, but many restaurants have found that optimizing for delivery and using a smart system like Deliverect has saved so much time and hassle for staff that they can be redeployed to focus on the quality of service and the accuracy of your orders. Speeding up the delivery process and further increasing productivity and profits.

All in all, rethinking the design of your restaurant space can help increase operational efficiency, boost staff morale, and improve customer loyalty. All of these factors combine to boost profit in the long run. So the real question is: can you afford not to optimize your restaurant’s design for delivery?

Sam Sinha
August 20, 2020 by Sam Sinha

Freelance B2B Food & Restaurant Tech Writer