Delivery is the New Drive-Thru: How Fast Casual Chains Can Add Delivery

The dawn of the drive-thru revolutionized fast casual dining for restaurants and customers alike. Now food delivery is having the same effect.

Over the past four years, delivery has grown by 69 million orders, while drive-thru traffic has plummeted by 128 million visits, according to The NPD Group.

Food delivery scratches diners’ persistent itch for mealtime convenience, efficiency and flexibility in a way not even drive-thru can satisfy. In recent months, fast casual giants from Starbucks and Chipotle to Panera Bread have rolled out delivery, with many more following suit.

Here are four do’s and don’ts for successfully adapting to this new normal.

Do curate the right menu

Not every dish that’s available in your physical restaurants will translate to the handling and travel that accompanies food delivery. Before diving into delivery, think carefully about which menu items you’ll make available – or ways you can adjust existing dishes to survive the restaurant-to-diner ride (i.e., packaging sauces and dressings in separate containers).

Don’t underestimate the power of packaging

Even if you carry disposable utensils and to-go boxes for traditional takeout diners, you might still be missing necessary supplies for delivery orders. Keep a diverse array of packaging sizes on hand to accommodate anything from sides to family-style entrees, and stock up on insulated containers to keep hot and cold dishes at their appropriate temperatures.

Do establish a talented team

Delivery success depends just as much on the food as it does on the people transporting it. When formalizing your fast casual delivery offering, drivers need to be brought up to speed on safety standards (such as no mobile device use when driving to and from your destination) and etiquette (such as how to notify diners when you’re running late). To avoid the administrative burden, some restaurants partner with third-party delivery companies that take on the responsibility of hiring and managing drivers.

Don’t sacrifice accuracy

News travels at the speed of Twitter, so a pattern of late or incorrect delivery orders can quickly hurt a brand’s reputation. On the other hand, a pattern of stellar delivery orders can lead to a flurry of positive feedback on social media. To guarantee order accuracy and efficiency, find ways to integrate delivery into the natural rhythm of your restaurant operations. For instance, implementing an online ordering system can minimize the time needed to process orders and eliminate errors. Be sure to designate specific areas inside your restaurant (such as windows or expediting stations) where delivery drivers can pick up orders.

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