Delivery as a New Distribution Channel: Where to Begin?

As the government takes renewed action to contain COVID-19, many restaurants are facing new realities in the weeks post-Eat Out to Help Out. The realisation that if customers can’t come to you, you must go to them, is dawning. 

Whilst some are sticking it out, putting in enhanced safety measures like reduced seating capacity, excess sanitising and use of apps to order, pay and review, in reality these measures are neither entirely safe (there is still the risk of contamination) or sustainable as the government threats of another lockdown.

In actuality, a more viable response is to pivot to takeaway and delivery, shutting restaurants down to the public and transforming them into a safe, sanitised dark kitchens (also referred to as a virtual kitchen or ghost kitchen). 

However, whilst those brands with both resource, know-how and budget have been able to adapt into delivery, for many who do not currently support delivery, this is a new and uncertain environment.

At F!S, we specialise in dark kitchen formation and business transformations and believe that restaurants who successfully transfer to a contactless delivery business model are better positioned to support the needs of their communities and customers while assuring their business stays afloat. To give you a head start, here are quick-fire 5 things YOU should be considering when making the transition:

  1. Aggregators – who do I chose?

If your business is still fairly small, food delivery aggregators may be the best option for you. Such aggregators offer their customers access to multiple restaurants via a single online portal. There are some world-famous aggregators, like GrubHub, Just Eat and Deliveroo, but many countries have their own local platforms.

Having your restaurant included in one of these portals is an opportunity to approach clients who otherwise wouldn’t even know about your small business.

But, which aggregator you choose depends on: which apps are the most expensive to you; which unlock the biggest potential new market each new app; which app involves the most hassle; and whether the kind of person who likes your restaurant is the kind of person who uses each app. 

2. Menu streamlining – delivery vs. dine-in

Believe it or not, a delivery menu should differ from that to dine-in. Whilst this may seem obvious, we are often surprised by restaurants offering the same menu to their customers for dine-in and delivery.

To ensure good operations, consistency and quality, be sure to streamline your menu for delivery, cutting it down. Having a menu that is too long increases the chance of lower quality food and mistakes during production. Pick out your best sellers to start and don’t be afraid to alter the sales mix as sales data comes in.

3. Operating procedures – help your staff help you

Often the chefs who work in your restaurant kitchen won’t be the ones who work your grills for delivery. To reduce costs, lower skilled staff an be hired to prepare food for delivery. In order to ensure a successful delivery all chefs should have access to clear Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs. This would include recipes and ingredient quantities, batch numbers, prep lists, cooking and garnishing instructions. Ideally photos are incorporated to offer further guidance as to how the dish should be prepared and sent out to the customer. Consistency is key.

  • Packaging – functionalist and aesthetics

Wagamama worked with PearlFisher, a design agency, and made a huge investment to get its packaging right. it’s safe to say, it paid off. Functional, beautiful package plays a large part in consumer experience when they order in. Compare sleek matt black recyclable bowls to oil-sodden polystyrene clam shell boxes. Spend time choosing and trialling your packaging, even allowing yourself time to test how the food fares when in the packaging on route.

  • Dark kitchen – do I need one?

Dark kitchens have become the buzz word of the decade and can offer a practical, cost effective location for your delivery kitchen.

Check out commercial kitchen rental platforms like KitchUp or Food Stars