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How to get your restaurant started with delivery or carry-out during COVID-19

March 23, 2020

In this 6-minute read:

  • Is a delivery service right for your restaurant?
  • What you’ll need
  • How to use third-party services
  • Safety precautions
  • Delivery best practices

With mandatory shutdowns of restaurant dining rooms and lobbies in most areas and customers opting to order out and remain in their homes, the restaurant industry is being hit hard during this COVID-19 pandemic. 

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If your restaurant is seeing the impacts and you are feeling the revenue loss, it may be time to decide if offering delivery services is right for your business. 

Throughout this article, we’ll talk about the different measures you may need to take when starting a new delivery service and some different options to get started. 

Is a delivery service right for your restaurant?

First, you need to determine if your restaurant can benefit from offering delivery and take out services during this time, especially if you’ve never done this before. 

Weigh the pros and cons to ensure that you will be making a profit by offering delivery services. 

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Pros of restaurant delivery service during the coronavirus outbreak

The benefits of offering delivery service at this time include:

  • Keep business operations running as more people start ordering food from home
  • Potential to reach more and new customers as a new avenue of ordering from your restaurant opens up
  • Less space needed to operate in (you don’t need to keep your front checkout counter running or dining room open)
  • Potential to get more orders out the door than you would be able to seat people in your restaurant

male restaurant delivery driver

Cons of restaurant delivery services

There are some downsides to offering restaurant delivery services that you need to weigh, depending on your location and restaurant type:

  • If you’re in a high-demand area, it may be difficult to meet customer expectations with acceptable delivery times
  • The prices you need to offer in order to offset the costs of delivery services may be unappealing to customers
  • You’ll have less control over a customer’s experience as your driver (or 3rd-party delivery courier) faces traffic delays or the food arrives with poor presentation due to travel
  • Increased costs associated with paying employees if they have to drive their own vehicles for delivery (mileage compensation)
  • If you’re using a third-party delivery service you’ll have smaller profit margins (although several third-party delivery companies are doing their part to help mitigate revenue loss on restaurants during this time)

What you’ll need to start offering restaurant delivery services

In order to start offering delivery services from your restaurant, there are a few things you’ll need to make sure you have in place. 

Online/Over-the-phone ordering capabilities

First, you’ll need the ability to actually take and fulfill orders. It won’t be difficult to switch your strategy to start offering over-the-phone orders (assuming you have enough staff and phone lines to keep up with demand), but there may be a little more effort required to offering online ordering. 

We recommend offering online ordering if possible because you’ll have more opportunities to receive more business. This is how most people prefer to order delivery services in today’s market. 

Check to see if your current POS system offering online ordering capabilities or partner with a third-party like Grubhub or DoorDash that will do this for you (more on this later). 

High-speed internet

If you are offering online ordering, you’ll need a good internet connection in order to receive and fulfill orders. 

Drivers

You might consider transitioning any non-food-prep staff to working as delivery drivers. You’ll want to make sure you have enough staff members on hand who are willing and can take on this responsibility. 

Method of transportation

Beyond just the willingness to deliver food, your staff should have a good mode of transportation. Unless you have company vehicles, your employees will likely have to use their own vehicles to deliver food. Consider any mileage compensation you may have to offer in order to make this transition worthwhile. 

Bags/takeout carriers for travel

If you’ve never offered delivery services before, you’ll probably need to order some additional materials to help delivery operations run smoothly. You’ll want takeout containers that will retain heat as best as possible as well as bags or carriers for your employees to use when delivering the food. Reusable, heat-insulating bags are best here.

Consider dedicated parking stalls and entry points for takeout / pickup

If your area allows limited contact with customers (such as carry-out only), you might create a dedicated access door with a specific register and staff to support it. Also think about adding or designating more limited-waiting parking stalls for curbside/takeout orders.

curbside to go restaurant only

How to start delivering food using third-party services

If the above sounds like a big lift, the easiest way to implement online ordering and delivery sources with little change to your current operations is to use a third-party service, like one of the following:

These guys are the pros of running online ordering and delivery and can help you quickly get your restaurant ready to start delivering to your customers. 

For most third-party services, you’ll have a process that looks similar to the following steps:

  1. Sign your restaurant up and create an account. You’ll need to verify or activate your restaurant by providing necessary details like business name, phone number, hours, etc. 
  2. When you have an account, you’ll need to confirm your menu items and pricing in the dashboard of your third-party service. 
  3. Verify your bank account and tax ID information. This is important for making sure you get paid and the third-party service gets their commission (again, several 3rd-party delivery companies including DoorDash and Uber are offering special pricing and deals during the coronavirus outbreak). 
  4. Update your store hours on your dashboard and be sure to include any local government-enforced closures during the COVID-19 crisis.
  5. Finish activating your account and start taking orders!

Depending on the service you use, you may also be provided with a tablet or other device to take and fulfill orders.

One caution we will state of using one of these services during this time is that drivers in your area may be overwhelmed with the influx of online orders. This could result in longer wait times (and fewer orders from these services due to the increased wait times). 

However, the increased demand due to “shelter in place” directives in many locations may make it worth the wait for most customers.

To help offset the downsides of using a third-party service, we recommend implementing your own internal delivery service as well. The more options you have to get your customers their order, the better your restaurant can perform during this time. 

Safety and hygiene practices for restaurant delivery during coronavirus

Safety and hygiene practices are always important in the restaurant industry, but they are critical during this time. 

Tips for enforcing safety among your employees and customers:

  • Screen all employees when they arrive at work to ensure they aren’t exhibiting any flu-like symptoms, and haven’t come into contact with people exhibiting symptoms
  • Encourage no-contact delivery by allowing customers to pay online or over-the-phone and having your employees drop the food off at their door and notify them via the app or their smart doorbell (this is now the default for most carriers)
  • Have constant reminders for handwashing, sanitizing surfaces, and proper hygiene behaviors for your employees
  • Ensure each driver has hand sanitizer and/or gloves to use during deliveries
  • Keep disinfectant products stocked up

Be sure to inform your customers that you are taking every precaution necessary to help ensure the safe handling of their food. Help give them the peace of mind they need to make the decision to order from your restaurant. 

Learn more: 

Best practices for restaurant food delivery

Beyond the necessary safety precautions to take during this pandemic, there are some basic best practices for food delivery that you should keep in mind to help operations run smoothly:

Simplify your menu. Keep the number of items in your delivery menu limited to help run efficient food prep and delivery operations. 

Start promoting delivery right away. You want your customers to know that you are now offering delivery and take out options. Add this to your restaurant’s website, Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor, and other online business listings, and promote locally targeted social media or Google ads to help get the word out. 

Consider your pricing structure. You may need to make some changes to your pricing to help offset increased costs of delivery, whether that is adding a delivery fee or increasing the cost of each item you offer. Be transparent with your customers about your pricing and the reasons for any changes. With increased demand, customers will most likely understand the need for you to boost your prices a little.

Set accurate expectations for delivery times. Now is not the time to overpromise. You must set accurate expectations of when a customers’ food will get to them if you want your delivery services to run well. 

Helpful resources and articles to help local restaurants during the COVID-19 crisis

Need help with funding? Visit stimulus2020.com

American businesses can get $1,000 of no-interest, no-fee emergency funding during the COVID-19 pandemic, with flexible repayment terms. Visit stimulus2020.com to learn more. You can also find a helpful list of resources, free offers, and funding sources at stimulus2020.com/resources.

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