As with most painful events in life, there are always slivers of good amidst truckloads of terrible. The pandemic was no different. We all know the terrible tragedies the virus left in its still present wake, but it also pushed us to the core, redefining what we thought possible. Creativity, perseverance, the ability to pivot under pressure—all these characteristics and more became standard operating procedures in the restaurant industry.
Guests let us know that they would support us if we could find a way to serve them when indoor dining closed. They shared their appreciation for the countless steps we took to ensure their safety, from installing plexiglass dividers to sanitizing tables after every service. Diners took to QR codes and other contactless technology as if they’d been expecting no-touch service long before the pandemic made it mandatory.
Many of these strategies that kept us afloat appear to be services that diners would like to see continued.
The Continued Expansion of Takeout and Delivery
According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2021 State of the Restaurant Industry Report, 69% of family dining, 70% of casual dining, and 63% of fine dining restaurants report a continued increase in off-premise sales when compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. With 68% of all adults reporting that they’ll be purchasing takeout more than they did before the pandemic, it’s clear that this segment of the restaurant industry has experienced a permanent transformation.
On average, about 77% of full-service operators added curbside pickup. Additionally, restaurants are turning to technology that lets them know when customers are about to arrive to ensure great customer service.
Delivery has also experienced remarkable gains, with almost half of all full-service operators adding delivery in 2020.
Many of these operators turned to third-party delivery services despite the high commissions and fees. Third-party apps were, after all, the fastest route to sustainability when faced with closed in-house dining. However, as the world slowly reopens, these third-party delivery apps are wondering just how much of the gains they made during the pandemic will last, and restaurants are wondering if there might be a better way of offering delivery services to their brand-loyal guests.
Delivery Options for Restaurants
Here’s two interesting statistics that may shift an operator’s perspective. First, about 60% of adults are more likely to order food delivery now, than before the pandemic. Second, almost two-thirds of these customers prefer to do so directly from the restaurant, and only 18% prefer third-party apps.
As the pandemic dust settles, restaurants are considering taking control of their delivery service. In addition to increasing profits, they are better able to align their brand, increase check averages through upselling, and remain in control of their customer data.
Here’s some of the latest technology that is helping brands define their delivery style and take control.
Technology Helping Restaurants Develop Their Delivery Service
It seems like a new company is offering restaurants support in the delivery and takeout segment almost every day. Here are just a few of the many.
ChowNow offers a commission-free online ordering system and food ordering app. Simply put, restaurants can take orders on their website and mobile app. If they don’t have a website, ChowNow will help them build one. According to ChowNow, diners who download a restaurant’s custom ChowNow-built mobile app order twice as often.
ChowNow also incorporates a complimentary loyalty program and ongoing marketing strategy. They offer a monthly, annual, and two-year plan with prices starting at $99 per month plus a one-time setup fee.
GloriaFood offers a free online ordering system for restaurants. The basic system allows restaurants to accept orders for pickup and delivery through their website or Facebook platform. If they don’t have a website yet, the online ordering software helps operators generate a custom website. The online ordering also works for mobile devices.
Tock To Go
Nick Kokonas, co-owner of Chicago’s famed Alinea restaurant, started Tock, a restaurant reservation system, five years before the pandemic struck. From this platform came Tock To Go, a delivery service designed to help restaurants weather the pandemic without paying the 20-30% commissions and fees demanded from third-party delivery apps.
Tock To Go charges a 3% commission on takeout and delivery. In addition to meals, the system enables restaurants to sell meal kits and retail goods. Restaurants manage their in-house delivery drivers with Tock To Go’s driver management and driver to customer SMS texting. The platform does not create a custom-branded website for each restaurant.
As restaurant delivery and takeout services expand, so do the companies offering solutions. We expect to see continued expansion in this arena for some time. Keep a weather eye on the horizon for the next big player.