Do you Suffer Operational Overload with Deliveries?

Does your restaurant have a problem getting delivery orders out efficiently?

This question was prompted in a conversation on a post discussing the Just Eat delivery service last year where NerdGirl commented that her local independent often gave long wait time when she used Just Eat.

There are technical issues with third-party delivery platforms which can result in the order not being sent to the restaurant until much later – the order gets stuck in a virtual queue. Or the delivery company gives a long “prepare for” time to the restaurant because the delivery company is very busy and doesn’t estimate they can get a driver any sooner, even though the customer wants the food ASAP.

However, these are not the province of this post.

Too Many Options

This is the most common cause of the problem.

During the pandemic, many restaurants added delivery services in order to survive, as it was often the only way to serve food during lockdowns. Many of the main operators waived sign-up fees and the kitchen pass started to look like the flight deck of a spaceship as ordering tablets multiplied.

As regular dining slowly returned, the chef now had multiple order channels. For example:

  • In-house orders from the EPOS or waiting team
  • Telephone orders
  • Direct on-line orders
  • Deliveroo
  • UberEATS
  • Just Eat

And there are other operators in local areas, so this list can be longer or shorter.

In my experience, the volume of orders varies by region in the UK. This is, in part, due to the marketing efforts of the big players and their use of discount vouchers to encourage people to convert to their platforms. Re-ordering is also very easy to keep them there once converted.

The problem most restaurants have is volume.

At peak times, every channel will be streaming orders into the restaurant with a host of hungry people eagerly anticipating your lovely food on the other end. However, they don’t know you have a full restaurant plus 10 more orders from Deliveroo, 5 from UberEATS, 8 direct takeaway orders and a couple of Just Eat. And some of these orders can be a family meal for 4 or 6 people.

The kitchen team are faced with an impossible task – prepare meals for 2-3x the capacity of the restaurant.

What is likely to happen? A number of things:

  • All meals are prepared, but in strict order so some guests have to wait much longer
  • Some orders are cancelled to minimise delays, but there is still pressure
  • Orders are promised at certain times but not delivered, leading to angry phone calls
  • Some platforms are switched off (I’ve seen this happen) because the team can’t cope
  • Everything runs smoothly

Unhappy Customers

Restaurants are in the satisfaction business. They want to make happy customers but, as you can see above, adding a delivery option (or options) can result in the likelihood of more dissatisfied customers than intended (despite the revenue gains).

You will also get refund requests when food is late, bad reviews on the Internet, angry emails, or worse still, harassing phone calls. You may have to issue vouchers as compensation also. This costs you time and money and diminishes your reputation. You ultimately lose customers in the long run. And a lot of this hassle shows up in the middle of the peak when you and your team just want to get everything finished and breathe again.

What’s Your Capacity?

If you overstretch your team too many times, their morale will vanish and so will they. If it becomes a regular occurrence, you have to either stop taking delivery orders or hire more staff.

Think hard about your true capacity in the kitchen at peak times and at off-peak times. Be realistic. You, as the owner or manager of the restaurant, have a responsibility to your team and your customers.

Once you know what your capacity is, you can define a plan to move forwards and communicate this with customers and your team. Here are some possible options:

  1. No deliveries on Friday & Saturday. Collections are OK if ordered directly.
  2. Limited deliveries on Friday & Saturday – One platform only with wait times of 45 minutes plus
  3. Pre-booked collections & deliveries and once the slots are full, no more orders!
  4. Deliveries are OK, but online orders will be from a restricted menu to streamline production
  5. We can do this, but need 2 extra people on weekends, so we’ll hire them first
  6. Everything runs smoothly!

Some of the larger chains and some independents implement option 4 routinely. It ensures that dine-in guests are always prioritised but allows at-home guests to still enjoy their menu, albeit from dishes that are usually very quick to prepare and have less impact on production overall.

Some restaurants go on to design their whole menu based on production efficiency (and still be amazing) and can offer a wider array for delivery without sacrificing timings.

During the week, on less busy days, you can offer a wider selection if it will help you boost sales, but there may be deeper issues affecting sales, visits and orders that would need investigation.

Whichever option you decide, let your guests know. As an independent restaurant, you should be looking to have a personal relationship with your guests. You should be more than “that place on the corner” because you want to encourage loyalty.

It’s a difficult balancing act but most guests who love your food will understand you can’t feed everybody all the time. It may only take 10 minutes to make a kebab, but if it’s the 90th guest who’s ordered one in the last 50 minutes you, as the restaurateur, need to manage expectations.

And if you step back and put a strategy in place before you have to fight fires, you’ll be stronger, have happier customers, a happier team, and be able to grow your capacity and popularity over time.

Do you struggle with this? Would you like an impartial view or help with this? Please contact me today.

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