How to Offer a Great Food Delivery Experience

Fancy takeout

Providing a great food delivery experience can make or break the takeout side of your business. Learn best practices and tips for what makes a great delivery experience.

What makes a great food delivery experience? That’s something that a lot of restaurateurs think about, especially since demand for (and sales from) delivery skyrocketed in 2020. But getting into the delivery game is challenging, especially when it comes to closely replicating the in-house customer experience. 

Offering online ordering and delivery requires a healthy amount of planning and anticipating your customers’ needs, but it’s well worth the cost. Even before the pandemic, delivery was expected to catapult from $43 billion to $76 billion by 2022, and these numbers are only expected to increase over the next few years. 

Below, we’ll discuss how to create a quality food delivery experience and a profitable food delivery strategy.

How to Offer a Great Food Delivery Experience for Your Restaurant

Create a Great Delivery Menu

Your menu is pivotal to creating a positive food delivery experience. Because once you factor in the time it takes to transport an order from point A to point B, you’ll quickly realize that not every menu item is suitable for delivery. That’s why you’ll want to only select dishes that transport well. This doesn’t mean that you can’t deliver the same quality as an in-house experience — it just means that you’re curating menu items that are profitable and travel-friendly. This curation is known as a minimum viable menu, where a more condensed, profitable version of the menu is available for delivery. 

A smart way to maximize profitability is through menu engineering. Highlight your top-performing items, and don’t be afraid to raise your prices. Whether your delivery service is in-house and for a flat fee, or you’re using a third party that charges high commissions on every order, or using your own drivers, fees and delivery costs can certainly add up, so you want to be able to offset that cost.

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Aesthetically Pleasing and Functional Branded Packaging

Consider streamlining your packaging as well as your menu. It should be functional and sturdy, and tailored to the dishes you intend to serve. At the beginning of the pandemic, Josh Bufford and his team at Toast New American Gastropub cooked their whole menu and tested out various configurations of takeout containers, waited for a half-hour, and shook the packages to see how they’d fare during delivery. 

While you may not have the time or funds to test out your packaging like this, consider purchasing a variety of quality containers — such as vented ones for items that tend to get soggy, or spill-proof containers for sauces or soups. And think of packaging as an extension of your restaurant’s brand — have fun with it! If you have the bandwidth, consider branded stickers, napkins, or even custom-made packaging, to recreate a bit of what customers might experience in your restaurant.

Focus on Speed

Next up in creating a profitable food delivery strategy? Speed. You want your customers to get great food as quickly as possible. If you work with your own drivers, build it into your delivery SOPs that drivers will text customers when their food is dropped off to avoid food safety issues, and designate staff members to safely pack delivery orders and liaise with drivers. 

Here’s another great tip for your food delivery business: use your POS and in-house online ordering system to track prep and delivery time data. It’ll provide valuable insights into how well your menu is performing — and where you can optimize for maximum profitability. 

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Concentrate on Personalization

If you want to further replicate the customer experience in your restaurant, consider incorporating various low-cost, high-profit add-ons to your menu. Think adding guacamole to a taco, cheese to a burger, ice cream to desserts, or eggs to a salad. By building a menu with personalization in mind, your online customers have the opportunity to add whatever they want to their meals without worrying that there's a server or another customer waiting for them to be done ordering — lots of personalization opportunities with unlimited time to order can lead to larger check sizes.  

Give Extra Perks

Whether customers are dining on or off-premise, you’ll want to show your appreciation and create a memorable experience. It doesn’t have to be costly either: something as simple as a handwritten thank you note, a coupon offering free delivery, or giving away a free add-on can foster loyalty to your restaurant. Consider it fodder for a potential feel-good Instagram post that customers can use to promote your restaurant on social media. 

Provide Contactless Delivery Options

While the pandemic specifically caused demand for food delivery to skyrocket, sales aren’t expected to plummet anytime soon. Even after the pandemic subsides and restaurants return to pre-COVID in-dining numbers, consider providing food delivery options, for diners who want to experience your restaurant from the comfort of home. 

And over the last nearly two years of this pandemic, guests have gotten accustomed to the convenience of contactless.  When it comes to delivery, that means a driver dropping off the food outside the guest's door, notifying them via a text or an in-app message that it's arrived, and leaving promptly, before they have to interact with the guest face-to-face. 

Partner with a Delivery Service that Keeps the Profits in Your Pocket

Toast Delivery Services lets restaurants easily offer delivery without paying high commissions to third-party companies — instead, you pay a flat fee per order, and you get access to Doordash's fleet of drivers. And so that you can keep guests coming back with great, targeted marketing campaigns, all the guest data collected through Toast Delivery Services stays with you — not a third-party company.

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Learn how to save on commissions with a better delivery service.

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.