The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the U.S. restaurant industry, with a 65% decline of seated restaurant patrons over the past year. But even though 110,000 restaurants have been forced to close, it doesn’t mean the production and sale of food has to stop altogether. The safest and most economically viable step forward is to prioritize home deliveries and no-contact pickups.
With so many restaurants and food courts closing their doors for good, just about your only option for deep-dish pizza or teriyaki chicken is going to be takeout. There has been ongoing debate whether ordering takeout is in fact an ethical way of filling the hole in your stomach, but many studies have concluded that the likelihood of bacteria surviving on plastic and carboard packaging while in transit is, thankfully, low. The CDC even concluded that you can't catch coronavirus from food, so the main concern here remains person-to-person transmission.
Home delivery is a tricky one, then, as business need to keep running but customers need to be kept safe. Here's how to achieve both at the same time.
Give the option of no-contact delivery
The logistics of setting up your restaurant's own delivery app can be quite challenging, so you can either advertise your business activity through social media channels – such as Facebook posts or Instagram stories – or use a third-party delivery service. No matter how you do it, a strong move is to offer no-contact delivery, whereby customers won’t need to interact with their delivery driver.
Once the customer has paid for their order, using whatever kind of over-the-phone or digital payment service your business offers, have them receive a text message with an approximate arrival time. The food will then be left on the customer’s doorstep, with a text notifying them of its successful delivery.
While this removes the “service with a smile” aspect of the customer experience, it does demonstrate good social distancing practice at the same time as significantly reducing the risk of coronavirus infection. After all, the sooner this pandemic sees its way out, the sooner we can get back to business as usual.
Use your employees for home deliveries
One of the off-putting factors of using third-party services to deliver your restaurant’s goods is the high commission rate, with some apps demanding as much as 30% on each delivery. Ouch. A savvy way of mitigating these fees is to simply utilize your existing staff. If any of them drive or have a bicycle, put these modes of transportation to use as delivery vehicles.
One way to manage transit time is to set a delivery perimeter, whereby you will only accept orders from within a certain zip code, thus shortening journeys and maximizing their frequency. If you are a bit on the fence about this one, wondering whether your business is generating the sufficient revenue to keep employees on the payroll, try to think of it this way: that employee’s wage will cost you less, on balance, than some of the commission fees you would need to pay external delivery services anyway.
As a means of keeping your restaurant afloat, home delivery is a necessary investment – and it’s going to be cheaper to use the resources readily available. Where possible, use your existing wait staff and they will be just as happy to be employed as you will be to be offering home delivery for your customers.
Wear a mask and use gloves when making deliveries
High standards of food preparation should have remained a top priority even before the pandemic, yet there are plenty of new health and safety practices to follow when training your staff in a pandemic. Hand washing every time a food parcel is handled is a must, using either hand sanitizer or antibacterial soup and hot water, but extra precautions may not be quite as obvious.
Commonly used areas within the restaurant, such as the front counter on which the delivery bags are placed, must be frequently sanitized; and you may wish to invest in tamper-evident labels that will snap or be visibly damaged when the product has been tampered with. Beyond that, ensure your staff replace their gloves every time they make a new delivery.
Communicate with your customers
To make sure you are maximizing your business potential in the pandemic, it pays to keep your customers up to date. Whether that’s putting out social media posts to promote a new menu item, or specifying your delivery radius in the About section of your website or Facebook page, it will save you time answering customer queries if you can provide all the information upfront. Put signs in your windows saying that you offer home delivery even if the restaurant itself is closed, and let them know if there will be any extra fees they should be aware of.
If your restaurant has remained operational across the last 11 months, then what’s just as important as delivering your product is making it in the first place. Organic, high-quality produce is a core component of healthy and delicious food that customers will want to come back to – and if you’re looking for farm-bought fruit and vegetables that won't disappoint, then Buffalo Market is going to be your new best friend.
Offering fresh, delicious foodstuffs in an inventory exceeding 2,600 items, you also have the chance to save with our bulk-buy wholesale cases. Cutting costs on essentials such as olive oil, tomatoes, and broccoli, be sure to check it out and see how we really do give you more for less.
Another bonus: when you buy in bulk, you reduce the need to make repeat orders. Fewer orders, less contact with parcels and boxes. Bulk buying not only saves you money but also keeps you safe – and that sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.