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Restaurants around the country are bracing for the impact of COVID-19 and are being ordered by states to close and discontinue dine-in service and gatherings. Amidst the chaos, restaurants are turning to delivery, curbside pickup, and carryout options in an effort to stay in business and keep paying employees.

I’m preaching to the choir here, but it’s a particularly uncertain time for restaurants and small businesses that largely depend on customer foot traffic and table service to keep them running.

If you own a restaurant that is struggling to keep afloat amidst the Coronavirus shutdowns, starting a delivery service to keep revenue flowing might be a viable option. Be sure to follow these steps to set up a delivery service today!
 


 

Things to Consider Before Going 3rd Party

As of today, UberEats, DoorDash, and PostMates are waiving delivery fees for everyone affected by the virus. Seamless and Grubhub are offering deferred payments, where delivery fees are waived until the restaurant is back on their feet.

The last thing you need is a middleman taking yet another cut of your food costs, when margins are smaller than ever before, so be sure to do your research before signing up. Additionally, setup times are quick at times like these, but be aware of the extra time it’ll take to integrate with your individual POS system, software, and other restaurant tech as well. That being said, do not be afraid to start your own delivery service!
 


 

1. Train and Assign New Jobs

Kayleigh Chu, Manager of Operational Excellence at Fresh, notes that training was key to their success in implementing a delivery service within 24 hours.

“For cleaning and sanitation, we quickly reworked expectations and created training guides for the staff with videos from YouTube. We also sent out best practices and reminded them that time flies and there are lots to do in a day. We practically reinforced a lot of basics that everyone already knew.”

Not everyone has proper training documentation in place. However, there are plenty of public resources online like FDA.gov and restaurant.org that provide invaluable information.

 


 

2. Create Hierarchy Maps and Outline Clear Responsibilities

You will undoubtedly also run into issues of who reports to who, so putting together a quick hierarchy map can help resolve issues quickly with streamlined decision-making.
 
I personally recommend that you hop online and create a template on Canva for free. Make sure that this shows exactly who reports to who, starting from managerial and leadership roles and going all the way down.
 
The key here is to have clear and defined teams with their new responsibilities outlined for them.
 
Have a dedicated employee manning the phone not only for food orders, but also to speak to inquiring customers calling in to check if you offer delivery or not.
 
Additionally, encourage employees to transition to couriers, incentivized by delivery fees and tips. Train employees to take orders over the phone and enter them into your POS, and even take credit card orders over the phone in a secure manner.
 


3. Organize Your Restaurant To Run Optimally For Deliveries

Now that your restaurant is delivery-only, use all available space to create a work station for employees. The more organized you are with packing, the fewer mistakes and returns will be made.

As far as managing deliveries, if your POS doesn’t have a delivery tracking system, use a whiteboard. Assign every delivery driver to a column and place ticket numbers on the board before the driver leaves. This way you know who took what and can easily follow up as needed.

Lastly, make sure you’ve stocked up on staplers to make sure tickets are not lost en route. If needed, configure printers to print as many tickets as needed for the new setup.
 



4. Take to Social Media

To promote your new delivery service, take to email newsletters and social media to let your customers know delivery is available and you’d appreciate their support during this strange and difficult time.

In uncertain times, people appreciate when businesses put extra care into what they do to bring joy to their customers. Since you probably have a good amount of unused inventory, try putting together baskets or bundles of goods for a set price to entice customers to purchase big-ticket delivery items.

Quarantine-Basket
For example, a “quarantine basket” might include a few bottles of wine, fresh-baked bread, an assortment of produce and cheeses, a dessert, and a meat, fish, or vegetarian entree.

Selling off your stock in a fun and beautiful manner will bring light to a customer’s day (picnic inside, anyone?) and also ensure you’re not wasting food while bringing much-needed cash to your establishment.
 

Vinnie’s Pizzeria in Brooklyn is taking a similarly creative approach by offering pizza construction kits for parents taking care of their kids while in quarantine. Customers flock to your business because of the experience, not just the food, so be sure to gift them a lovely reminder of your restaurant to take home.

 


 

5. Delight Your Customers With Excellent Delivery Service

With a delivery service during a period of social distancing, it’s more difficult to create a welcoming atmosphere and show adequate appreciation for customers. That’s why, now more than ever, it’s important to go the extra mile to satisfy and even exceed expectations. Try these methods to delight customers:

  1. Add extra time in your delivery estimate (but not too much, 50.6 percent of study participants were willing to wait up to 30 minutes) to make sure orders are being handed over in a reasonable time frame, even when there’s traffic. Ensure contact-free deliveries by leaving packaged orders outside of a customer’s door. 6 feet (2 meters) of distance is key!
     
  2. Whittle down your menu to only offer food that will travel and reheat well. Include instructions on proper reheating methods to ensure a tasty experience for the customer. Make sure your packing methods are top-notch to arrive safely in the hands of the customer with no spills.

     

     

    Invest in hot/cold bags if you haven’t already, and place cold items on the bottom and hot items on top, as long as gravity allows.

    Separate sauces (or any item high in moisture) into individual containers (or paper bags) on the side to prevent sogginess. For crispy food items such as chicken tenders, fries, or sandwiches, pierce a small hole in the top of the container to allow steam to escape. Do not do this with soups or saucy pasta dishes, as spills could happen!
     

  3. Ensure your delivery drivers know your delivery area VERY well. This will help save time and guarantee deliveries are grouped well together for the fastest possible service.

     

     

    If you don’t have enough staff members who know the neighborhood, set them up with a smartphone or iPad with Google Maps searches. Remind drivers to always double-check the location of the delivery, and never assume they know where they’re going. If you signed up to deliver through an app, this won’t be an issue to worry about.



6. Morale and Positivity are Key!

While times may be tough and increasingly scary for restaurants, it’s important to stay positive and use all the resources you can to keep revenue up.

“Staying positive was difficult but one of the most important success factors for us. We assured everyone that they have help and they're not alone in the situation. We, at the head office level, have been available and periodically checking-in on each location separately and meeting to discuss whatever challenges that we can foresee. We tried to mitigate as much as possible to create safety and de-stress local managers."
– Kayleigh Chu, Manager of Operational Excellence, Fresh

Starting a delivery service might be a temporary fix for this problem, and we hope these tips will help you find continued customer support in uncertain circumstances. In the meantime, please stay safe and healthy.

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