MANAGEMENT: What to consider when joining an online delivery platform

The rapid development of home delivery services has presented both opportunities and problems for restaurant and cafe owners. If you are considering travelling down this path you need to plan and approach the process with some care, or you may do damage to your brand.

First, what products are you going to offer to the home delivery market? Many of your menu items will not travel well, and no matter how good that dish looks on a plate in your restaurant it may well arrive looking like the dog’s breakfast after it has been manually handled for some time. Sometimes it is even a good idea to develop some dishes that are specifically designed to travel.

Next, you need to carefully consider what types of packaging are appropriate for the handling that is expected during delivery. Here you need to assess which ingredients need to be kept separate, which have a propensity to leak, which need to breathe (so they don’t go soggy), and which need to be maintained at a specific temperature. Consider the well-developed pizza delivery system you would already be familiar with. Your home delivery arrives in a specially designed box which is supported from crushing with a little plastic tower in the centre. The whole box is then carried in an insulated carry pouch.

There are many different packaging systems available for commercial food presentation and a bit of focussed research should result in a number of samples that you can trial – hopefully on your own friends and family first. Beware that specialist packaging can be quite expensive and this needs to be taken into account in your pricing.

You should also realise that there is quite a backlash against one use, throw-away plastic packaging – especially among the younger population who have been schooled in environmental care and sustainability. Despite the fact that plastic packaging may present a cheaper alternative to other types of bio-degradable packaging, it may not present your brand in the best possible light. If possible, your packaging should all carry your logo, web address and phone number. Printed packaging will also add to your costs.

It is also a good idea to include some, or all of the following in the delivered parcel: printed napkins, disposable cutlery (in case it is being delivered to an office or commercial premises), a printed delivery menu list and a fridge magnet with your details on it. Again, all this will add to your costs.

Moving on, you will have to consider the logistics of having delivery people coming in and sometimes waiting for their food to be readied and packed. Where are they going to wait? How will the production of delivery items slow down your in-house service? If your home delivery products become popular there could be quite a high proportion of your production going straight out the door, resulting in your in-house customers having longer waits for their food than are reasonable.

Next, what sorts of environments are you delivering to? Consider a CBD restaurant delivering to commercial offices and the like within the city. If your delivery is picked-up in a car, the driver will have to find a park – which could be quite a distance away. They will have to then launch out into the congested traffic and crawl along at a snail’s pace until they arrive at the delivery destination then find another park, find the particular office and deliver. This could take quite some time, resulting in the driver wanting to avoid you next time and your food arriving in less than optimum condition.

The answer is to select the delivery system to match the environment you are operating in. For CBD locations I recommend bicycle or motorbike delivery – they can both chew through the traffic and park on the footpath. For suburban locations I would use either motorbike or car delivery systems.

As for the economics of embracing home delivery, be careful. Delivery systems take up to 30 per cent of the price. This could either be a very bad deal or a good deal depending on your costs. Remember you do not have front-of-house wage costs, dishwashing costs, linen, bread or water with home delivery, so you do have some room to absorb the delivery percentage. You do however, have other costs like packaging and the other items previously mentioned to take into account.

There is no doubt that the dining public are embracing home delivery in ever increasing numbers and this may present a major opportunity for you. If you find your business doing a fair volume of home deliveries, you might even consider setting-up a production only site just for this purpose, in a lower rent environment. Tread carefully...

Tony Eldred operates Eldred Hospitality Pty Ltd, ‘The Hospitality Specialists’. Contact him on (03) 9813 3311 or at