8 tips for creating a winning food delivery service

Demand for food delivery services has skyrocketed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. DoorDash saw a 220% year-over-year increase in 2020, and many other food delivery companies also experienced a business boom during this time.

While most of this growth is directly attributable to the health crisis, a growing share of the population prefers delivery and take-out to a meal in a sit-down restaurant. In 2021, the National Restaurant Association found that more than 70% of adults are more likely to order takeout than before the pandemic. Therefore, restaurateurs need to up their takeout and delivery game.

Businesses that haven’t made the necessary changes need to take action to create a winning food delivery service. Here’s how quick service restaurants can meet customer needs and boost their business.

1. Know the audience

The first step in creating an appetizing delivery service is to understand the audience that is likely to place an order. What do they hope to gain from the experience? Are they just looking for the convenience of meal delivery or something closer to fine dining from the comfort of their home? Understanding the customers and local demographics who might be ordering makes it easier to adjust the menu to best suit their needs.

The easiest way to achieve this goal might be to survey customers as they place their orders. Offering an incentive, like 10-20% off their next order as a thank you for taking the survey, could help increase the number of people who respond.

2. Test meals

The worst thing about food delivery is that it appears cold and soggy. Some meals handle transit better than others. Before restaurants start offering food delivery, it’s a good idea to test foods from different distances and for varying lengths of time to see how they hold up.

The bread may need to be stored in a separate compartment or container to prevent it from getting soft during delivery. Keeping sauces and dressings aside can also help ensure meals are fresh and flavorful.

3. Keep things organized

Making multiple deliveries can be difficult, especially for drivers trying to fulfill their orders. The easiest way to handle this is to make sure everything is well organized and secured to prevent it from moving during transport. It could be as simple as a rack installed in the back seat and the use of seat belts in small cars. Larger vehicles, such as those used for commercial deliveries, should include shelves or containers designed to keep food safe or even temperature controlled during delivery.

4. Improve packaging

The last thing a customer wants is for their hot food to be cold and vice versa when it arrives. Temperature-controlled storage is only part of the puzzle. Improving the packaging to provide better insulation can help reduce the need for any additional temperature control. This way, it’s easy to make sure everything is at the right temperature, both for eating enjoyment and food safety.

According to the CDC, food to be delivered should not be stored at room temperature for more than two hours. This number drops to a single hour if the outside temperature is above 90 F.

5. Mark everything

The easiest way to keep a customer coming back is to make sure the business is at the forefront of their mind. Business owners can’t do this without branding. Take-out orders are the perfect opportunity if funds are available in the budget to do so. Branding can go on anything from take-out containers to plastic cutlery to condiment packets.

This is also the perfect opportunity to print out take-out menus and include them with every take-out or delivery order. Something simple that a customer can put on their fridge can help keep the business in the forefront of their mind when they feel the urge to order takeout.

6. Add some extras

Adding delivery extras can be another valuable tool to help businesses compete in a flooded food delivery market. Think of the fortune cookies that come with a Chinese takeout order. These extras aren’t strictly necessary, but they can make a business happy with customers and push them higher in the rankings when choosing dinner takeout.

It doesn’t have to be fortune cookies. These extras can be anything from dinner mints to coupons for future orders or other incentives that will keep customers coming back.

7. Keep delivery in-house

There are many ways to handle food delivery. Companies can partner with companies like DoorDash or UberEats, but these partnerships come with extra charge who cut a restaurant’s profits. Restaurants that make large volumes of daily deliveries should choose the most cost-effective option and keep the delivery service in-house.

This requires additional upfront expenses, including insurance and the purchase of fleet vehicles. However, depending on the number of deliveries made each day, these expenses could pay for themselves quickly.

8. Choose eco-friendly options

Take-out containers are traditionally made of plastic or Styrofoam. None of these options are biodegradable, and once they come into contact with food, most of them are also not recyclable. Fortunately, the global push towards creating a more sustainable future and reducing reliance on single-use plastics means that eco-friendly take-out container options are hitting the market almost every day.

Some forms of plastic, such as polyethylene (PET), are recyclable if cleaned well, but they are not a good option for hot foods. Compostable options, such as bagasse or PLA-coated paper, may not last long enough for distant deliveries. Yet they are less harmful to the environment than some plastic or polystyrene options.

The future of meal delivery

Food delivery may start to slow now that the pandemic is starting to ease, but it won’t go away. A whole class of people would rather have their fast food delivered than leave their homes. Businesses that haven’t started exploring delivery options should consider making this switch to secure their place in an already crowded market.

Emily Newton is the editor of Magazine Revolutionized. She has over five years of writing experience for the food and beverage industry.