Operators must be careful not to cede control over customer loyalty as off-premises consumption becomes the norm
By Brittain Brown
The pandemic is increasingly keeping people at home, driving regular restaurant diners to abandon their local bartender and instead order takeout so they can enjoy their favourite meals from the comfort and safety of their own homes. However, as restaurants flock to third-party apps to manage the sudden surge in online orders and deliveries, the ownership of customer service, and therefore that of customer loyalty, has shifted from restaurants to third-party apps.
This growing trend to surrender customer service in favour of convenience presents a notable gap in delivery management, and an opportunity to draw inspiration from long-running pizza joints that have been quietly leading the charge in food delivery for decades.
The rise of third-party delivery apps
Third-party delivery apps have served as a lifeline to struggling restaurants desperate to stay afloat in a highly competitive market. When the pandemic forced a mass shutdown of indoor dining, these apps provided restaurants that are typically dependent on loyal, local customers with a new audience to which to market their meals.
While the benefits are plenty, especially for those temporarily operating a delivery-only model but lacking the necessary drivers, this reliance on third-party apps comes at a cost beyond the steep fees. It means surrendering control over customer service at a time when human connection is particularly crucial for driving customer loyalty and, ultimately, keeping the lights on.
At first glance, it may seem as though leaving customer relations to a third-party app while the restaurant focuses on controlling food quality is a perfect trade. The pandemic has caused enough setbacks already; why not seek the support of an industry leader? However, when customer questions are responded to by someone without first-hand knowledge of the restaurant, and when delivery times are inconsistent and dependent on third-party drivers, control over the food quality and customer experience is lost. The solution to this can be found in the pizza chain model.
The pizza chain model
Remember the days of calling your local pizza joint, ordering a large pepperoni pizza, and knowing that your order would arrive in a company car in 30 minutes or it was free? That dedicated level of customer service of yesteryear has been all but replaced by the growing demand for maximum options in one convenient location — at the swipe of an app. As the pandemic drags on, convenience and safety continue to take precedence over the novelty of dining out. Now is the time for restaurants to seek inspiration from the traditional pizza delivery model.
By transitioning to the autonomous pizza ordering model and keeping customer relations in-house, restaurants gain direct control over food quality and delivery times, reducing the risk of costly customer complaints that could jeopardize future orders. With restaurants having operated on razor-thin profit margins since long before the pandemic hit, adopting the in-house delivery services of traditional pizza parlours is crucial in helping restaurants reduce costs and stay afloat. With escalating fears of further closures, it’s imperative that restaurants take back ownership of direct engagement with their customers from third-party delivery apps to directly control customer service and, in turn, drive customer loyalty.
Leveraging technology to drive the future of delivery
Digital options are increasingly influencing where and how people order food, and the demand for online ordering and contactless payment options is only going to continue growing as safety and convenience drive customer decisions. While the traditional pizza delivery model has set the standard for owning customer engagement, nowadays, the thought of phoning in an order and then handing your delivery driver a crisp $20 bill in exchange for your pizza seems archaic considering the available digital solutions.
The pandemic has accelerated technology adoption in restaurants, with tools like Kitchen Display Systems (KDS) streamlining orders for efficient food preparation, online ordering options to send orders directly to restaurants, and touchless payment tools providing convenience while ensuring customer safety.
The future of delivery relies on digital solutions, and adopting in-house technology to drive customer loyalty will be imperative for restaurants to survive. We’re already seeing this shift as local restaurants overhaul their technology suites, develop independent loyalty apps, and launch new business streams through newly implemented technology. In doing so, restaurant owners take complete ownership of all aspects of engagement as they control and improve the customer experience and expand service offerings into pandemic-proof avenues.
By leveraging the growing demand for contactless ordering and payments solutions, restaurants can bring the pizza delivery model into the future, utilizing autonomous delivery services to regain ownership of customer engagement and drive the loyalty often lost during these challenging times. With digital solutions at our fingertips, adopting in-house ordering and delivery technology is imperative to pivoting services to add revenue streams, controlling food quality, and taking ownership over customer service standards — whether or not that guarantees delivery in 30 minutes or it’s free.
Brittain Brown is president of Givex. Since joining Givex in 2003, he has held various managerial roles in the National Accounts and Operations divisions and has been responsible for some of the company’s largest client successes. As president, Brown has driven Givex’s international expansion efforts and overseen the successful acquisition of new additions to the Givex family of companies.