It’s 6.30pm. The sun stretches out over the distance. The winemaker – glass in hand – laughs hardily; her exuberance echoes throughout the vineyard.
There’s a good reason wine buyers avoid ordering shipments while visiting the grower. What works in the heady climbs of Southern France or Northern Italy, doesn’t translate quite so well to the offy in Northampton.
We're creatures of context
Restaurants already know this: Guests treat weekday and weekend meals differently, just as they do different days of the year (hello Valentines), and operators – wisely – follow suit. So, why do restaurants insist on offering the same choices to restaurant diners and those that order to their own homes?
Well, for one, expending energy on delivery can feel like tipping the taxman for bricks & mortar operators. A necessary evil it might be, but celebrating it verges on the macabre.
Mastering delivery, from a standing start, likely means varying the operating model too. New dishes and extended opening times mean more labour. Bespoke packaging costs more money. Why focus on delivery when this effort could be aiding the core business?
There is one thing you can do today, that exchanges a little effort into a large reward: Offer less. A lot less.
We're generally an anxious bunch
And struggle to make decisions when confronted with a wide array of options. Waiters help hurdle this obstacle in the restaurant, guiding guests towards their dining destiny, but at home, without such a provision, consumers can easily drift, and your competitor is just a click away from profiting from their inertia.
Your concept needs to be clear and memorable. You need to be famous for something.
Convenience is king
Unlike a restaurant diner, an online customer doesn’t need to plan their movements around their upcoming meal, nor are they captive to a particular location. Lucky them. They’ll order when they’re hungry, from anywhere within a reasonable radius.
This means more competition and less patience. And, with more customers than ever willing to trial a restaurant for the first time by ordering online (pronounced most amongst younger markets), those that attract and retain attention, will prosper.
23% of us now eat food delivery once a week
While a restricted delivery menu will suit explorative first-time and irregular diners, it may not enthral your most avid fans.
So, steal something from the restaurant. Offer specials. Change them up each week. Promote them on your social channels and via email. Continue to promote your delivery offer with fresh food, and fresh content. And just because a third party is delivering the food & drink, it doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities to stand out.
It is true that the ‘noise’ of ambience, service and location are dissolved by delivery platforms. The online experience is also largely undifferentiated.
Standing out in this context, should mean offering something that your audience wants and your competitors don’t, or won’t: If most of your delivery customers order to their office, then there’s a good chance they’re eating at the same time as their colleagues, and have a small window to order and eat in. Take advantage by offering large format lunch dishes – sushi for 6, for example – to appeal to the herd.
Get creative. And don't stop with the food
Delivery includes a facet that regular dining experiences do not: Unboxing. You can print personalised messages on packaging. You could store collateral in the bag, aimed at converting the online customer into a future restaurant diner.
Concentrating the offer should also improve food quality
Fewer dishes to prepare for the chefs, less complication for the driver – who doesn’t know your menu – at the beginning and end of their journey. In turn, this should get them out of your restaurant and into the customer’s doorway quicker.
Of course, not all the dishes you serve in the restaurant will travel well. Fish and chips need to breathe. Room temperature sushi loses its lustre. A cold burger…you get the idea. If the dish doesn’t taste up to scratch after half an hour in a box, cull it or order better packaging. You already do menu tastings right? Test the dishes for takeaway in the same sitting.
Delivery is a channel
Akin to a new service. Keep to your concept, but adjust your offer to match the needs of the audience.
And remember, you’re being gauged on the overall experience far more than Deliveroo or UberEats are.