Portillo’s, a 62-unit fast casual based in Chicago, has the same objective.
Dino Northway, Portillo’s senior manager of off-premises dining, says the restaurant always knew it wanted to own the delivery experience, and COVID only validated that wish. He explains Portillo’s self-delivery program was a way for the brand to get outside the four walls and bring its “world-class experience” directly to guests.
The new program cross trains employees and allows them to earn wages plus tips. Drivers must be at least 18 years of age, have a vehicle, have a valid driver’s license, and must be able to show proof of insurance.
“The operations teams are world-class,” Northway says. “You can see it in the dine-in, the drive-thru, and now it’ll be with self-delivery. Part of the reason why Portillo's historically has been committed to training. Instead of spending money on advertising, we spend money on training programs, and restaurants run like well-oiled machines. Our operators lead with greatness and train for greatness by setting standards and quality and service, and that’s how we reach our highest AUVs in the industry [$7.27 million].”
The company will continue to partner with DoorDash and Uber Eats. Internal delivery is being rolled out now and into September.
Northway says that for Portillo’s, it was a matter of thinking about where the restaurant industry is headed. The company just wants to ensure that it’s in control of its own destiny.
“Having our own delivery drivers, we can offer catering delivery and set-ups,” Northway says. “That’s something you can’t get through a third-party marketplace. We have a goal to create an unrivaled experience for our amazing guests and controlling the full experience from ordering through self-delivery is a way we can do that.”
When Morgan thinks about internal delivery, he’s reminded of the “unobtainable triangle”—fast, cheap, and quality. The idea is that a company can only master two out of three. For example, a restaurant can be fast and inexpensive, but there won’t be quality.
However, the way Original ChopShop is organizing delivery, all three can be accomplished. Morgan says orders from a company driver are 25 percent less expensive, delivered up to 15 minutes faster, and brought to customers’ doorsteps by an Original ChopShop employee.
Morgan will be the first to acknowledge that hiring, training, and retaining drivers is a daunting task. Profitability becomes an issue because the restaurant needs enough deliveries to make money or breakeven. Margins are thin, and there’s little room for error.
He adds that so far, Original ChopShop is reaching that profitability in terms of fees versus expenses used to deliver the orders.
The CEO says it’s about combining the right people, training, and tools with accurate and timely data.
“We’re constantly watching what’s happening and tweaking it. It’s one of the benefits of being the small company that we are,” Morgan says. “We’re very nimble and can pivot when we need to pivot, and so I think that’s what will ultimately make us successful. … The more we do it right, the more we’re going to drive additional business to us. It is going to have this snowball type of effect.”