Restaurants have been utilizing third-party delivery services for years, but what was previously just a convenient option for some customers became a necessity during the pandemic. These delivery services have fundamentally shifted the way people get their food from restaurants. Even as the world opens back up, the new systems are here to stay.

Restaurants that have been able to maintain or even grow their business have had to either adopt the third-party delivery system entirely or adjust their usage of it to optimize its functionality. Prior to the pandemic, 80–85 percent of Your Pie’s business came from in-store sales. Like many other chains, it is pivoted out of necessity with 55 percent of sales now coming from off premise customers.

Restaurants who opt to use third party delivery services can enjoy a range of different perks that may both increase business and help things run smoothly. Opting into a third-party service will give access to a range of customers who might not have reached otherwise, particularly in the midst of a pandemic. People are able to “travel” farther and with more variety using their mobile devices from home than they may have considered previously, possibly putting your restaurant directly in their eyeline.

Franchise restaurants have taken on a greater role in managing relationships with delivery services. Just a few years ago, it was kind of every person for themselves. Different franchise owners would cut their own deals and set up individual relationships with delivery services. Pricing was less than ideal, and there wasn’t much continuity or consistency. We’ve been able to reign that in lately, fostering a more symbiotic relationship for all parties involved.

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Your Pie was able to pivot early on during the pandemic by shifting one of our top operations performers into a new position as our off-premises marketing manager, serving as a direct liaison to partnered delivery platforms. Many of these providers have grown so fast that there has been rapid personnel turnover. Restaurants are wise to elect someone internally to oversee that relationship with the brand’s message in mind. Developing the relationship between restaurant and delivery service providers presents broader marketing opportunities, delivery specials, promotions, etc.

Fostering open and direct lines of communication between restaurant and delivery service is mutually beneficial and essential to maintaining revenue, particularly during a time when dine-in options have been limited. Early on with delivery service, any problems or customer complaints focused squarely on the restaurant, regardless of if the problem had transpired after the food left the premises. Operators had little control over the customers’ experience which, if negative, could negatively impact their business. But lately, third-party services are realizing that they need to be part of the solution. There is an effort and realization with all the providers that they need to take a more active role in being supportive and helping resolve problems when they arise.

Integrating delivery service providers directly into point-of-sale systems is a feature that was sped up due to the pandemic. Aside from avoiding premiums tacked onto orders placed through third-party apps and websites, restaurants are able to accumulate customer data that will help inform marketing strategies. They can now receive direct feedback on team members’ performance from guests and drivers as well as customer thoughts on menu items. They can also examine successful marketing strategies and benchmark numbers from other restaurant partners. Many of us have experienced the chaos of having several tablets on the counter, interfacing with multiple services during peak dining hours. Now a streamlined system will vastly improve kitchen operations, particularly during delivery rush hours.

There is no question that third-party delivery services are here to stay. The main focus at this point will be the continued effort to improve the customer experience so it is seamless for both the customer and the restaurant operator. Moving forward, we need to focus on how to make these partnerships equitable for both parties and the customer.

Dave McDougall is the CEO of Your Pie.

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