The holidays are upon us, and inflation is taking a bite out of menu planning. Ingredients for many Thanksgiving staples have increased in price by an average of 20 percent, driving many Americans—particularly Gen Z—to opt for meals of soup, salad, and pizza instead of splurging on groceries, per Bloomberg.

It’s no surprise that pizza tops the list of Thanksgiving alternatives. The pizza industry is widely considered one of the most convenient, affordable, and crowd-pleasing meal options, with sales in the U.S. alone topping $55 billion in 2022.

As pizza shops and casual-dining restaurants like Uno Pizzeria prepare for record-high order volumes this Thanksgiving, they need to make sure they’re making the most of increased demand and maximizing efforts to retain customers, providing an optimal delivery experience in order to build trust and cultivate repeat diners.

Here are three things pizza restaurants can do to make the most of heightened holiday demand:

Clearly communicate order updates to manage expectations

Food delivery mishaps are unfortunately common, and studies show that more than 60 percent will not order from a restaurant again after a poor experience. Establishing excellent communication practices is essential to ensuring customer satisfaction. If an order is set to arrive later than initially expected, clear and consistent updates can maintain customer trust and minimize frustration.

No matter what platform or technology is used to manage delivery operations, a comprehensive view of active and upcoming orders and delivery activity enables operators to spot outliers and update customers in real-time on the status of their orders, so they have an accurate idea of when to expect their food. 

Ensure delivery capacity and reliability, at all times

Whether a shop manages its delivery program in-house or outsources it to a third-party program, it is imperative that there’s enough delivery drivers to meet demand. Luckily, ensuring capacity can be drilled down to a science with the right technology.

Hybrid delivery technologies allow restaurants to streamline their offerings, algorithmically controlling which orders to handle in-house and which to outsource, tapping into the available fleets of third-party partners to maximize flexibility and control.

The average pizza restaurant spends an average of 10 minutes deciding to manually send an order to in-house or outsourced drivers. It may not seem long, but the added time can be all it takes for a customer to become unhappy with the quality of their food and experience. Look for technology partners that can automatically optimize operations to speed both delivery and overall satisfaction.

Maintain control of brand perception with personalization

A brand’s social reputation takes a big hit when customers post about a poor third-party delivery experience, with ratings declining as much as 1.5 stars when an outside service is mentioned, per Service Management Group. Whether a restaurant is a franchisee of a major chain, or a local pizza player, personalized service tailored to the local market helps set it apart.

Take control of brand perception, regardless of delivery provider, with branded tracking and promotional content. Consider using tracking links customized with your restaurant’s logo and promotional messages to maintain brand awareness on both in-house and third-party delivery orders. Promotions, loyalty programs, and targeted content can all be displayed in real-time on an order’s tracking page, increasing customer satisfaction and driving brand loyalty.

Some solutions also offer reputation management optimization, only encouraging customers who leave four or five star reviews to share their feedback on social sites like Google and automatically sending alerts to operators when a restaurant receives a one star review. This increases positive visibility while minimizing the likelihood of not-so-great reviews making it out to the open web.

These important touchpoints ensure you remain in control of the customer experience, ultimately leading to increased customer satisfaction and a better brand reputation.

By following these three simple tips, pizza operators can make the most of heightened demand this holiday season and turn new diners into lifelong customers.

Alex Vasilkin is the co-founder and CEO of Cartwheel. As a business leader and entrepreneur with over ten years in the delivery space, Alex Vasilkin has a passion for transformative technology that fuels business success. Cartwheel is the the leading technology provider powering the delivery operations of top restaurants like Portillo’s, P.F. Chang’s and Potbelly, where he is responsible for the strategic vision and day-to-day operations that drive Cartwheel’s impressive growth. Prior to founding Cartwheel, Vasilkin launched a restaurant with celebrity chef Govind Armstrong (quickly becoming the top delivery restaurant on GrubHub in LA) and founded delivery service Gourmet Runner (serving hundreds of restaurants in Los Angeles).

Outside Insights, Story