From delivery fees to online platforms, this index shares what restaurants need to know about off-premises dining.

Sponsored by Tillster.

With customer demand at an all-time high for off-premise dining, many restaurants are introducing or expanding their delivery options. But with so many brands offering delivery, simply having these services is no longer a differentiator. This means restaurants must elevate to stand out in a crowded market.

“It’s important to see how consumers have changed and what their expectations are,” says Hope Neiman, chief marketing officer for Tillster. “Interest in delivery has become more prevalent, but consumers are becoming more conscious of delivery costs and have increasing expectations.”

To help leaders determine what really matters in a quick-service or fast-casual restaurant delivery program, Tillster partnered with research firm SSI to produce the annual Tillster Delivery Index. This study compiles the results of a survey asking 2,000 customers about their delivery preferences and experiences.

In the study, more than 51 percent of quick-service and fast-casual customers said they would order from restaurants more often if delivery was offered. Additionally, 30 percent said that the feature they would most like to see more restaurants offer is delivery.

What may surprise some restaurant leaders, however, is that 50 percent of consumers prefer interacting with restaurants through brand-owned channels. Only 6 percent prefer ordering through aggregators—large ordering platforms that offer delivery service for many brands on their own websites.

“There is definitely still a place for aggregators,” Neiman says, “but we see consumers becoming more confident about wanting to go to their brand if that’s what they’re looking for. It’s the same as when you go to a restaurant—sometimes you want to try something new and are searching for recommendations, but sometimes you want to go directly to your favorite restaurant.”

Additionally, while third-party delivery doesn’t bother consumers, being sent from a brand-owned page to an off-site aggregator to place orders doesn’t appeal to them. “What we’ve seen and heard from consumers is that it’s okay if delivery is done by a third party, but they really want a brand experience, especially when it comes to ordering,” Neiman says. “But even if the delivery or pickup is brand agnostic, the experience should still be seamless no matter how an order is placed or how a customer pays.”

While consumers seem to be in favor of restaurant-owned apps and websites for delivery, however, the study makes it clear that this must be balanced with affordable service. In the study, 85 percent of customers said they would pay up to $5 in delivery fees. Additionally, restaurants that get creative by increasing menu costs instead of delivery fees may be surprised to learn that 70 percent preferred a designated delivery fee while only 10 percent said they would be comfortable with higher costs on delivery menu items.

“People have been burned by costs around delivery,” Neiman says. “They want to have transparency into that pricing, and willingness to pay fees does drop off steeply after $5. That seems to be the ceiling for now for a lot of people, unless they are ordering for a large group.”

Overall, however, the index paints a clear picture that restaurants have to maintain focus on the overall customer experience from ordering until the food arrives at the door. It’s no longer enough to be good at just one element—everything from the food and the delivery process to the online platform and ordering setup have to add to an enjoyable and cohesive brand experience.

“So often people in the tech industry are only focused on technology, but not the full and complete experience. And the experience speaks to the heart,” Neiman says. “That’s exactly what food is all about, and that’s what we’re about at Tillster. It’s about having the right type of technology that delivers what your brand stands for and offering that seamless experience.”

By Peggy Carouthers

Sponsored Content