Restaurant owners understand that online ordering is an essential element of the business, but the statistics are still astonishing. For example, online food ordering has grown 300% faster than dine-in since 2014, accounting for approximately 40% of restaurant sales. This makes sense, since 60% of Americans admit to ordering meal deliveries at least once a week.[1]

Restaurant owners who don’t pursue the integration of a third-party delivery service into their offerings are not only missing out on potential revenue, but they could also be leaving various additional benefits on the table. Here’s what you need to know.

Benefits of Integrating a Delivery Service

Restaurants that use third-party delivery services outsource their food delivery services to these companies. The third-party service essentially acts as a go-between for the business and the consumer, handling the logistics of food pick-up from the restaurant and delivery to the customer.

Like any new service, bringing on a third-party delivery company comes with pros and cons. However, restaurant owners who are concerned about cons, like the implementation strategy and costs associated with adding a third-party delivery service to their operations, should also carefully consider the benefits.

  • A more streamlined delivery service: Even if you already offer delivery, it’s not likely that your current service offers all the bells and whistles that come with most third-party services these days. Customers appreciate the ability to track their order from placement and restaurant pick-up to travel time and drop-off, often all in real-time and with updates directly to their phone. They're often provided with the name of their delivery person, and can leave messages in the app afterwards to rate their experience. Personalizing delivery in this way is an opportunity to put customers in charge of their meal experience, even when they never step foot in a restaurant.
  • A burgeoning customer base: Using a third-party service for your food delivery introduces your company to a new set of consumers who are loyal to the third-party service you use. For example, 31% of Americans say they’ve used a third-party food delivery service at least twice a week.[2] Since many third-party services offer discounts when consumers purchase a certain amount of food or pay with a specific card, customers may be more likely to order from your restaurant when these perks are publicized directly on the third-party app or website. 
  • A potential for increased revenue: Restaurants that have implemented a third-party delivery service have seen restaurant sales volumes rise by 10 to 20%.[3] Those numbers speak for themselves. 
  • An ability to free up talent: Rather than sending out your own delivery drivers who may or may not have additional responsibilities in the restaurant, outsourcing delivery to a third-party service gives you the peace of mind in knowing your food delivery is being handled professionally, while freeing up your staff to focus on keeping your brick-and-mortar business running smoothy and efficiently.

How to implement a third-party delivery service

Before considering if a third-party delivery service is right for your business, do a little research to find out how your customers prefer to experience the meals that you offer. Provide an online survey and do in-restaurant polls to ensure there is a desire for delivery. Chances are there is, and that offering one will only add to your business' bottom line.

Once you’ve weighed the pros and cons of implementing a third-party delivery service and concluded that it’s time to try one out for your own business, these steps will help you do so efficiently.

  1. Get to know the laws regarding third-party services in your state. Before doing anything else, investigate any federal, state or city laws that are applicable to food delivery services in your area. In New York City, for example, there are several laws that deal with third-party food delivery service.[4] You’ll want to ensure whatever service you go with follows all of them.
  2. Choose a few aggregator or service providers. This will be the bulk of your work. Going with the most popular options will probably garner you a larger audience, but the fees could be higher. Fees are important when comparing options, but also look for streamlined and seamless checkout processes, overall marketing presence, reputation, and customer reviews of the app, as well as the maximum distance allowed for delivery. 
  3. Call for clarification. The onboarding process is different for different providers. Call potential partners and ask for any clarification on how they work and what you would need to do on your side to get started. When it comes to fees pay attention to commission rates, delivery fees and additional charges. 
  4. Create your account. Again, this process could be different depending on who you decide to work with. In most cases, though, once you’ve picked a service, the next step will be integration. Especially if you don’t have a technical team to help you — and if you aren’t tech savvy yourself — pick a company that offers plenty of assistance in this area. You’ll need to integrate their ordering system into your restaurant’s operations and work together to ensure a smooth synchronization of your menu onto their platform. During this phase you’ll also want to focus on fine-tuning your online menu options so that offerings are clear, concise and appealing.
  5. Think through your process. During integration you might also be given the option between receiving orders through the service's app or through integration within your own point-of-sale system. Carefully consider which would be the easiest for your team and best for your business. 
  6. Train your staff. Adding a third-party delivery service will hopefully alleviate some pressure from your in-house restaurant staff, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have any work to do for deliveries. You’ll still need to train your staff so they understand how to process and fulfill food delivery app orders, as well as the best way to get a hold of your delivery service, should they need to.

Once your third-party service has been implemented, be sure to monitor its performance and adjust as necessary. With delivery service under your belt, you can move on to additional innovative revenue streams to consider. Whatever your restaurant business needs may be, PNC can help.