Delivery-only restaurant operations: How to set up a restaurant delivery service during the coronavirus quarantine

The restaurant industry has suffered from the coronavirus outbreak among the first. With more people advocating for a shutdown of dine-in locations and governments’ mandatory limiting restaurant operations, restaurant owners have to make a hard choice between limiting their services or closing their locations completely until it's safe to reopen.

The experience of China and Italy shows that shutting down dine-in locations is not an overreaction but an effective measure of slowing down the spread of the virus. If you want to stay in business and cater to people during the quarantine, you should act now and launch your own restaurant delivery service. 

It appears that the COVID-19 outbreak has boosted one of the latest restaurant industry trends, which is food delivery. Learn whether shifting operations to a delivery-only model is a good restaurant crisis management plan for your location.


1. Estimate if doing restaurant food delivery is worth your effort

Figuring out how to launch a food delivery service in a restaurant that hasn’t done delivery before is not an easy task. If something stopped you from doing delivery earlier, you probably have reasons for not doing it during a crisis. Still, chances are you can adapt your operations, bring back some business lost because of the introduction of social distancing measures, and let your team earn their wages during those hard times. Just be realistic and weigh the pros and cons before you jump in.

2. Provide a safe environment for your employees

Screen all employees when they come to work and don’t take on duty anyone showing flu symptoms. Ask everyone to wear face masks and gloves, sanitize their hands, kitchenware, and all surfaces regularly. Stock up with the disinfectant products recommended by your local health care organization.

3. Inform people about the steps you take to ensure safety

Follow the food safety best practices introduced by leading delivery services and let people know that you approach food delivery responsibly. Offer your customers contactless delivery and ask your employees to remind people to sanitize their hands before they open packages. Share the information about your food safety measures and delivery process via your website and socials.

4. Optimize your preparation process and reduce costs

Reduce your delivery menu to an optimal set of popular dishes with simple recipes and short preparation times. Delivery orders may come all at once, which means you’ll have rush hours. For not to lose sales during peak times, your staff should be able to process every order and ensure the high quality of food and acceptable wait time

5. Start promoting your restaurant delivery service right away

Avoid uncertainty and make your marketing messages timely, informative, and clear. Your potential customers should be able to find all the information they need to place an order on your website, socials, and third-party platforms as soon as you’re ready to take the first order. 

6. Don’t make third-party food delivery your only option

If you haven’t partnered with any third-party restaurant delivery service before, it would be very hard to sign a contract with them in this situation. Even if your POS integrates with 3rd party food delivery, like Poster POS and Uber Eatstheir couriers may quickly get overloaded by orders from other restaurants which can result in lost sales and bad service. 

7. Launch your own online ordering platform

Use your website and social media accounts to take orders from your customers directly. Check if your restaurant POS system allows you to conveniently handle phone orders and online orders from different platforms and integrates with apps that allow you to launch own online ordering fast. Make sure the menu available online on different platforms is synced, updated timely, and you can quickly stop taking orders if your staff can’t cope with the workload.

8. Motivate your waiters temporarily become couriers 

Ask your employees to temporarily change their responsibilities and earn their wages by delivering food to your customers instead of sending them home. Your waiters have already communicated a lot with the representatives of the restaurant delivery service business and they know how this work should be done. In this case, it won’t take you a lot of time to instruct your new delivery team.

9. Offer a limited menu with items that travel and heat up well

Many restaurant owners who are going to deliver food to customers bet on the delivery classics, like pizza or sushi, and you should probably do just that. Alternatively, you can offer combo meals for families for a different number of people and sets of three meals for the whole day. Add bottled soda or juices to your menu. Don't forget to include some vegetarian options and dishes that children love to eat!

10. Be thoughtful about your pricing structure

Take into account your delivery costs when pricing your menu and be transparent with your customers. Communicate the reasons for the prices and ask people for support. Your customers value your service and understand that this is a difficult time for your business. So, make sure the food profit margins will allow you to earn money. It’s not about taking advantage of people, it’s about the viability of your business.

11. Encourage cashless payment options

Cash handling is becoming a problem. People may prefer to pay by card in advance and request contactless delivery. You should provide customers with those options and make handling payments safe and simple both for your customers and employees.

12. Choose the right food delivery packaging

When you set up your restaurant delivery business operations you should stock up with packaging. If you don’t have much of it in stock, you should better order it now and check if it ensures safety during transportation, doesn’t leak, keeps the right temperature of food, etc. Put cards with safety and reheating instructions into packages. When people are scared to receive contaminated food, your delivery packaging should help make their fears fade away.

13. Ensure the accuracy of your food delivery 

Have a proper procedure in place to handle orders without a hassle to avoid orders going to the wrong customers, late deliveries, bad reviews, and refunds. Assign an expediter who will check each delivery order for accuracy against the order in your POS system and resolve delivery tickets if a mistake took place. Provide customers with a contact number they can call with any concerns or complaints.

14. Set up the right expectations about delivery times

Make realistic estimates about how long it will take to cook, package, and deliver food. Take into account your delivery radius and instruct your staff to provide customers with accurate information about delivery time for their orders. Thank people for ordering from you and encourage them to place their next orders in advance.

15. Launch frequent diner loyalty programs

Put low-amount gift cards for a future order into every package, include a thank-you item or offer a discount for every fifth dinner to incentivize people and encourage them to keep ordering food delivery from you. You can also put vouchers for a discounted dinner at your restaurant with an open date to encourage people to visit your restaurant after reopening

When deciding how to start a restaurant delivery service these days, don’t forget that you should maximize your profit margins. Face it, you won’t be able to get 100% of your business back anyway. It’s also important to remember that operating as a delivery-only restaurant during the COVID-19 quarantine, you’ll stay in touch with your most loyal customers. Despite all the stress try to keep the high standard of service. People ordering delivery from you may be the first to come in your door when you reopen after the global shutdown. 


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