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Food Delivery Boom Disrupts Fast-Food Operations A boom in food delivery services is disrupting how fast-food restaurants serve their customers. Third-party deliveries from fast-food restaurants rose nearly 30% in 2023 over the previous year, according to Delaget, an industry research firm. In some ways, deliveries by DoorDash, GrubHub, Instacart, UberEats, and other services have benefited […]

June 15, 2024

Food Delivery Boom Disrupts Fast-Food Operations

A boom in food delivery services is disrupting how fast-food restaurants serve their customers.

Third-party deliveries from fast-food restaurants rose nearly 30% in 2023 over the previous year, according to Delaget, an industry research firm. In some ways, deliveries by DoorDash, GrubHub, Instacart, UberEats, and other services have benefited everyone involved. Consumers have more choices and greater convenience in enjoying prepared foods they can eat at home. Delivery services make it easy for restaurants of all kinds to sell food to more consumers than they might otherwise reach. And delivery drivers have more work.

Deliveries have taken a chunk out of fast-food operators’ drive- through sales, however, which dipped 8% in 2023 to a six-year low, according to Delaget. And behind the scenes, the delivery service boom has forced some changes in operations.

First, the trend can cause a traffic jam in the kitchen because consumers and in-restaurant diners tend to want their meals at roughly the same time. While fast food operators are happy to do more transactions, they can be swamped by the combination of delivery and in-store orders that all arrive around breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Second, orders and delivery drivers don’t always arrive when expected. If the kitchen staff preps ingredients such as burgers and fries too far in advance, the food quality suffers. And finally, big successes in third-party delivery also bring added traffic into your parking lot and store. If one-fourth of your business is for delivery, that means 25% of your parking lot and staff time are consumed by people who aren’t actually customers. This can add significant stress to staff and create frustration among in-restaurant diners too.

How to cope? Pizza restaurants are an example of a model that could work for other operators, according to Meredith Sandland and Carl Orsbourne, authors of “Delivering the Digital Restaurant.” By setting up standalone kitchens to take and deliver digital orders, restaurant operators regain control over the timing of food preparation and the quality and efficiency of the delivery staff. A growing number of restaurants are adopting this model, but consumers accustomed to using DoorDash and UberEats are slow to change. Much will depend on restaurants’ skill and marketing to place their delivery services front-and-center with consumers.

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