Third-party delivery services have been true disruptors of the restaurant business, and—like most disruptions—have presented some jagged edges for operators to smooth. These services have forced the hand of several operators who hadn’t previously considered delivery but now offer off-premise meals to stay competitive, especially as millennials demand convenience.
One such chain, Los Angeles-based Umami Burger, officially entered into partnerships with several delivery services in the third quarter of last year. It’s been a process of trial and error, says Meghan Dwyer, Umami's head of marketing. Here are some lessons the better-burger chain has learned along the way.
1. Be prepared for the rogue deliverer
In-N-Out and Legal Sea Foods both made headlines when they sued deliverer DoorDash for delivering their food without permission. But this is the norm for the bigger third-party companies, says Dwyer. They deliver a concept’s food without permission and use the concrete numbers to sell the chain on partnering up.
That was the case for Umami Burger, which paired up with the services in part because customers expected to see the chain on the third parties' sites. The lesson, says Dwyer, was to keep in mind that not all delivery orders always come straight from customers. Many are placed by the third parties. Because of that, Umami is redoing its online ordering platform to accommodate both the influx of orders and the indirect contact with the customer.
2. Ask what deliverers wear
One third party that Umami has had success with: Amazon Prime. Part of the reason is the service's potential solution to a big problem: negative delivery experiences being attributed to the restaurant. Amazon’s deliverers wear either a shirt or hat clearly identifying them as Amazon employees, not employees of the restaurant.
Before joining forces with third-party deliverers, ask how the company conveys its independence from the brands it's deliverying.
3. Package smart
Dwyer admits that Umami’s burgers don’t necessarily travel well. It had to experiment and then train staffers on how to assemble its delivered burgers differently. For example, cooks were trained to hold buns for a specific time before adding the patty, so the bread didn’t get too soggy en route.
Amazon Prime gives its restaurant customers a bag branded with the delivery service's logo to pack the food in. Umami’s staffers put some to-be-delivered burgers in an Amazon bag, then handed it off to deliverers from another third-party service. Dwyer says the chain now trains staff to match the bags to whatever service relayed the order.