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3 travel tips for your delivery menu

The growing demand for food delivery is transforming the way restaurants do off-premise business.
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Photograph: Shutterstock

Off-premise dining—takeout, delivery, drive-thru, curbside and food trucks—makes up 60% of restaurant traffic, according to the National Restaurant Association. Delivery typically lengthens food’s travel time. As more food leaves the restaurant, operators are assessing how well it travels and its quality when it arrives.

Delivery-friendly menu items ranked among the top 10 culinary trends in the Association’s What’s Hot 2020 survey, released in January. Conducted in partnership with Technomic, the survey reports responses from more than 600 American Culinary Federation chefs rating 133 individual trends in 12 categories.

Check out these three tips to enhance the quality of your delivery experience.

  1. Identify menu items that are delivery-friendly.

Which of your menu items are ordered most often for delivery? Do they travel well? These answers can give you a couple of ways to improve the quality of your off-premise business. You don’t have to include every item on your menu in your delivery menu—you can pare it to the items ordered most and/or that travel well.

For example, maintaining the quality of fried foods en route (chicken is one exception) can be tricky, especially french fries. Unless they’re thick-cut or have some bulk to them, they can lose heat and texture.

Instead of french fries, Nick Vojnovic of Palm Harbor, Fla.-based Little Greek Fresh Grill restaurants substitutes rice, potato salad or Greek potatoes that are heartier and dressed with olive oil; each holds up better door to door.

If fried foods are iconic to your brand, and it’s imperative that they be included for delivery, try to hold off frying them until the driver arrives, advises Larry Reinstein, CEO of LJR Hospitality Ventures. Even though it could add a few minutes to the delivery time, the fried food has a better chance of arriving hot and crisp.

In general, hot or cold items that have some weight to them retain their quality well in transit. Bowl meals, marinated items, scrambles, wraps, cold sandwiches, salads and soups are all good examples.

  1. Make sure the order is accurate and packaged to travel.

The best delivery-friendly meal is an accurate one. Double-check all orders. If the meal goes out incorrectly, you’ll have to work hard to win that customer back. It doesn’t take long for dissatisfied customers to comment on delivery apps and review sites.

Assign order-checking to one person on your team, and make sure they pay attention to the special requests.When asked “If you could hire an employee tomorrow, what would that person do for you?” Paul Damico, CEO of Naf Naf Grill, Chicago, says: “He or she would be expert in handling all online- and third-party delivery orders, guaranteeing they come out just as the customer ordered.”

Packaging itself is a hot issue. Steam, condensation, temperature, motion—think about the physical toll these factors can take on your delivery items, and choose containers accordingly. Provide packaging that separates items by temperature, holds up well and is tip- and leakproof. If you have to offer items that don’t travel well, find ways to wrap them better for delivery. Have you ever ordered from your own restaurant? The experience could be telling.

  1. Tamper-proof your packaging.

Ensure all delivery orders are packed securely so they can’t be tampered with. Reinstein notes that operators should make every effort to use tamper-proof packaging so the order arrives to the customer untouched, intact and as intended.

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