Dickey's takes unorthodox path to lead franchisees into delivery

With early adapters seeing a 450% sales surge from delivery, the Dickey’s Barbecue Pit fast-casual chain has formed a headquarters committee to ease more franchisees into the service by taking on the heavy lifting.

The two-person group handles such tasks as negotiating the arrangement with third-party delivery services. The chain is currently working with about 50 of those outside transportation specialists, which range from big, nearly national brands to small local outfits. Typically, a franchise will strike a deal with every one that functions in its area.

“Right now it’s important to have every one of our operators signed up with every delivery partner, because our customers are app-loyal,” says Michelle Matthews, VP of direct sales and catering for 600-unit Dickey’s and one half of the committee. “Over 80% stick with one app, and you don’t know what they’re loyal to.”

Centralizing the negotiation process also enables Dickey’s to push for volume discounts from the big players on the fees they charge.

The committee also serves as a help center for finding solutions to delivery-related problems. Operations issues are directed to the right person on the headquarters support staff. Business questions are referred to the finance department, who can walk the franchisee through the sales and cost numbers.

The delivery committee also troubleshoots matters that might arise from a current relationship with a third party, with the aim of helping franchisees get optimum benefits from the arrangement.

“Our team is speaking to these vendors each and every week,” says Matthews. Among the frequent topics, she says, are branding and other marketing-related variables.

For instance, it’s crucial to get Dickey’s as far forward on the listing of delivery options showcased by the third parties on their respective apps.

There’s also the question of where customers are directed. Some operators want their coupons to specify that a deal is being offered in collaboration with Uber, and want the service’s logo to be included.

“We’re in the talks come 2018 about co-branding nationally,” she says.

Right now, she and fellow committee member Paula Suarez, aka Dickey’s VP of IT and development, stress that the focus is on getting every franchisee to try delivery. Some operations do self-delivery, but the easiest option is aligning with a third party.

“Third-party is wonderful—it’s a real opportunity for our operators,” says Suarez. “They’re not paying anything unless there’s new business. It’s a really big push.”

And not one without some resistance.

“Absolutely,” says Matthews. “Of course we have a late majority that want to see the results first.” But she’s ready with an observation that the upswing in sales has topped 400%.

Half the system has taken the plunge, and the committee expects to hit the 100% mark early next year.

The committee approach was born in hopes of allaying franchisees’ concerns and the ramp-up work. It hasn’t resolved all of the issues that chains have typically encountered in their dealings with third-party deliverers. There’s still the issue of the various tablets not speaking to Dickey’s POS system, as well as the shock of hearing what some of the services charge as a fee.

The committee and related departments are continuing to address those growing pains. For instance, Dickey’s is looking at a way to get all the various ordering systems to kick out a hard-copy ticket from a single printer. “And we’re looking at the stores,” to see how the format can facilitate delivery and takeout, says Matthews.

“This isn’t going away,” she continues. “This is the future.”

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