Restaurant chains start promoting delivery service

Denny’s, KFC and Chipotle are among the chains offering delivery deals as they work to offset dine-in sales declines.
Photograph courtesy of KFC

If customers can’t come in, restaurants might as well go to them.

As operators around the country close dining rooms to focus on takeout sales, many are offering free delivery and other incentives to get customers to order that way.

Late last week, Louisville, Ky.-based chicken chain KFC started offering free delivery through its website, Grubhub or Seamless, and has started using tamper-evident seals on all of its packages as well as contact-free delivery.

On Wednesday, Newport Beach, Calif.-based burrito chain Chipotle Mexican Grill announced a partnership with delivery provider Uber Eats and said that it is waiving the fee on any delivery order of $10 or more.

The deal expands Chipotle’s reach with delivery and adds another provider—the chain had been using DoorDash.

Tijuana Flats, a fast-casual Mexican chain out of Orlando, Fla., is offering free delivery on orders of $25 or more. Cowboy Chicken, a fast-casual rotisserie chicken chain is offering free delivery on all orders. And fast-casual Mexican chain Taco Cabana is offering free delivery through April 3.

Traditional dine-in chains are getting in on the act, too. Denny’s, the Spartanburg, S.C.-based family-dining chain, said Tuesday that it is waiving delivery fees until April 12.

Smokey Bones, the 60-unit full-service chain, said it is offering free delivery on orders of $15 or more through the end of this month.

Chains are pushing delivery because they have little choice. Nearly half of states have closed restaurants for dine-in service, meaning many companies can either push takeout and delivery or just shut their doors.

Delivery sales are widely expected to skyrocket as restaurants’ dine-in services are shuttered. Evidence from Asia as well as markets such as Seattle, which received the initial brunt of the COVID-19 shock, show that delivery sales have increased as customers stay home.

App Annie, a mobile data and analytics provider, said popular third-party delivery apps such as DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub represented three of the top five spots among iOS downloads.

It also said engagement with food and drink apps had increased 15% early this month already.

“Those that have delivery or can do takeout, try to push that as much as possible,” said Joe Pawlak, managing principal with Restaurant Business sister company Technomic.

More than a few chains have also added services to take on more takeout business. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, for instance, introduced curbside pickup earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Bakers Square and Village Inn have adjusted their own restaurants to offer curbside service for online orders.  

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