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As Washington state restaurants are impacted by bans on in-person dining, food delivery is especially high in demand.

While many small businesses and restaurants are hurting, even closing down permanently,[1]restaurants that offer delivery services have a chance to thrive. Taking this into consideration might have a restauranteur scrambling to offer delivery service to keep up with demand and serve the community. Here are a few of the most important things for restaurants to know if they want to start delivering or increase the capacity of an existing delivery system.

Do it yourself: In-house delivery

If you’d like to start delivering your food without letting anybody else in on the operation, you will have the most control over the quality of your food, but you’ll also have a greater share of the liability. The first hurdle will be taking orders and confirming them with the customer who ordered the food. Some restaurants may already be equipped to fulfill orders remotely, and others may need to tweak their old system, built for table service, not orders via phone. The good news is that it doesn’t need to be a complex process. Entering a customer’s credit card information manually into your POS system is no different from sliding their card after the wait staff has taken their bill. The biggest difference here will come at the end of the experience when the customer signs their bill and has a chance to tip. We have more on that below.

What’s new

The biggest change to standard delivery in Washington State will be conforming to the “no-contact delivery” method being used by third-party delivery services, chains, and local restaurants alike.[2] While this has not been mandated, delivery services have all started to use a similar method.[3] The concept is this: When the delivery driver reaches the customer’s door with their food, they set the food down somewhere near the door, knock, and step away from the door, placing anything that needs to be signed and/or a receipt with the food. The customer can then open the door and (with their own pen), sign the receipt and collect the food. The driver will wait until they have closed the door, grab the receipt and return to the store just like any other delivery. It is important that when the customer calls into the store to order, the person taking the call informs them of their no-contact delivery policy and asks them to bring their own pen to the door if they need one. It would look a little odd if you didn’t know what was going on.

Insurance?

As insurers have seen a rise in automobiles used as personal and business vehicles, and as third party delivery has gained prominence, they have streamlined their process and policy in regard to changing the designation for your policy at a moment’s notice[4].[5] Most delivery drivers should be able to call their insurer and tell them they will be using their vehicle on the job.[6] This will ensure they are covered and that they know the extent of their coverage so there are no surprises should something go wrong. From the business side of things, you are shielded from most liability as well. However, standardizing the coverage for your employees with non-owned vehicle liability insurance, or commercial insurance, is recommended if in-house delivery becomes a permanent fixture of your business.

Getting the word out

If you’re a restaurant that wants to offer delivery for the first time, it’s fair to wonder how people would know you are offering it. The answer is digital. As it becomes more cost-effective, a lot of businesses have wondered how much of their marketing budget should be transitioned into digital advertising. This is a perfect time for you to test some of your ideas out. Social media will be important, and that is how many restaurants with changing hours and offers are communicating. After all, people may have a lot of time to share and post. In addition to a strong social media presence, you may want to make sure your Google MyBusiness profile is up to date with any additional services or modified hours. If you can afford to market on Google or Yelp when people are searching for delivery in their area, it could turn out to be effective as well.

Less commitment for less reward: the third-party option

Offering in-house delivery is not as daunting as it seems, but what if you already have staffing issues? Maybe it’s just you back there in the kitchen and you can barely find someone to work the register, let alone hire a fleet of mobile waiters. That’s where the everpresent third party delivery industry comes in to play.

Many services offer flexible plans that allow you to make use of their drivers when your own may be overwhelmed by orders. You can set up a service where you can take orders on your own system and call these third-party services with a few-minutes notice to have them deliver your food. Pizza places have made use of this during rush times, when delivery times can spiral out of control and be unsatisfactory to customers.[7] In this scenario, a customer will order from their favorite pizza place in the usual way, and in 30 minutes their pizza is delivered by a third-party driver. The customer gets a timely delivery, regardless of how busy you are.

Each service’s terms and fees vary, so you will have to inspect the options and see what makes the most sense for your business, but they are typically priced well below profit margins. This method works in a pinch, but there is no reason it can’t work for an extended period of time.


[1] https://seattle.eater.com/2020/3/11/21174534/belltown-local-360-closes-due-to-coronavirus-impact

[2] https://sf.eater.com/2020/3/12/21175886/postmates-doordash-grubhub-no-contact-covid-19

[3] https://www.delish.com/food-news/a31469056/coronavirus-food-delivery-non-contact-policies/

[4] https://www.netquote.com/business-insurance/business-insurance-articles/on-demand-delivery

[5] https://www.thebalancesmb.com/will-my-car-insurance-cover-me-if-i-deliver-pizza-527070

[6] https://www.progressivecommercial.com/business-insurance/pizza-delivery-insurance/

[7] https://table.skift.com/2019/03/18/pizza-chains-usher-in-new-era-in-delivery-through-third-parties/