April 13, 2021

Should You Stay or Should You Go? Restaurant Delivery Apps in a Post-Pandemic World

By Steve Roop

Picture your diners’ COVID-era reality for a minute:

It’s Saturday night. Date night for your target customer. But instead of putting on his favorite jeans and pulling up to your restaurant, he’s parked on his couch scrolling through GrubHub (or DoorDash or UberEats, etc.).

2020 made eating in the new eating out. Are you adapting?


COVID Life Changed Our Takeout Tastes, For Good

It all started with the pandemic. We had to stay home so we had to order takeout. But even now, with the end of the pandemic (fingers crossed) in sight, many people prefer the convenience of delivery and eating in the comfort of their own homes.

What’s more, the way people order food from home has changed. They’re no longer limited to the pizza shop down the street with the one high schooler delivering to the neighborhood in his 2008 Ford Focus. Instead, people can choose from just about anything, including more upscale restaurants.

This is mostly thanks to delivery apps — which saw a massive increase in use (more restaurant adoption and more diners) this past year.

As a restaurant marketer, you might have scrambled at the beginning of the pandemic to get your restaurant on these apps. Have they been a pain ever since? Now, as more and more people are vaccinated and states are easing restrictions, are you tempted to offload these apps in favor of in-person dining?

We’re here to tell you why that’s a big mistake.

Why Restaurants Hate Food Delivery Apps

The anti-delivery app arguments are often the same from restaurant to restaurant. You might think:

  • They’re too expensive. Restaurant margins are already thin. Now GrubHub and friends want to take a cut of each order? Pass.
  • You have to limit your menu. Not all dishes are profitable on delivery apps. The prices of meat and seafood have already increased this past year, for instance. So, if you offer your filet via UberEats, you’re probably not going to make much money on it. At the same time, do you really want to tell your customers that some of their favorite dishes just aren’t available in-app?
  • You lose (some) control of the end user’s experience. That DoorDash delivery dude doesn’t work for your restaurant. Once an order is in his hands, you have no control over how it’s dispatched to your diner. Will the bag jossle in his backseat, spilling the salsa? Will he be courteous to your customer?

Debunking Your Anti-Delivery App Arguments

You’re not wrong. Each of those arguments hold some truth, and delivery apps aren’t perfect. But there are strategies to combat the downsides of app delivery.

Offset Delivery App Fees for Your Restaurant

First, think of limiting your menu as an opportunity to feature only your most profitable dishes. Consider how much money you can make from a fancy plate of pasta, for example. Customers are used to paying upwards of $25 for a plate of good pasta. Meanwhile, your cost to actually make that dish is low.

There’s also the option to charge a higher price on the app than you do in-house to recoup those fees. Diners are accustomed to the delivery prices in-app. They know they’re paying a premium for convenience. If they’re willing to pay, you should feel justified to charge a reasonably higher price.

Up Your Takeout Game to Support Your Delivery Service

It’s true you can’t control the behavior of that DoorDash delivery dude. Still, there’s a lot you can control when it comes to takeout orders to provide the best customer experience possible, given the circumstances.

Don’t just slap some food in a styrofoam container, throw it in a brown bag, and staple it shut. Pay attention to packaging, cooking speed (to ensure food is delivered hot), and the organization of your takeout orders.

Why Your Restaurant Needs Delivery Apps Post-Pandemic

Even if none of these methods to neutralize the negatives of delivery apps were available, we’d probably still recommend using them. Here’s why:

Blurred Lines Between Eating Out and Eating In Mean Delivery Apps Will Endure

Diners don’t necessarily feel like they have to eat in your restaurant to have a nice experience. Really, they can get delicious restaurant food at home, complete with added benefits — namely, no dishes and no pants.

We’re not saying no one prefers eating inside of a restaurant. Rather, we’re pointing out that diners order and consider meals differently after this past year. And that mindset is too ingrained to go anywhere now.

The ease of delivery apps is too good to pass up, too — even sans pandemic. You mean I can scroll and click and have any food I want delivered to my doorstep without ever talking to another human or leaving my living room? Yes, please.

Delivery Apps Expand Your Restaurant’s Customer Base

Delivery apps helped many restaurants recruit new diners who they would not have otherwise reached. That’s because these apps often deliver farther distances than a customer would be willing to drive to pick up food themselves. Apps also have a bigger delivery radius than an in-house driver might.

Additionally, groups of people tend to order together on these apps to offset their delivery fees. College students, coworkers, roommates, extended family — your food is often reaching many people with a single delivery. Maybe one roommate knew about your restaurant and the other didn’t. But now, thanks to the app, that latter roommate can order from you on her own next time.

Your Competition Is in-App — You Should Be Too

If you aren’t present on these delivery apps, you’re essentially forfeiting the game against your in-app competitors. It’s really that simple. If you want your restaurant to be in the running when hungry people are on their app of choice, you must be on that app.

After all, delivery apps are glorified advertisements for your restaurant. And if you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind.

Don’t be the only restaurant who ditches delivery apps once the pandemic is behind us — you’re essentially sending your customer to your competitor.