Food deliveries: how to promote your business and increase sales

Are you considering setting up a food delivery service, or just want to improve yours and get more customers? Here are our top tips

The delivery market has been growing in recent years with aggregators Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats exploding the takeaway landscape. And then Covid-19 arrived and accelerated this trend even further. In January-October 2020, customer spend on deliveries jumped by a huge 40%.* 

During the pandemic, businesses have diversified into deliveries or click and collect to keep the cash coming in and reach new customers, and many more are likely to take the plunge with the restrictions expected to last for many more months. Here we have pulled together all the essential information you need to consider if you’re thinking of starting up food deliveries or you want to improve your takeaway game.

Packaging

This is important. The last thing a customer wants is a box full of soggy, squashed food that’s leaking out the side. Your packaging needs to look attractive, and ideally be recyclable to appeal to the eco-conscious. Card or foil boxes are perfect as they tend to be sturdy. Add a paper insert to avoid food sweating. This is especially important with fried food. Put sauces and dressings in small separate pots so customers can add as much (or as little) as they like. And make sure your hot sauce pots have holes in the top to avoid explosions!

Woman putting food delivery in bag

Logistics

If the delivery apps are in your area, you have a choice: use their delivery platform for orders and deliveries, just use them for orders and manage your own deliveries or go it alone. It’s a difficult decision.

The biggest downside of going with an app is the cost. Each deal is individually negotiated, however, the commission on orders could be up to 30%. This cost should be balanced against the lucrative advertising the platforms offer though. Getting your menu under the noses of thousands of customers could justify the cost.

One of the most important factors with deliveries is speed. Customers are likely to go elsewhere next time if your delivery is slow and the food arrives in poor condition. Be accurate with your communications and give customers an honest estimate of how long the wait will be. They’ll respect you more for that.

Pricing

Should you charge your normal menu prices or reduce them? Or increase them to balance out the delivery and packaging costs? It’s a tricky one. Look at what your competitors charge and align it with that.

Unilever Food Solutions’ Food Delivery Guide recommends offering menu add-ons. Extra cheese or bacon on a burger can encourage customers to spend a bit more and raise your margins.

Burger

Marketing

Marketing is where the delivery apps really come into their own as they will do a lot of the marketing for you and you’ll be able to pick up new customers who might have never heard of your business before.

Social media is also your friend here – make sure all your followers know you offer deliveries. Run opening promotions to get the word out. Make sure you have a sign outside your venue and a poster in your window advertising your delivery service.

Get yourself noticed and increase future custom by including a discount on eating in at your venue in the delivery order. The White Swan Inn in Pickering put their full menu in with their deliveries to show customers the breadth of food they offer if they visit in person.

The menu

Think about what will travel well. Intricately plated dishes are unlikely to get to your customers looking their best. Don’t be restricted by your normal menu. Maybe adjust your delivery offering to just your bestsellers or one item that has lots of variations like burritos or burgers. Think carefully before adding chips to the menu – they don’t travel well and are likely to arrive soggy. Tater tots (deep fried balls of grated potatoes) are a good alternative, and you could sell a dip to go with them.

Takeaway food
Halloumi fries

Sauces and sides

1 Offer ‘good, better and best’ on sauces. For example, with a roast try add-ons –gravy for 50p, a red wine gravy for £1 or a Merlot jus for £1.50.
2 Create an enticing sides menu to increase spend. Halloumi fries and garlic bread packed with parmesan and bacon bits go down well.
3 Go premium on your fish and chip sauces. Customers will pay extra for truffle mayo, homemade tartare or sweet chilli.

Something to remember

With the delivery market being more competitive than ever, experiment with different strategies to make your food stand out. Just Eat’s Head of Strategic Accounts, Amy Heather says businesses are becoming inventive: “One of our restaurants gives a children’s colouring page when customers order from the kids’ menu.” Little things like this are great for word of mouth and repeat custom.

At the weekends or for a big sports game, consider a ‘cinema night’ or ‘big match day’ meal bundle. Pre-made desserts such as cheesecakes, bottled drinks and snacks can boost your revenue for little effort.

"What we learnt from doing deliveries for the first time"

“We’d never done deliveries before Covid-19 hit and hadn’t really considered it,” says Victor Buchanan, owner of The White Swan Inn in Pickering. “We put the team on furlough during lockdown but we wanted to keep spirits up so we volunteered to make meals for local hospital staff.

“To fund these meals, we decided to offer deliveries to our local community which was a great success. Around 50% of customers were shielding and the other half wanted a nice restaurant-quality meal. After we re-opened, we delivered to shielders only but with the increased restrictions and lockdown before Christmas, we restarted our general delivery offer as well.”

The White Swan at Pickering

“My biggest piece of advice would be to stick to what you know. We did roasts on a Sunday and fish and chip Fridays, limiting the number of covers to 50. This way we knew we could still deliver a brilliant meal. Packaging was a bit trial and error to begin with. Don’t put hot gravy in a tub with no holes in it – we learnt the hard (and explosive) way! Thermal bags are essential to keep the food warm in transit. We bought three which is fine for 50 covers.

“Deliveries have been a brilliant way to market our business. Only around 10% of orders were from existing customers, so it’s opened us up to lots of new people. I’ll be honest, I’d much prefer to have a full restaurant but we can’t just sit here doing nothing. In these tough times, we have to go to our customers.”

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