Calling the last couple of years a wild ride would probably be the understatement of the century. If adapting to the new consumer trends that millennials have brought to the table wasn’t hard enough, the covid-19 pandemic and the regulations it introduced into our daily lives grabbed the food business’s playing board and threw it out the window.
If we consider the way the world is turning, going back to the good old days of the pre-pandemic age seems more like wishful thinking than a plausible reality. However, as communications entrepreneur Alexander Graham Bell used to say: “When one door closes, another opens.” Instead of going back to the “good ol’ ” days, It is time to pivot. This might just be the perfect opportunity for the food delivery industry to make a great leap forward and embrace the digital world.
What is online food delivery?
Online food delivery is the process whereby customers order food online and get it delivered anywhere they want. There are different delivery options that customers can choose from.
The Internet age has changed the way the whole world goes to work, enjoys their leisure time, and interacts with their friends. The food delivery industry, already familiar with providing its services remotely via telephone, has taken the Internet by storm, using it to find new convenient ways to enhance the customer experience, despite current global challenges.
What are the main delivery options for restaurants?
Nobody likes waiting in lines, especially during the covid-19 pandemic. With priority ordering, waiting in line is a thing of the past. Apart from benefiting customers, it also helps restaurants manage order volume and inventory, since they know ahead of time the orders that need to be prepared at any given time
Online food ordering
A state-of-of-the-art online ordering platform will present your audience with an easy-to-use system, free of intrusive pop-ups and marketing practices that may intimidate potential clients. Nowadays, you can personalize the customer experience and make upselling easy thanks to artificial intelligence.
Online ordering opens up new ordering options for customers such as:
- Curbside pick-up: Restaurant staff members bring customers their orders at an appointed time. Many restaurants also offer deals to pick up orders during non-peak times to curb traffic. Curbside pick-up, which is also known as skip the line or order ahead, is both practical and safe.
- In-seat ordering: The whole food delivery service experience can be improved thanks to clients being able to browse menus, select orders and handle payment with the help of their phones, without having to wait to be served by an employee. Contactless ordering is a new customer favorite!
Delivery from local providers or third-party apps (marketplaces)
Apart from having their own online ordering system and mobile app, some restaurant owners also choose to work with third party apps (Uber Eats, DoorDash, GrubHub, etc.) or local delivery providers to reach new customers. If you choose to work with marketplaces, you should know that they take a percentage of every online order – this can be as high as 30%.
If you’re still unsure which delivery strategy is best for your restaurant, you should consider this: 78% of delivery orders are placed through the restaurant itself versus 22% via third-party delivery apps (source). A delivery strategy that combines both in-house ordering and third-party apps is therefore wiser than working solely with marketplaces. After all, having your own delivery system gives your business more control over the customer experience and allows you to save on high commission fees.
Top 9 food delivery industry trends that will change the future of restaurants
Millennials at the center of your strategy
Millennials as a buzzword has seen its share of modern controversies. If something can be said about the current generation is that as they become the majority of the world population, they are making drastic changes to the global market. The purchasing habits of millennials are vastly different from those of the generations that precede them, and this is reflected in their approach to food ordering.
While it may have been spearheaded by the millennial generation’s need to handle most of their activities online, it hasn’t taken long for people of all ages and walks of life to recognize the advantages of using digital platforms for online orders. In fact, research done before the start of the covid-19 pandemic by the National Restaurant Association shows that more than half of baby boomers have already embraced ordering their meals online.
New delivery channels
- Tweeting your order: Fast food chains like Wendy’s took to Twitter and revolutionized the way a food delivery service can reach its audience in 280 characters or less. Since then, the food business has seen the rise of new ways for users willing to improve their food ordering experience through tweets or other social media sites, presenting a plethora of options for adding a fun, engaging twist to online food delivery.
- Virtual assistants: Did you know you can make online orders with an emoji? Thanks to the help of a bot nicknamed Tom, Domino’s pizza novel food ordering strategy lets users effortlessly make online orders through the Facebook messenger app. Virtual assistants do not need bathroom breaks and can be programmed to offer your clients a personalized user experience with the same language they use to chat with their friends and family.
- Online orders through Smart TVs: Next time your favorite team’s game is at halftime, you may not even need to look at your phone to access online food delivery services. Smart takeaway services have been implemented on smart TVs as far back as 2012, and as science keeps making huge leaps forward, you may just need to speak your order as if you were at a drive-thru and your TV will do all the heavy lifting.
- Drive-thru innovation: Drive through has been around for years but it’s importance has grown significantly with the covid pandemic due to safety reasons. As such, restaurants have been looking for ways to improve the drive-thru experience. Many companies have adapted their drive-thru infrastructure and invested in larger canopies due to their adaptability and customization potential. Other brands such as Chipotle have implemented express ordering technology by building mobile pick-up lanes for customers who order online.
- Smart watch delivery services: Since the late 19th century people have been able to use their wrist watches to look at the time, and through recent developments in technology they can now also look at what’s for dinner. Smart watches’ customer base is on the rise, and through offering a smart watch food delivery app, you can make sure your customers have access to your food delivery service at the flick of a wrist, literally.
Futuristic delivery options
Tech giants seem to have gone on a binge of making everything “smart.” With customers using technological devices on a daily basis, it comes to no surprise that the restaurant industry seeks new ways to digitize their operations. Mobile kiosks for self-ordering have appeared in the past few years to respond to customer needs and we are now seeing the emergence of ghost kitchens which have no seating and operator on a purely delivery-only model.
So what’s the next step in restaurant digitization? Well, Green Summit Group, for example, is looking into delivery technology innovation and exploring technologies that could make it possible for robots or drones to deliver food (source).
Take advantage of new niches
- Virtual kitchens: With the growing market for online food delivery, the need for food delivery services rises while the need for physical restaurants diminishes. Also known as ghost kitchens, these businesses operate on a delivery-only basis without physical storefronts. Costs can be reduced and better repurposed to improve the customer experience.
- Subscription-based food delivery trends: Many businesses work on a subscription-based model. It is not uncommon for someone to have a subscription to a magazine or newspaper, but in the modern age, subscription options are endless. Indeed, food delivery services like Blue Apron take the subscription model to the next level and provide ingredients for customers to prepare their own homemade meals, with Chef-approved recipes to add to the charm.
Online grocery delivery
Nowadays restaurant delivery services compete not only with grocery and convenience stores but also with your next-door neighbor and their homemade cream-filled cupcake extravaganzas.
Multi-format stores have begun to prop up, ready to give restaurants a run for their money.
This sudden spike in competition poses a challenge to restaurants, who have to reinvent themselves and embrace future trends and stay ahead of this slowly blooming, but fierce, competition.
Augmented and virtual reality
Augmented and virtual reality are slowly but surely making their way into the food industry. These technologies are being leveraged in three main areas of restaurant businesses:
- Human resources: AR/VR technology is used for employee training. By creating a detailed visual world for workers, new hires are able to interact with their environment and learn different tasks. This allows restaurant owners to hire employees with different learning styles and increase the effectiveness of their training.
- Customer experiences: Experiences are all the rage nowadays since they generally activate all or most of our senses. With AR/VR technology, restaurants and food businesses can create interactive experiences and more easily get customers to perform certain actions. For example, SubliMotion in Ibiza lets diners go skydiving in Samsung Gear VR (source).
- Food products: AR/VR technology is also leveraged to make food products more interactive and provide customers with additional information. For example, Nestle produced boxes with a character from the movie Rio to provide customers with an AR game.
Cryptocurrency food orders
Forms of currency like Bitcoin or Dogecoin may sound worthless to you, but you shouldn’t ignore the fact that to many people those are perfectly viable forms to buy and sell goods and services. PizzaForCoins or Papa John’s Pizza are both examples of businesses that accept these new digital currencies. With the growing uncertainty of our times, learning more about how these markets operate may be a sound decision down the line.
By leveraging cryptocurrencies for orders, restaurants give customers more payment options and enhance the food ordering experience. Plus, using this type of currency makes it possible to reduce fraudulent transactions and activities.
Green and sustainable food delivery options
It is estimated that about 1.4 billion tons of food is wasted every year worldwide. These numbers may sound quite alarming, but on the bright side, food waste apps help tackle this problem. Such apps help grocery stores and restaurants get rid of their leftovers and provide it to people in need. For example, Food Rescue US is an app which encourages volunteers to transfer food surpluses from local businesses to social service agencies in order to end hunger in the United States.
Big data helps businesses improve the customer experience and make their operations more efficient. By collecting and analyzing data (road traffic, customer purchasing history, reviews, items in a shopping cart, etc.), restaurants are able to better estimate delivery times, personalize online orders, improve average ticket size through upselling, react proactively to customer complaints, etc.
For example, Just Eat analyzes customer purchase history data in order to better understand what type of food or menu items customers prefer, when they usually order and how often they order. Similarly, UEAT’s online ordering platform leverages artificial intelligence to track customers’ past orders and recommend favorite items when they order.
Want to digitize your operations and boost your sales?
It doesn’t matter if you work with delivery fleets, local food delivery services, or through fixed-rate marketplaces, UEAT’s restaurant online ordering system adapts to the needs of your business and customers. Thanks to our platform, you are able to offer on-foot delivery, enjoy fixed rates with local providers and marketplaces, and forget about high commissions.
If you wish to increase your ticket size, receive content tailored to the needs of your brand, and offer a personalized customer experience, feel free to contact us.