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By Dana Krook
Demand for restaurant delivery is growing at a rate of 15% per year. According to our State of Full Service Restaurants report, delivery was a lucrative revenue stream for restaurants even before the COVID-19 pandemic, when it accounted for 11% to 20% of sales.
Since the pandemic began, delivery has become an even more popular choice among consumers. And it’s not just because of third-party food delivery apps. As one study found, nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) ordered food delivery from a restaurant instead of using a food delivery app like DoorDash (12%), Grubhub (11%), or UberEats (6%).
Clearly, delivery is here to stay and fulfilling these lucrative orders isn’t possible without food delivery drivers.
But how do you know if you should hire in-house drivers or use a third-party fleet?
In this guide to restaurant delivery drivers, we answer those questions and more, including:
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Restaurants have two options when it comes to fulfilling online ordering deliveries: hiring food delivery drivers in-house, or using a third-party fleet.
What’s the difference between these two options?
Hiring your own restaurant delivery drivers gives you greater control over the delivery experience.
Still not convinced that using in-house delivery drivers is the best option?
Here are eight advantages of using them over third-party delivery services.
In-house delivery drivers report to you, which means you can train them on how you want things done at your restaurant.
While the focus of a third-party restaurant delivery service is to fulfill as many orders as possible, at the expense of quality, you can train your drivers to balance speed with service quality.
Some third-party services don’t let you communicate directly with a driver if there is a delay or mistake. But with in-house drivers, it’s easier to alert customers of delays because there’s a direct line of communication between you and your drivers.
Drivers feel a greater sense of duty when they have a solid relationship with their managers, and when they have one manager rather than dozens of clients. In much the same way that drivers for car sharing apps work for multiple apps to make a living, many food delivery drivers that work for third-party delivery services work with multiple companies.
When you employ in-house delivery drivers, you get to use your own team to fulfill orders. That means that you get to know your drivers and build relationships with them. You can also hold them accountable for the service and the final product you’re offering customers, much more easily than you could a third-party driver.
Third-party delivery fleets take a deep cut of your profits for using their services. Popular online ordering systems like Uber Eats and Grubhub, which deliver orders on behalf of restaurants, can take more than 30% of sales for orders made on their platforms.
What does payroll look like for an in-house food delivery driver?
Let’s say the average restaurant generates $1.5m in yearly sales. While delivery made up 20% of a restaurant’s business before the pandemic, that figure is closer to 40% now. That would mean that the average restaurant generates $600k annually from delivery orders. If a third-party delivery service keeps 30% in fees, that’s equivalent to $180k. The median restaurant delivery driver’s annual salary is $42.5k. Do the math and you’ll find that even if you hired two full-time delivery drivers, your restaurant would save almost $100k by hiring your own drivers.
Overall, in-house restaurant delivery drivers are more affordable than third-party delivery services.
When you leave online order delivery to your team, you can cross-train your front-of-house (FOH) staff to double as delivery drivers when dine-in demand is low. This is useful for multiple reasons.
First, if you have staff who can play double duty, you’ll have to hire fewer full-time restaurant delivery drivers. Second, your FOH team is already intimately familiar with providing great customer service and will be able to transfer their skills to their deliveries. Third, if you’ve had to furlough employees because of the pandemic, this may give you the opportunity to bring them back rather than hire new staff that you need to train from scratch.
When a customer orders delivery from your restaurant online, they may interact with nobody from your restaurant but the delivery driver. Drivers will be the face of your restaurant in such cases, so it’s crucial that they leave a good impression on customers and provide service in line with your restaurant’s brand.
The only way to guarantee this level of service is to use an in-house food delivery driver. You can train delivery drivers on your way of doing things. With third-party delivery services, drivers adhere to their company’s protocols, and not yours.
You can use service to make your restaurant’s delivery stand out. While third-party drivers may make customers meet them at their cars to pick up food, you can ensure that your drivers deliver the food directly to the customers, or in a contactless way that is convenient for the customer.
Check out these tips for how to market your restaurant’s delivery service to make it stand out even more.
The more people and tools involved in a delivery, the more difficult it will be to communicate with the delivery driver when something goes wrong. Using your own driver and restaurant online ordering system streamlines communication, and makes it easier to avoid expensive mistakes.
Rather than calling a middle man at the third-party fleet who then contacts the driver on your behalf, when you have an in-house fleet and there’s an issue you can call your in-house delivery driver directly for an update.
Mistakes and delays in delivery could cost you meals that you end up giving out for free to compensate for poor service or miscommunication. This viral Facebook post from a restaurateur shows that $131.19 of the restaurant’s earnings via GrubHub that month, almost 13%, were deducted from their earnings due to incorrect order errors. Such costs likely could have been avoided if fewer people had been involved in the delivery process, and if the restaurant had used its own online ordering software.
When your restaurant uses its own food delivery drivers, there are fewer people coming into the restaurant and its kitchen to handle orders. During this pandemic, which will likely last for many more months, it’s important to limit the number of people handling food.
When you control who is in your restaurant, you can more easily conduct wellness checks and hold staff accountable for calling in sick, or incentivize them to do so by offering paid sick leave. Third-party delivery services don’t offer such benefits to their drivers, whom they classify as contractors rather than employees eligible for benefits.
With fewer people coming into your restaurant, there’s less risk of your staff or customers getting sick from the coronavirus.
Just like dine-in customers enjoy and benefit from seeing the same friendly faces at your restaurant, delivery customers also enjoy and benefit from working with the same delivery drivers.
Your restaurant delivery drivers are an extension of your FOH team, which is responsible for customer service. In-house delivery drivers can build relationships with customers when they see them over and over again. They’ll remember names and orders, and even chat with customers. Interactions like these build customer loyalty.
Set your restaurant delivery drivers up for success during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond by implementing these measures.
Make your expectations clear up front. When hiring (or rehiring) drivers, use the job description to describe more than just responsibilities. Use it to talk about your restaurant’s values, culture, and COVID-19 protocols. Placing these attributes front and center will help you attract candidates who are a good fit for your restaurant, decreasing your turnover rate.
In the hiring process, look for candidates who have prior experience with food delivery and/or customer service. Candidates with FOH experience can make good delivery drivers because providing great service is the differentiator between a memorable delivery experience and a mundane one. Taxi drivers and other professional drivers also make great candidates because they’re familiar with navigating your area’s streets.
Don’t forget about logistical considerations, like whether or not candidates have a valid driver’s license, a flawless driving record, and a vehicle.
Onboard food delivery drivers to your team as you would any employee who works primarily inside the restaurant. Familiarize them with your brand, your standards, and your menu. Emphasize your customer service standards, as delivery drivers may be the only person from your restaurant with whom customers interact.
Create a delivery protocol to guide drivers on their orders. Tell them which GPS tools you prefer to use. Let them know about shortcuts on popular delivery routes.
Don’t send drivers off with just one order. Wait for several to come in that are going in the same direction to ensure that deliveries are made efficiently.
Provide food delivery drivers with insulated bags and proper food packaging to keep orders warm during the drive.
Teach drivers how to communicate with customers and complete deliveries. Should they meet customers at their doors, or call guests to come and pick up their food at the delivery vehicle? Should they prioritize delivery speed or customer service?
Put systems in place to make your drivers’ jobs as hitch-free as possible.
In the midst of this pandemic, it’s important to create procedures to keep drivers and customers safe. All food handlers at your restaurant should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times while in the presence of food and guests.
For example, if a driver has a car and puts food in their trunk, they can drive without a mask on, but must put it on when they go to their trunk to get the food. If the driver keeps the food in the back seat, they should wear a mask for the duration of the drive to avoid spreading coronavirus droplets if they’re sick but asymptomatic.
Create protocols for no-contact delivery, such as allowing customers to add tips online or over the phone, and allowing them to specify where and how they want their food dropped off – ring doorbell and leave in entryway, leave on stoop, clip to gate, etc.
Let customers know when they can expect their food to arrive. It’s much better to tell customers that their food will take 45 minutes to arrive and have it get there in 30 minutes, than to guarantee 15 minutes and have it arrive in 30.
Use a tool to track drivers and communicate to customers when their orders will arrive. This ensures that you or the drivers can update customers on potential delays and set realistic expectations for the delivery time.
Check customer satisfaction after a delivery by emailing or SMSing them a survey about the quality of the food and the driver’s performance.
Delivery will continue to be an important and lucrative revenue stream for restaurants, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Hiring in-house food delivery drivers and using the right restaurant tech lets you maintain control over the customer experience and maximize profits.
TouchBistro’s online ordering platform lets customers order directly from your website, so you keep 100% of the profits. Book a demo today.
Dana is the former Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, sharing tips for and stories of restaurateurs turning their passion into success. She loves homemade hot sauce, deep fried pickles and finding excuses to consume real maple syrup.
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