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By Katie McCann
The spread of COVID-19 forced restaurants to close their dining rooms and quickly pivot to takeout and delivery. And with this unprecedented shift to delivery-only dining, restaurateurs are quickly becoming familiar with a new term: no-contact delivery.
A radical departure from the hospitality industry’s signature “service with a smile” mentality, no-contact delivery is uncharted territory for restaurants. But with growing pressure to flatten the curve, no-contact delivery may be the only way for restaurants to keep the public safe, while making enough money to cover their costs, pay their staff, and ride out this storm.
Whether you’ve chosen to implement contactless delivery or are still considering it, we’ve got the tools you need to implement this at your restaurant.
In this post you’ll learn:
What does no contact delivery mean? No-contact or contactless delivery simply means that a food order is left at the customer’s doorstep, lobby, or another safe place, rather than ringing the bell or knocking on the door and having the food change hands directly. The customer is notified by phone, text, or email that the order is ready for collection, which they can do at their convenience (usually, just by opening the door).
In order to facilitate no-contact delivery, payment must be made over the phone, through a website, or a third-party app, since the delivery person will not be interacting directly with the customer to take payment.
COVID-19 spreads mainly through person-to-person transmission. As a result, health officials are encouraging a variety of measures to help slow the spread of the virus. These measures include regular hand washing, social isolation if they have the virus or symptoms of the virus, and social distancing.
For restaurateurs like yourself, contactless food delivery is one way of encouraging social distancing and preventing the transmission of the virus. By implementing this, you play your part in flattening the curve so that the healthcare system doesn’t become overwhelmed – and business can get back to normal sooner.
Many restaurants have implemented no-contact delivery across the U.S., either on their own accord or in accordance with state or municipal mandates.
For example, the popular sushi chain Sugarfish was quick to switch to no-contact delivery in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19 in New York City and Los Angeles – two cities that have been hit especially hard by the pandemic. At Sugarfish, all employees not involved in food preparation have now become delivery workers. This means taking orders via telephone and then leaving carefully packaged containers of sushi at the doorstep of customer’s homes. It’s a move that has allowed the company to keep most of its employees on the payroll and keep Sugarfish restaurants up and running.
Third-party delivery apps in the U.S. and Europe have also been quick to implement no-contact food delivery. For instance, DoorDash (which owns Caviar), Postmates, Uber Eats, and Grubhub (which owns Seamless) all give customers the option to specify no-contact delivery when placing their order. These companies have also doubled down on other health and safety measures, such as providing delivery drivers with antibacterial hand sanitizer, and adding additional food packaging and tamper-evident stickers to delivery bags.
While many states and cities are starting to reopen dining rooms (see where and how on this interactive reopening map), there continues to be a focus on takeout and delivery, since reduced capacity mandates, diner confidence, and health concerns continue to be challenges for restaurateurs.
It’s clear that customers are not only demanding contactless delivery as a way to assuage their fears over the spread of COVID-19, but also that restaurants must take every step possible to protect the health and safety of the general public.
But with this being a virtually brand new service, it can be difficult to know how to implement it in your restaurants. To help you set up no-contact food delivery, we’ll walk you through the process.
If you don’t have delivery already in place, you have the option of setting up your own delivery system or partnering with the best food delivery app in your area. While using delivery apps come with some major benefits, it may take days or weeks to get your restaurant set up with a new platform – especially with how busy their companies are right now.
If you do decide to set up your own restaurant delivery service, you’ll need to start by making sure you have all the proper equipment.
It goes without saying that you can’t deliver orders if you don’t have some type of transportation. If you’re setting up your own delivery system, you’ll need to determine which employees are able to use their personal vehicles for deliveries. In some cases this may be a good opportunity to keep FOH staff on the payroll or rehire them (if they’re willing), shifting their responsibilities to facilitating deliveries.
Drivers making food deliveries without commercial auto insurance are essentially treated as if they have no insurance – even if they have personal insurance coverage. Therefore, any food delivery driver using their personal vehicle for food delivery will need to notify their insurance provider and switch over to a commercial vehicle policy. In some cases, your insurer may offer supplemental coverage to a personal policy or special policies designed for delivery persons.
Even if a delivery is just around the corner, you’ll still need to make sure that the food you’re sending out stays fresh and warm. To do this, you’ll need warming bags, as well as sturdy, temperature-controlled takeout containers for your food.
With no-contact delivery, there is no interaction between the customer and the delivery driver. To help customers identify delivery drivers from a distance, make sure to outfit your cars with your logo or the name of your restaurant.
One challenge you may face is that customers will not be able to pay for their order at the door. In this case, you’ll need to secure payment processing technology that allows for card not present transactions and tips. This will allow customers to pre-pay for their orders (over the phone or through a website) and eliminate the need for in-person transactions.
One of the biggest challenges of setting up no-contact food delivery is training staff. On the one hand you will need to take extra precautions when it comes to food safety and employee hygiene. But on the other hand, you will also need to create new workflows for taking orders, preparing food for delivery, and facilitating no-contact deliveries.
Whether you’re using a third-party ordering system or not, here are some training measures to keep in mind when offering no-contact delivery.
If you’re not using online ordering software or third-party apps, the phone is the most efficient way to take delivery orders. To keep things organized, you’ll want to train a dedicated employee on how to receive delivery orders and expedite food. Ensure that the employee taking orders clarifies with the customer where the food will be dropped off – whether that’s at a doorstep, the lobby of an apartment building, or another location.
Keep in mind that with no-contact delivery, there is no option for the customer to pay in-person. As a result, you will need to train employees taking orders to also collect payments over the phone by using payment processing technology that allows for card not present transactions.
With health and hygiene a top concern right now, it’s important to train employees on how to safely package food for delivery. In addition to reinforcing existing food safety and personal hygiene procedures, take extra precautions to ensure cleanliness when packaging food. Extra precautions can include:
Beyond enhanced safety measures, you’ll also need to dedicate a specific employee to packaging each order. This “delivery specialist” should be responsible for folding any takeout containers, setting up the packaging station, and preparing to-go bags with all the necessary sauces, utensils, and napkins.
Though the CDC states that you cannot contract coronavirus from food, there is a concern about person-to-person contact via delivery. Therefore, it’s vital to properly train staff on how to safety execute a no-contact delivery.
Whether you’re using third-party delivery drivers or not, make sure there is a dedicated area for delivery drivers to pick up food. This can be outside the restaurant or in another area far from the kitchen staff who are preparing food. Make sure delivery drivers are washing their hands prior to picking up each order and frequently sanitizing their vehicles with antibacterial wipes.
Drivers should then be instructed to drop off the order at the dedicated spot and notify the customer that the order is ready for collection. There should be no direct contact with the customer and drivers should be using hand sanitizer or washing their hands following the delivery of each order.
In addition to easing customer’s fears, implementing these extra safety precautions also shows your staff they’re supported by you. It’s a scary time to be going to work for everybody, so having practices in place to protect diners and staff through no-contact delivery is another way to show your staff you are actively looking out for their well-being.
While you can certainly take all your no-contact delivery orders over the phone, an online ordering system allows you to streamline the process, take more orders, and stay organized. Online ordering also lets customers pay for their order online, which is essential to no-contact delivery.
To set up a restaurant online ordering system, you can choose to use a third-party app such as Grubhub, Postmates, Uber Eats, or DoorDash. These platforms allow you to upload your menu so that customers can build and pay for their order online. They also give customers the option to add specific instructions for delivery drivers about where to leave delivery orders for contactless delivery.
These apps manage the delivery process for a fee, but because of the pandemic, many of the best food delivery services have agreed on discounted rates or deferred fees. Be sure to ask about pricing options when you call in.
If you’re looking to cut out the middle man, you also have the option to add online ordering to your restaurant’s existing website. For instance, TouchBistro Online Ordering allows customers to order directly from your website, Facebook page, or the TouchBistro Dine platform, all commission-free. The menu is connected with your POS, so orders are streamlined right into your point of sale and you get a notification of new orders in the app in real-time.
You’ll also need to update your online menu, on your website and any third-party platforms.
Like many other restaurateurs, you’re probably operating on limited resources and a lean workforce, so you should concentrate on creating a small menu that’s easy to execute. This may mean changing up your menu temporarily, but it’s worth it to meet customer demands while taking care of your bottom line.
There are many benefits to this. By limiting the number of menu items, your kitchen staff don’t have to run around trying to prepare a whole bunch of different recipes at once. This will help keep food costs and waste down, as well as help you limit the amount of staff you need in the kitchen so it’s easier for them to keep their distance from each other.
A smaller, simpler menu will also help your staff execute each order quickly and efficiently. This means the delivery person can drop off more orders, faster, which will hopefully help keep customers happy and returning.
Also, by sticking to simpler dishes, you ensure your menu is optimized for portability and quick delivery – imagine how many hands are needed to prepare and deliver a complicated beef wellington with leek reduction versus mac and cheese. Make dishes that are easy to transport and use spill-proof packaging. Contactless food delivery means leaving a package out on somebody’s doorstep, so the sturdier, the better.
Because you have a community of customers who care about you and want to support you, it’s important that you know how to market your restaurant effectively and communicate with customers.
Your customers may ask, “What is no-contact delivery?” so be prepared to explain what it entails.
Let them know this is in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, as a way to help slow the spread and keep everybody safe.
After you’ve told them what you’re doing, tell them why – make sure your customers know your change in operations is all to help them stay healthy. No-contact food delivery may be a new experience for your guests, but are only being put in place to protect them while still allowing them to enjoy your food.
You can communicate this message across a variety of platforms. For example:
With the COVID-19 outbreak causing restaurants to close in-person dining, many are shifting to no-contact delivery as a way to flatten the curve. If you make sure to set up your new operations, train staff, and communicate with guests, you can transition into this new model as smoothly as possible.
As you navigate this tough time, remember that you are not alone. We are all in this together and need to help one another – so please reach out if there are any resources we can provide that will help you navigate this. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out our other COVID-19 resources here.
Katie is a former Content Marketing Specialist at TouchBistro where she writes about food and restaurant experiences. She doesn’t shy away from the finer things in life, but no matter how much success she continues to acquire, she stays true to her roots and still considers imitation crab as gourmet. If she isn’t writing, you can find her on a patio with friends and a pitcher of white wine sangria.
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