While everyone keeps making scenario about how will be the restaurant of the future post covid, the actors of the field have been focused on delivery and launching online platforms.
I guess Covid has been an opportunity for many restaurants to stop procrastinating on their 2.0. evolution. Nowadays having an online presence is an added value, essential for active customers performing due diligence before selecting a place where to eat.
Though I already caught many “wrong” examples on the socials, and heard several complaints about the food experience while using delivery.
So let me share my vision as someone that comes from the industry field, and participated to the creation of new lines of production in plants, or have been handling customer satisfaction for online stores.
1. Online platform and “via”.
Delivery, it’s not just about creating an online platform and outsourcing the delivery process. Delivery is about creating a new business model, that will impact your daily operative business.
. Have you thought how your employee will handle the requests/perform the dispatch while still serving in the shop or bar/restaurant?
. How will you manage the “production level” planning? Will you pick directly in the "production" dedicated to the shop or will you increase your stock production just for the delivery?
How will you maintain food cost associated to waste if you have no visibility on the overall demand and start making stock? Have you worked on sales forecast crossing external platforms data to your old business figures?
. Where will you stock the food waiting for the delivery guy? And if you have an order with stuff that should stay refrigerated, how would you do? It’s not possible storing whole bags in a fridge…
. Have you thought about creating an understandable menu for the customer, with type of food adapted to moment of the days (lighter at lunch...)?
. Have you thought about taking yummy picture of the dishes and not in the shadow with an old cell phone?
. Have you designated a person in your staff to handle eventual missed delivery or customer satisfaction issue?
. I won’t mention all the details about creating your own structure and handling the payment process.
2. Price positioning.
You may not know, but platforms that offer you visibility like Deliveroo or Glovo can withdraw up to 35% as a fee. If you consider a 10% VAT, it means that already half of the selling price is made neither from the food cost nor the profit. If you consider that usually, food cost represents 30% of the overall selling price, and let’s add 5% for the packaging, basically 80% of the overall price of the product is linked to expenses. Please take into consideration, I did not even mention the cost of delivery in itself. I believe this is an important point when people say: At home, I can do it for half the price they sell it, it’s a “robbery”.
So how do you integrate delivery cost in your price positioning?
Do you have to review the weight of the portion instead of communicating to your customer that they will pay more for what they used to get?
Do you have to think about a new menu adapted to the new expenses and in line with your actual price positioning?
I heard people complaining about the increase of some products like Pavè brioche for example.
3.Forgetting about your identity.
I know we’re in Italy and comfort food is Italian, or that in Milan some trends are important (pokè, pizza…). But if you were born as a pizza place, how can you start selling paella and pokè?
. How the customer will know if the food is good if you’re not specialized in something specific, and how they will find you among tons of restaurants? It's already hard to make a choice nowdays. Have you checked how many poké places you can find on delivery if you live in Milan downtown?
. How do you plan to make the difference if everyone start selling parmigiana using the argument that people want to pay less and eat simple italian food? Think about it twice while creating an Italian dish if before you were doing something else, people won’t understand.
. How will you handle the fact that Italian food seems always better at home? Tommaso Mellili gives an interesting interpretation in its last book. It says that in Italy, historically we offer in restaurants food you can find at home. But as some research shows, the food eat in a beloved context (family) will benefit from a better taste (the famous Madeleine de Proust)
. And how will you handle your raw material extended range to optimize your food waste?
Matias Perdomo is launching a new delivery project where you have to order the day before, so he can optimize the ingredients purchase and the kitchen organization.
. Moreover, if you’re part of the fine dining category and decide to create a simpler and more affordable menu, have you thought about the risk you can take? The overall food experience in your restaurant is linked to the interior design, the mood, the service, the plating, the exchanges with the chef. But if 4 tortellis arrived lost in a broth at the home of someone who hasn’t nice plates, do you think that ugly food will still be perceived fine dining? Just wondering after seeing some pictures of Burr dishes yesterday night…
4.Packaging. I believe this is one the most challenging part of the delivery business.
. I always say that each time I try to get delivered something which is not sushis, it’s a “disaster”. Think about how you’re Neapolitan pizza arrived at home during winter after a 30min ride? A bit too chewy? Or the hamburger bread that becomes gluey with the steam created by the sealed package, the cold fries or even the harsh meat, without mentioning the overcooked pasta.
Packaging must preserve the food aromas and texture in the best way possible.
. Packaging means as well a container that will resist to the mountainbike rides on the Milanese pavé.
. On top of that, packaging is the first contact with your client. You don’t have a smiling waiter when the customer unpacks, so your packaging must say hi and provokes some emotion to your customer. As a minimum, it must give you the indication that it comes from you. If you receive food with no brand identity, are you confident about the source? I remember ordering once a pizza at 15.50€ to Marì pizzeria and receive the pizza in a Metro cash & carry 80’s style pizza box, I can tell you that my perception of the pizza and the toppings immediately went down and I did not enjoy my meal.
. Think about as well the socials, if the customer takes a picture, don’t you think your food should be associated to a logo?
In Milan, people are paying attention to nice packaging and could order food just because the packaging is nice: think about the new Altatto box or Molino Pasini flour success.
. Another point is, what is the image of your local? If you deliver everything in plastic or material that does not look eco, do you think people will associate you unconsciously to someone ethic? So how to adapt the type of package to your food image?
5.Beauty & Dish presentation.
Definitely linked to packaging, but, delivery means putting your food in a delivery packaging and not a beautiful plate.
. How do you ensure that your food still look yummy? Do you think your entire menu is adapted to delivery? Have you thought at the moment the client will remove the food from the packaging after maybe half an hour?
. While working on plating the delivery food, have you trained your extended staff? Because the customer should not see a difference from one person in charge of the preparation to another. It’s better to have something simple to execute, and document a procedure.
.Besides, do not set wrong expectations with the pictures on the website. If you perform delivery and put a still life with amazing plating in beautiful dishes and the food arrives upside down in a standard packaging, you feel that they made fun of you and you did not pay for what you were expecting. Think about your image once the food leaves your place and you have no one available to create a dialogue with the customer if the dish was not perfect.
. Worse, what if they tag you on Instagram? Think about the power of the nice dish on Insta to attract customers.
6. Food format.
I will repeat it: not every food is adapted to delivery. So what should you do? Review your menu list? Offer alternative options? What kind of food are you offering? Are you ready to refuse serving some dishes to preserve your image?
Do you think your regular customer could accept to receive the pasta sauce vacuumed and the raw pasta separately? (Do you know someone not able to cook pasta in Italy?)
Or should you perform the test of leaving your pasta 30min in the packaging to see if you should stop the cooking upfront and for how much? The smart chef Niko Romito, while working on a project for hospital, implemented this process where the food was ending cooking during transportation and won’t arrived overcooked to the patient.
For lunch isn’t better to serve cold salads with pasta/spelt/quinoa, or soups and for dinner propose a simple kit “do it yourself”, vacuumed, so people can feel a chef at home?
The new promising Bites restaurant did a similar menu for Easter.
7. slots of delivery.
In Milan, the trendy world is divided in two. The “standard” deliveries: glovo, ubereats, deliveroo… and the bikers as ubm for example. For the second ones, in order to absorb the cost per hour, you need to organize the deliveries optimizing the tour for each perimeter. What does it mean? One rider should do a maximum of deliveries in one defined perimeter if you want to benefit from a reduced transportation cost per order. Is it what's happening? Are the restaurants have the organizational skill inside? How they will organize themselves? What do you do, when your breakfast arrives after the designated slot and you’re already at work and they propose a second delivery by night? (experimented by a foodie friend, fan of Pavé 2 days ago). Of course, mistakes won’t happen only to people not trying and in a ideal world, you would get a test phase/pilot followed by a ramp up, while here delivery requests just exploded. Think about platforms like cosa porto that was receiving 50 order average and now reaching a 2500.
But my point is, after 4 years of consulting in the F&B field and 10 years before as a project manager in the industry, I feel confident enough to say people in Milan tend always to rush their projects, even if not ready. Most of the time for cost reasons but above all for a big hint of impatience. What they don’t measure is the hidden cost of non quality, the stress generated to unprepared employees and the brand image consequences.
Over the past few weeks, Milan has been overwhelmed by new food deliveries platforms. I see it as a normal reaction because restaurants had to survive, but once again, only a few made the exercise properly.
It ends with a confused mass market and numerous non satisfactory experience (based on the feedbacks I got around me).
I just hope this ordeal will be the trigger to start rationalizing the market and think the food experience as a process. If not, the business thinking minds, which often means the ones with investors behind asking for key performance indicators, will be the only one left.