Why standard e-commerce is not adapted to premium quality restaurants in this period.



With the first COVID wave, the home delivery exploded in Milan. But as I already mentioned in a previous article, not all restaurants were ready. With the second wave, the word has been spread to support our local restaurant, through online ordering. Main claim being: "if you still want them to welcome you when it will be over, you should think about it now." The philosophy behind is great and obviously pragmatic. But is it sustainable? Let me illustrate with my personal experience as a user. 1. We always look for the best deal. If you’re a computer literate gen X/Y with budget restrictions, or, if you’re simply a gen Z, you will always look for the best deal. What does it mean? Well, each time you have to order, you may scan the various platforms to identify the one offering specials deals (free shipping fee, discounts, 1 ordered/1 free…). We are not loyal to a platform. Why? Because we can’t find an emotional story bonding us to the platform. The price triggers our action. A couple of months ago, I applied to a job position for Glovo and they were asking in a questionnaire a question like: what is the brand identity or vision of the brand. I can’t remember the exact wording of the question, but I do remember answering they didn’t have a competitive advantage. Obviously, they did not call me back (they should google Simon Sinek though). But it’s true, do you know anyone with the capability of switching from one app to another, that will order always to Glovo because they like their vision? Well, if we take my personal case, I’m in a period with limited budget, so I may search for the deals at 1€ or 70% discount and will jump to one platform to another. The problem with that? I am not loyal to a restaurant either, I decide what to eat based on the deals. And while I’m quite proud of the good deal I made, there is a restaurant which has made a significative marketing &com investment without the guarantee of building customer loyalty. I already know what you could tell me: if you are conscious about it, why are you not ordering directly to your favorite restaurants? It’s true you know, when I search for an online shop on google, I always pay attention not to click on the first link appearing as sponsored, because I know the shop will have to pay a fee to google, when it will need a minimum of 100 clicks to convert 1 order… Well, I don’t order directly, simply because most of the restaurants don’t have a direct online platform. To avoid time waste and considerable investments, they use the support of platforms like Glovo, Deliveroo, Ubereats, Justeat, etc. The problem with those platforms, besides the fact they keep up to 30% of the order, is that they don’t manage to offer visibility unless the restaurant pay for it. With the Covid, there was such a boom in Milan, that if you type sushi, pokè or burger or pizza, you’ll have to make your choice around maybe 60 players. How can you perform a choice? How do we ensure that every restaurant has a chance to work and make money? In other words, the market went completely virtually saturated. 2. The second dilemma with which I am tackling, is linked to the organoleptic properties of delivered food. Besides sushi, I have difficulty to find a food format that resists the travel until my home. I already wrote about it, but it’s a real problem. Why ordering food if the experience is not satisfying for your palate and you could quickly cook a tastier homemade dish (even a pasta)? How do you ensure people keep ordering online on the long term, if the food is not good? In order to have a food at home arriving with the right quality, the whole cooking method and packaging need to be revamped: make the pasta al dente so it does not arrive overcook? getting tiny holes in packaging so the burger does not arrive chewy? And so on. For sure, it’s not that easy, and this is why most of the upper level restaurants offer kit where you have to finalize the cooking or assembly the ingredients together. So far, this looks to be the only solution to have a decent dish. And if you think about it, you get the possibility to eat a traditional dish realized by a famous chef at the same price of a fast casual (thinking about the lasagna o parmigiana of La Mantia or Cracco for example). You just need to follow the instructions. Any blocking point? Often, people order food because they are tired and they don’t want to cook, they don’t even want to wash the dishes. But those kits imply a minimum contribution from the eater. Are we living in a liquid society too lazy/impatient to do the last part of the process? Is it possible at some point people tell themselves, "ok so in that case I go to the supermarket"? Besides, is it possible to be happy when you plate your dish, and it looks awful compared to the picture made by the restaurant. As we eat with the eyes, do you think you will enjoy the food the same? But the main argument I wanted to tackle here is why fine dining can’t go for standard e-commerce? We live in a context where we want everything immediately. Let’s imagine you decide, at 6pm, to order a gourmet dish for the evening. Do you expect that the restaurant will have the “low temperature cook” meat ready for you? With a good freezer, someone from the field could probably answer yes. The problem of today’s context, is that, if a restaurant wants to be economically sustainable, they need to put their cost under control. How do they know how many people should work the evening if they haven’t a clear vision of the online orders coming? Can they allocate their cashflow for ordering raw materials that will end piling in the freezer, with no guarantee on what will be ordered? How can they order small volume to their suppliers? I believe it’s almost impossible to have dishes with premium ingredients ordered online and delivered same day, unless we talk of a mono format. At that point it becomes impossible to opt for a standard platform business as Glovo/Deliveroo, or an online direct platform.

If a quality ambassador wants to offer delivery and be economically sustainable without having financials angels behind, they would need a platform where you will have to order minimum 24 hours before the delivery, not to say 30 hours before (eg. You order during lunch day A for a dinner delivery day B, main reason behind, being the cutoff for the order to their suppliers). They need a platform where they can allocate specific quantities of each dish (to avoid dealing with backorders and customer disappointment). They need as well to internalize the delivery process to avoid having food delivered upside down. Also, a website has a cost, a website means paying a shop structure backend, set a payment process, handle customer queries, have "photoshoot" for every dishes pictures to upload. No surprise then that you see chefs ending asking you to order through WhatsApp or Instagram: think about Boer, Lopriore or Morelli.... Or that shops ask customer to order the day before: Pavè, Quatro Quarti torte to quote a few of them.


So is there a future for fine dining delivery? I believe that people going out less, are more prone to spend more for an occasional meal. If you know that you can’t go to the restaurant for one month, why not ordering oysters for one night and treat yourself? In the meantime, people look for trust, they want a trustful delivery contact and prefer an internal delivery. But above all, they don’t want to lose the social contact with the chef. Any solutions? Why not sending a link with a small video where the chef explains how to finalize the dish and plate it? Why not creating a # and encouraging the customer to post their plating on Instagram so the best pic gets a small reward (free antipasto on next order= build loyalty)? Why not delivering a pack with registration to a night cooking class directly from the chef? The last question that comes to my mind is: How to ensure visibility to your customers mind, not having a physical contact? Sending a daily or weekly menu directly to the customers? But in that case, how to make sure the customer is ok with receiving this pushed notifications?

For sure the socials are not the direct solution. With all the sponsorships going on Instagram, it’s hard to make you a spot on Milan scene, if you don’t allocate a significant budget. You may end just diluted among the others. Ironically, the brand awareness can go viral through private profiles sharing their last dining experience. A customer followed by friends having similar lifestyle, may have more impact than an influencer who deals with multiple sponsorships and end with a overwhelmed audience. Because if you think about it, a fine dining restaurant target is not to deliver 100 meals every night…


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