There has been a lot of hype about food delivery over the past quarter. Longer, but it seems to be concentrated hype right now. Leading delivery brand, Postmates got a big investment, celebrity chef David Chang’s delivery service is growing. Brands are creating services and partnerships to optimize the way they deliver. UberEats is rolling out across the country. Jonathan Maze is pondering whether to-go and delivery is the savior of casual dining. The hue and cry for drone delivery is growing louder every day.
There is a battle raging to deliver consumers their food. And according to new research by Mintel, everybody is winning. 9 of 10 say delivery services make life more convenient. What does that tell you? People weren’t clamoring for a new way to get their pizza delivered. The high school kid dropping it off for a small tip worked just fine. The ask from consumers is for more restaurants and cuisines to be available by delivery. Unless you live in a handful of metros, that wasn’t a reality until this burst of services came on the scene.
65% of respondents said going to a restaurant was more fun than ordering in.
Don’t misunderstand the trend. Delivery is not the replacement for dining out. Delivery is the addition of an occasion without leaving home. Part of this is the same trend that was driving fast casual to overtake casual dining. Speed and convenience are king. Cater to my cravings and make it faster when I need it to be. In the same Mintel study, 65% of respondents said going to a restaurant was more fun than ordering in. Guess what – just about that same amount (63%) said delivery is more convenient than dining out. Surprise!
People aren’t saying they’re loyal to brands that deliver (though there is a subculture of people living solely off of Postmates and Seamless). These services may be new, but the problem is old. People are simply telling us that they are still looking for convenience.
There’s some people at the confluence of the restaurant industry and the tech industry who are looking at this as a disruption to restaurants. It’s actually the extraction of value that cuts margins for operators. Margins that are already thin and getting thinner with commodity prices, new types of competitors and laws adding salary pressure.
Brands will need to study the cost of any service they partner with to deliver their product. If there is an added service cost to the consumer, how does it affect the value proposition of the brand? Does your snack menu suddenly compete with entree prices elsewhere?
Beyond price, how does the service bring the food? Does it arrive in the same condition as when it left the kitchen? Long term, this can damage loyalty and erode occasions. There is a reason pizza is a traditional top-delivered food. It travels extremely well.
In the end, it doesn’t matter which pizza chain cracks drone delivery first. For a short while, people will order Domino’s by tweeting a pizza slice and drone emojis for the novelty. If it’s incrementally faster, drone delivery will survive. If it’s not any faster, they’ll go back to the old fashioned way – and just tweet the pizza slice emoji.
Eventually, there will be a shakeout. Delivery services will fold and consolidate. But restaurants that play it smart will remain. “Innovations” in delivery are a fad, unless they work.