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9 & 10 NOV 2021

ExCeL LONDON

What is last-mile delivery fulfilment for restaurants?

Restaurant delivery is constantly evolving. Not so long ago the first takeaway marketplaces allowed us to order pizza online. Today you can get a multi-course fine-dining meal delivered to your home at the touch of a button.

Restaurants know they need to offer delivery but many have issues using third-party delivery services. They don’t have control of the customer interaction, the fees eat into profits, and they are totally reliant on these platforms, which might not cover the areas they want to serve.

It’s becoming more important for restaurants to own the customer experience outside the four walls of the dining room. 

But taking delivery in-house comes with its own problems. Restaurants have to manage a whole new area of logistics – a complex arena of order assignment, driver recruitment, and vehicle maintenance where timing is everything. It can still be a struggle to deliver the standards you want even when you run it yourself. 

That’s why we’re seeing services coming over from the retail sector that optimize restaurant delivery fulfilment. Giving operators more control over how they manage delivery orders, assign drivers, and communicate with customers, without the burden of managing it all themselves.

What is last-mile delivery fulfilment for restaurants? 

Last-mile delivery refers to the crucial final leg of an item’s journey before it reaches the customer. The term comes from the ecommerce world where items are shipped to fulfilment centers in bulk and it’s only at the final stage of the shipping process that one driver delivers individual packages to the customer’s doorstep. 

This makes last-mile delivery the most expensive and critical stage of the whole delivery process as the efficiencies of scale no longer apply.

In the restaurant world, last-mile delivery usually applies to ready-to-eat meals being delivered to customers at home or in the office. Typically, you have one driver delivering a meal to a specific customer. So the cost of last-mile delivery is higher and keeping this cost down is a massive priority.

Well-known food delivery marketplaces – such as Uber Eats, Doordash, Deliveroo, GrubHub, and Postmates – host restaurant menus, allow customers to browse and order on an app and provide delivery fulfilment as well. These platforms focus more on the marketplace end of the process and charge fees per order.

There are also white-label ordering platforms – including Slerp, Flipdish, and Hungrrr –  that offer a platform for restaurants to build their own apps and often partner with couriers to fulfill delivery orders.

More recently, we have seen the rise of Services like Stuart, Vromo, and Uber Direct that specialize in optimizing the delivery fulfilment piece for restaurants, offering driver monitoring and communication, and fleet management tools. Whether offering in-house delivery or working with third parties, restaurants can use fulfilment platforms like this to improve the customer experience and boost loyalty. 

Why is last-mile delivery fulfilment important?

For many restaurants, delivery is an afterthought. Even as many have come online and started to offer more off-premise dining options in 2020, operators often still focus more on the traditional in-house dining experience.

But neglecting the off-premise experience is surely a mistake. More customers are ordering all kinds of food for takeout and delivery, and their loyalty is just as important as your regular dine-in customers. 

A positive experience has a massive impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty. Especially as these customers are already on their phones, so they may be more likely to leave a negative review if they are not satisfied. 

Leaving the customer experience up to chance – by entrusting it to a part-time delivery driver or delivery platform support staff who have no connection to your restaurant – is a dangerous game. 

Delivery fulfilment matters. Even if you are super-efficient in the kitchen, on average, around half the customer’s waiting time is taken up by the last-mile driving time. So it should be at least half your focus as an operator.

No matter how well-presented, hot, and appetizing the food was when it left your kitchen, what matters is what it’s like when it arrives. Taking care of the details from the kitchen to the doorstep is vital.

How delivery fulfilment works for restaurants

Last-mile fulfilment is about helping restaurants own their delivery experience without having to run a logistics company themselves. The restaurant may or may not have delivery drivers on staff. But either way, a delivery fulfilment service helps the restaurant find the fastest, most efficient, and most cost-effective delivery method for each order.

That might mean giving them the tools to manage their own delivery drivers effectively, or matching orders to available courier services, or a combination of both.

The back-office management tools typically offered by fulfilment providers include detailed real-time tracking of orders and drivers, messaging apps to contact drivers and customers, and a dashboard to view all of this information and assign orders to available drivers.

They will often also provide apps to help the drivers stay on top of their assigned orders, navigate, and communicate directly with customers. They may also offer marketing and loyalty programs and integrations with other services too.

What are the benefits for restaurants and consumers? 

Own the customer experience

The biggest advantage of taking your delivery orders off third-party platforms is that you can own the customer experience outside the walls of the restaurant. You can strive to offer the same level of service and quality of food that you would in the dining room.

From the customer’s point of view, the restaurant is more accountable for the quality of the service and the food. Rather than complaining to the delivery provider if there is a problem, the customer can go straight to the restaurant. Once customers know that they will get this level of service and accountability, they are more likely to order again and more frequently.

Own your customer data

With more customers dining off-premise and ordering online, it’s paramount to take advantage of the associated data. Not only does this data tell you who your best customers are for remarketing purposes. You can also offer direct incentives to encourage repeat custom, and target your most loyal customers with a campaign, newsletter, or special offer.

When you own your customer data you can offer a true omnichannel experience – whichever channel your customers interact with your brand, they get consistent, high-quality service.

Concentrate on what you do best

With delivery fulfilment covered, your team can concentrate on what it does best – producing delicious food and giving customers excellent service. With more control over the way deliveries are managed and the areas you can serve, you can deliver excellence on every plate, even when the customer is dining at home.

Cope with peak service

The nature of food service is there are peak times and dead times. But you still want to be available as much as possible to rank well on delivery apps and give customers maximum flexibility. 

With a delivery fulfilment partner, you can cope with the high volume of your peak dinner service while also catering to those who order at other times. 

During quieter periods, you can use your existing drivers. When things get really busy, you can supplement your own fleet with additional drivers or courier services. The management tools help you to cope when you are running near maximum capacity.

What’s the future for delivery fulfilment?

Experts agree that the restaurant delivery is set for even more growth across the board. Europe is expected to have over 81 million users on delivery platforms by 2023 and 155 million ordering for delivery directly from restaurants.

We’ll likely see more higher-end restaurants taking control of their delivery operations and using delivery fulfilment solutions to offer a better off-premise experience to customers – in an attempt to match the elevated experience they offer for dine-in guests. Meanwhile, third-party delivery will also continue to grow, especially among quick service, fast-casual, and fast-food operators.

The biggest takeaway brands are increasingly using big data analytics from their huge user base to push the envelope and optimize operations. New technologies like AI-powered voice ordering at the drive-thru window and even delivery drones are the next steps forward in this constant drive for innovation and optimization.

In the rapidly evolving restaurant tech eco-system, restaurant operators that fail to keep up will be left behind. As more and more customers order digitally and expect their food to be delivered to their door fast, getting on board with the latest tech solutions is a must.

Find out how Deliverect helps restaurants connect with and manage delivery fulfilment in one coherent system.

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