The modern food delivery and order and collect services have been around for decades.
According to sources, the first delivery service was initiated in 1922, by a Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles, Kin-Chu cafe which offered ‘hot dishes direct to you’…until 1am!1
Whilst the popularity of this offering spread and became mainstream across towns and cities in the UK, for a long time this market was simply filled with local restaurants offering the option of pick up, or delivery, to customers in their surrounding area. It consisted of a simple phone call to a local restaurant to place your order, with all transactions and information being communicated directly between the two. This steady trade has now exploded and business in this area has soared, fuelled by demand created from the rise in technology and, particularly, apps. Since March 2020, COVID-19 and the UK lockdown has had a huge impact on this industry and accelerated this steady growth that was already flourishing.
Where did this growth come from?
The last few years have really seen the food delivery and order and collect sector develop and boom. The digitisation of systems in this area has created a platform for businesses to reach many more customers. Apps link hospitality outlets with a whole new platform many had previously not considered, or was previously impractical for them to access. With added incentives and streamlining of the ordering, payment and collection or delivery process it can often be a simple and excellent solution for businesses to expand and increase sales.
The two key elements that form the foundation of these platforms are ease of communication and secure, cashless payments. Restaurants and cafe’s can now communicate easily with customers, firstly through attractive imagery of their wares, and then their confirmation and delivery timings or updates. On the customers side they no longer need to pass on their details many times, or communicate with various locations and businesses, but can access all their wants through one central platform.
Whether this transformation is a result of demand from customers, or our attitudes have been shaped by the apps themselves is debatable, but this change of landscape is here to stay. People are now used to having what they want, when they want it, how they want it. As technology providers we need to rise to the challenge.
Order and collect services are overshadowed by food delivery because of the convenience and ease of having meals arrive right at your door, or whilst barely having to leave your desk, sofa or bed! However, this area will also be seeing an expansion over the next couple of years and an order and collect option does open this area to more restaurants and customers. It also helps support social distancing, enabling caterers and cafes to separate queues between those with pre-order to pickup and people looking to order-in-store. They can maintain high footfall, whilst ensuring the safety of customers.
As we emerge from the strict restrictions in place to protect the population from coronavirus we will gather a fuller picture of how people will respond to the new normal, but almost certainly we will see more and more businesses developing order and collect or delivery solutions to continue operating in a transformed and cautious environment.
Improvement still needed
Whilst the COVID-19 crisis has, by and large, had a terrible impact so far on the hospitality industry, there are positive aspects to this boom in demand for delivery and order and collect, for both customers and food providers. Yet, its implementation has highlighted clear challenges, from food safety and health concerns for businesses not declaring their food hygiene ratings, to issues with delivery workers’ rights and their safety.
There needs to be strong direction and control issued by the app providers as well as government legislation to ensure we work together to create a safe, secure and productive order and collect/delivery sector. Legislation will catch up and customers are now beginning to understand their rights – demanding the information needed to make informed choices on where to order their meals from.
We are seeing increasing demand and growth, especially as businesses offering order and collect or delivery expand globally. This will lead to further improvements and streamlining in the services, apps will increase in functionality, enhancing the end users experience and facilitating even more seamless payments.
Delivery offerings will spread into local towns. We have seen many smaller, local shops, pubs and cafes who would never have previously considered operating in this way begin to offer delivery and takeaway during the lockdown and many may choose to continue this offering as we emerge from the crisis. However, there are factors of economy to the service which will see altered models/more limitations in certain areas. Order and collect will perhaps be a more suitable option for many more remote, or not consistently busy locations, as delivery orders are hard to combine when locations are not located close together.
With carbon footprint concerns, and the need to improve environmental standards, electric vehicles will be used more frequently when it comes to home delivery. In major city hubs, cycling for deliveries will become more mainstream.
What should hospitality providers look for in a platform?
It’s all about ensuring an open platform of communication for customers and enabling your business to utilise the new technology to grow.
Whether your business already offers an order and collect or delivery service, or is looking to do so, it’s important to bear in mind the following factors:
- Look for a platform and company that integrates seamlessly with your current system of stock management and payments. Without integration problems will arise and may require more time and effort to manage.
- Look at costs and ROI when ‘buying in’ to an app or service. It’s great to be on board with this upward trend, but only if it will have tangible benefits and move your business forward.
- Consider your offering and ensure you can deliver the same high-quality product if not served in store. Think about packaging and transportation of goods, whether by customers collecting, or by delivery services.
- Will your outlet be looking at delivery, or is a simple order and collect a good option to streamline service and increase sales? Delivery is a great option for QSR and fast food places, whilst fine dining restaurants are still about experience and interaction. However, we are seeing some offering delivery service to those who want to have more luxurious meals in the comfort of their own home.
- When looking at apps and platforms, remember, key players in the market have scale and the security. Watch for ‘too good to be true’ offers trying to lure you to the latest technology or disruptor. It’s great to be a part of something new, but assess what their offering and rates really bring to your business in the long- term and not just when you sign up.
- Time, Emelyn Rude, 14.04.2016, https://time.com/4291197/take-out-delivery-food-history/