The spread of COVID-19 hit the restaurant industry hard. Owners had to close their dining rooms to follow government policies on social distancing. As restaurateurs scrambled to adapt their business models, no-contact deliveries began trending, and they have since become the new normal.
The concept of contact-free delivery goes against our expectations for getting the personal touch from the hospitality industry, yet it’s an essential step for many restaurants if they’re to survive the pandemic. In this post, we’ll learn what no-contact deliveries are and how you can implement them at your restaurant.
What are no-contact deliveries?
No-contact delivery — or contact-free delivery — is the process of fulfilling food orders without any physical interaction between delivery personnel and customers. The restaurant staff or delivery company leaves the order on a doorstep or in a communal location designated by the customer — such as a lobby — and notifies the customer by knocking on their door, buzzing for entry, etc. The restaurant will also usually confirm a completed delivery through text, phone call, or email.
No-contact deliveries enable companies to provide food without direct customer interaction.
How to implement a no-contact delivery service
The quickest way to offer no-contact deliveries is to partner with a third-party service. Many of these third parties have waived joining fees as a promotion or for special circumstances — the COVID-19 pandemic is one example — but these offers are temporary.
The alternative to working with third parties is to start an in-house delivery service, where you rely on your own resources. If this is a better option for your restaurant, here are six steps to launch a contact-free delivery service.
1. Organize delivery vehicles and insurance
You’ll need a fleet of delivery vehicles and drivers. Ideally, you should include branding on these vehicles to help customers recognize your restaurant staff when they arrive. You can employ restaurant staff or work with contractors who drive their personal cars. In all cases, you’ll have to pay for commercial auto insurance and fuel.
2. Invest in quality packaging materials
Depending on your delivery radius, meals may have to travel for a long time, especially in a big city with traffic. You’ll need warming bags and sturdy take-out containers that maintain the temperature of the food until the customer opens them.
3. Optimize your menu
Many food items don’t travel well, as they are prone to spilling during transport or spoiling if left in a container for too long. Review your menu, and only offer items that will arrive in peak condition. With a smaller, focused menu, your staff can fill orders quickly and process more no-contact deliveries.
4. Set up order and payment processing systems
If you’re going to provide no-contact deliveries, you must give your customers a way to place orders with your restaurant. All orders must be made in advance via phone, online order form, or third-party app because the delivery person will not interact directly with the customer.
Customers must also pay for their orders before you prepare and deliver the food, so you’ll need secure payment processing technology at your restaurant that permits “card not present” transactions.
5. Prepare your staff
All staff must understand the new restaurant practices for no-contact delivery as well as the CDC guidelines on food safety and hygiene. Some precautions your restaurant may need to take include
- Conducting pre-shift employee temperature screenings
- Maintaining a distance of six feet between employees
- Regularly sanitizing high-touch, high-traffic areas like the kitchen
- Enforcing hand-washing for all employees every 30 minutes
- Providing hand sanitizer and gloves for delivery vehicles, which drivers should use between orders
- Using tamper-evident labels to give your customers peace of mind and build trust in your service
Train your employees on the full contact-free delivery process — from the new menu and order submission to payment collection and proper contact-free delivery at the destination.
3 tips for success with no-contact deliveries
- Be proactive in gathering customer feedback by making follow-up calls to ask customers about their experience, the quality of the food, the delivery time, etc. By tackling issues quickly, you can learn from mistakes to improve the service.
- Use social media to notify people that your restaurant is still open for business. Explain the measures you’re taking to keep your staff and customers safe during no-contact deliveries. Explain that no-contact deliveries are essential to protect the health of customers and staff while enabling the restaurant to continue serving people.
- Remember that your delivery drivers are more exposed to the outside world and other people than your kitchen staff. Create a dedicated area away from the kitchen for drivers to collect orders.
If you go the extra mile to provide a vigilant, well-managed, contact-free delivery service, your customers will be more likely to order from you again.