Restaurant chains are quickly trying to adapt to the growing consumer demand for speed, choice and value. Now is the time for them to take action before it’s too late. However, it’s imperative to carefully assess multiple tactical and strategic challenges to choose the right delivery model. Orchestrating a delivery fleet (or multiple fleets!) is an ambitious project that requires meticulous attention to detail, new technology systems, and a lot of enthusiasm.
Creating a brand new division or business operation to manage deliveries can be daunting. These are some of their biggest challenges our clients have experienced while creating and rolling our deliveries for their restaurants. Tackling them early on should save you a significant amount of time, money, and many headaches along the way.
1. Understanding the needs of your drivers
Remember that drivers are at the heart of the operation, regardless of whether you’re building your own fleet or using a third-party to help you manage deliveries. Companies often don’t realize that delivery drivers are an entirely new type of employee. They will require different skills and equipment to do their jobs including driver licenses, vehicles, smartphones, data plans, uniforms, etc. What’s more, they will be the face of your brand for many customers.
To onboard and support them, be prepared to build a comprehensive training system which will make a big difference in their eventual performance. Your drivers are your brand’s ambassadors, so don’t forget to establish a code of conduct. Everything from the dress code to their smiles will make a huge impact in terms of the way your brand is experienced by customers. For many of them, the only human interaction they’ll ever have with your brand will be with the delivery drivers, so you need to invest in making this experience as positively memorable as possible.
2. Allocating appropriate staffing, space, and resources
Many of the traditional tasks of a dispatcher can be automated with the right technology, which enables restaurants to handle an ever growing number of orders. For example, at Bringg we developed auto-dispatching technology, which liberates restaurants from having a full-time dispatcher on site. Instead, drivers can take responsibility for packaging, or a designated coordinator can help put orders together. However, it is important to have a designated staff member on-site who is available to handle ‘exceptions’ when something goes wrong.
Restaurants also need to factor in operational implications such as physical space. You can calculate the increase in the volume of work required from the kitchen based on estimates of how many new orders you will need to handle. This can give you an idea regarding the space and staffing you’ll require. Don’t forget that your delivery fleet will need parking space!
Creating an efficient pick up area is also critical to making delivery work. This space needs to be well staged and designed so that it does not interfere with the work performed by the kitchen or counter staff. For example, one of our clients put all the cutlery, napkins and drinks in a separate area so drivers could do the packing themselves without disrupting the restaurant staff or getting in the way of the cashier when all they need is a napkin. As trivial as it might sound, small ‘hacks’ like these, which take place hundreds of times a day, can have a huge impact on overall efficiency.
3. Creating a strategic rollout plan
It can be daunting to think about the process of building up a delivery operation across an entire chain with a brand new fleet. The project’s success will be hugely impacted by the way in which the new operation is tested and rolled out across different branches and cities. Therefore, I recommend to start with your best people – the teams that are open to change and willing to experiment. Start by selecting between one and three branches to make the process manageable. Preferably, these branches should be in an area with medium population density to test deliveries – not too high, not too low. Having a controllable environment will make it easier to experiment all aspects of the operation, from support to training.
Once the system has been tested and optimized in the first locations, the second stage is to rollout the delivery operation to a wider region, ideally with ten to twenty branches. This will enable you to manage the delivery operation while being forced to stop any manual processes due to sheer volume. Here you’ll really test the system, the team, and the entire ecosystem in the way in which it’s meant to be used. Once this milestone is completed and fully operational, you’ll be ready to fully scale by replicating your model across other cities and regions.
4. Thinking beyond your own fleet
You always need backup so it’s a good plan to think about utilizing external fleets when your in-house team can’t fulfill all the incoming orders. This strategy can also help you optimize your efficiency, cost and coverage. Using multiple external fleets will drive competition which leads to lower costs. In addition, it is a great way to cover a broader geographic area, especially if it turns out to be more difficult to hire in-house drivers in certain locations due to legal or supply issues.
Some of our customers successfully combined in-house fleets with additional third-party fleets to complement their own when demand peaks or when they don’t have a fleet yet in some regions. While managing orders between multiple fleets may seem difficult at the outset, we now have the technology required to connect all external fleets, automate the distribution of orders, and manage all deliveries in a unified way from a single dashboard.