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Don’t Blame The Restaurant!

It’s a consumer-driven world. And consumers are pretty savvy. But delivered food from your favorite restaurant may not be as good as it was the last time you ate there. But remember this. You’re not eating there. You’re eating far away from where the food was prepared. So adjust your expectations accordingly.

Do you love, I mean LOVE with all caps McDonald’s french fries? And how about those fresh hot yeast rolls from Texas Roadhouse, soft, warm, baked to perfection with cinnamon butter slathered on top? Or what about those baby back, baby back, baby back ribs? Hungry yet? One thing we can all agree on: our favorite foods and beverages taste best when they don’t have to travel far to get inside our bellies.

Those McDonald’s french fries aren’t near as heavenly if you can’t dive into the bag as you drive away. Now imagine a guy on a scooter, bicycle, car or (wait for it) a robot or drone delivering your beloved Mickey D’s fries. On the third stop. From across town. AND it costs more. You know where this is going, and it ain’t good.

But here’s the thing. Don’t blame McDonald’s. And don’t shoot the messenger, whether it be UberEats, Grubhub, DoorDash or Mr. Roboto. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

We want what we want when and where we want it. But sometimes, what we want more than great-tasting food from our favorite restaurant is mediocre food from our favorite couch. You pay for convenience - both in price and in quality.

Pizza may be the exception. Pizza brands are the OGs of delivery. So they know a thing or two about how to deliver fresh-tasting, delicious pizza. They’ve got sophisticated apps to track your order, artificial intelligence to ensure your pepperoni is evenly and perfectly distributed, insulated bags to keep the precious cargo at the perfect temperature, and their own fleet of drivers who understand the pace of operations, and know neighborhoods, routes and customers. So they do it right. And let’s be honest, we all have higher expectations when it comes to pizza delivery. They have to deliver on delivery. It’s what they DO. It’s who they ARE. And true to OG status, they do it extremely well.

Here’s what I want you to know the next time you order food from a third-party delivery company. Your favorite foods and beverages are still just as delicious as ever - when you dine in, or when you pick them up yourself and don’t have far to go. But whatever you do, don’t expect perfection when you prioritize convenience.

Here’s what you may not realize. That local restaurant you love so much is handing over a sizable percentage of your dollar (and likely all of your customer data) to the third-party delivery company. If you want the restaurant to keep more of your hard-earned money for its culinary creations, and if you want them to know you as a customer, order directly from them. It’s like shopping local.

There will come a day when the disruptors (the third-party delivery companies) become disrupted. In the meantime, restaurants have to figure out how to be where consumers want them to be - and maintain profitability. Not to mention the technology headaches associated with integrating multiple systems, synchronizing menus, taxation on the backend, etc. (These challenges are being addressed inside the Restaurant Technology Network’s Third-Party Delivery workgroup).

What restaurants need to do, besides figure out how to integrate tech and find a model that works for them, is to see third-party delivery companies for what they are - a logistical way to scale their products from point A to exponentially more point Bs. But that’s hard when you see diminishing revenues and you don’t know who the point Bs are anymore. Incidentally, some brands like Panera, are getting creative. Utilizing the delivery companies to attract customers and handling the food delivery themselves in an effort to maintain exceptional quality along the way. Definitely a model to watch.

I had a great conversation today with James Christensen, president and owner of The Loyalty Point, a consulting firm focused on the intersection of payments and marketing. James said he always asks clients how they book their hotels. Some say, others book directly from the brand and have loyalty status, some go off the beaten path and book an Airbnb. But the point of his question is this. If you book from an aggregator like Expedia, you don’t expect the red carpet service when you check in. You’re looking for a discount. When you book directly from the hotel and you’re a Bonvoy rewards customer, you expect much more. It’s your choice. You pick the method. You pick the experience.

It’s a consumer-driven world. And consumers are pretty savvy. Sure, my delivered food may not be as good as the last time I ate there. But remember this. You’re not eating there. You’re eating far away from where the food was prepared. So we need to adjust our expectations accordingly.

But the good news is we have choices. We live in the land of the free. Do what you want. Order what you want, whenever you want. Have it delivered anywhere you want. Order from whatever third-party delivery app you want. Sit on your couch in your pajamas and wait for it if you want. Netflix and chill all day if you want. But know this. The food may not be as good as you want. But binging on episode after episode of Breaking Bad is the best. And that may just be good enough. Just don’t blame the restaurant.


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