The third-party food delivery market is projected to hit $24.5 billion by 2022. Along with those rising numbers are growing expectations for restaurants to offer off-premises food options through services like Uber Eats and DoorDash.

Those well-tread statements are easy enough to sit and write. But for restaurants, those statements are, to shamelessly quote Jack Sparrow, “just maddeningly unhelpful” if they don’t also include practical advice on how to set up a delivery program and what to look for in terms of financial, operational, and technical surprises.

As a result, says Simon Bocca, COO of restaurant-tech company Fourth, a lot of details can fall through the cracks if a restaurant business doesn’t know to keep an eye on them. Those include things like ensuring the right number of staff is on hand, having extra storage space for all the delivery/takeout packaging, and figuring out how to keep Uber Eats drivers from clogging up the waiting area of the in-house restaurant.

These are the kinds of things Fourth tackles with its restaurant operations platform. The software uses data collection and analytics to help restaurants predict weather patterns, food inventory needs, or how many staffers to put on the floor. If we translate those capabilities to third-party delivery, the system help restaurants know many takeout boxes the business will need in stock, which items are popular as delivery orders, and which days might be more popular for delivery (e.g., game day). Restaurants can know ahead of time to expect an influx of delivery orders and prep as much as possible beforehand.

The data is available through a dashboard interface restaurants can customize to their individual business needs.

All of this goes back to the importance of planning when it comes to delivery. “Planning is everything,” says Bocca. “We’re very much helping organizations make sure they’ve got enough foods from the right vendors at the right price [and] understanding the sales that are going to be coming through those channels they can fulfill.”

It’s even helped restaurants figure out when they need to use ghost kitchens. Bocca calls these kitchens, which have no dining room and are increasingly being used by restaurants to fulfill delivery orders, “a huge opportunity” for traditional restaurants. “That financial modeling and planning the full system is ideal to help organizations [with ghost kitchens]” he said.

At the end of the day, it’s all about what the data tells you. In some cases, it might strongly suggest opening a ghost kitchen. At other times, it will highlight less positive things, like one client Bocca didn’t name who saw a 21 percent jump in delivery orders and a simultaneous drop in in average ticket spend for in-house diners.

“Being aware of the data and the information that can affect your business,” he says. “That’s where we see ourselves as being most valuable for restaurants. We bring in all the data: transaction, productivity, and put that into a really helpful package so that leadership can understand what’s happening.”

Founded in 1999, Fourth serves restaurants in over 60 countries. Bocca said the company would like to replicate its success in Britain here in the U.S. and is currently doubling down on its efforts Stateside. Currently, Fourth counts TGI Fridays, Dairy Queen, and Le Pain Quotidien among its clients.

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