Panda Express has, in its own words, “cut out the middleman” as far as restaurant delivery is concerned. This week, the QSR chain announced it has launched its own delivery service, and also said was planning for 30,000 new hires, according to a press release sent to The Spoon.
The chain, which is owned by Panda Restaurant Group, had actually been planning to launch its own delivery service in a year’s time, according to the press announcement. The pandemic accelerated this timeline. Even with dining rooms reopening, they’re doing so at reduced capacity, and many would rather order takeout or delivery and eat in the comfort of their own home. But fees for using third-party delivery services a la Uber Eats or Grubhub can stack up quickly. For consumers dealing with job uncertainty or unemployment — two widespread things right now, thanks to he pandemic — ordering delivery with any amount of regularly just isn’t financially possible right now.
Panda Express noted the exorbitant fees in its announcement, and said with this new delivery service, guests “will not incur additional fees typically found on third party sites.”
However, a Panda Express spokesperson confirmed to The Spoon that Panda Express will still be available on third-party delivery services, “such as Uber Eats and Postmates.” So this new delivery service could be the start of a slow transition towards bringing off-premises operations back in house.
Which is definitely a post-pandemic trend to watch. Not that we’re post-pandemic yet, one of the many flaws in our food system the COVID-19 crisis put a spotlight on is the relationship between third-party delivery services and restaurants. Sky-high customer fees, even higher commission fees for businesses, shady business practices, and tipping policies for workers are all griefs the restaurant industry has voiced in the past year. To offset some of the high costs of doing delivery, restaurants have to raise their prices for customers.
Restaurants are being urged by many in the industry to try and pull some of their off-premises strategies back in house in an effort to regain some control over their operations and, more importantly, their customer data and relationships. One analyst recently went as far as to say that “In the longer-term, many restaurants are going to see the value of investing in an in-house system for delivery orders.”
That won’t happen immediately. For many businesses, in-house delivery is actually more expensive than using a service like Uber Eats. But it could well be that the pandemic, the subsequent restaurant industry meltdown, mass unemployment, and a recession spur more restaurant into action in terms of finding ways to take more control back of their off-premises operations. If nothing else, this will definitely be a trend to watch in the latter half of 2020.
As far as the 30,000 new hires, Panda Express told Nation’s Restaurant News that new positions will exist to “execute the new health and safety operations and procedures, such as contactless service, curbside assistance, drive-thru assistance, expediters for to-go and online ordering, as well as new cleanliness protocols.”