In further proof that you can’t solve the current restaurant industry crisis by flipping a switch, Upserve released new data this week that shows many restaurants are still struggling with off-premises formats.
Upserve’s survey polled 421 players across different types of restaurants, including full-service/dine-in, fast casual, QSRs, and fine dining, among others. The big takeaway? More than half (64 percent) of restaurants feel “optimistic” about the future, but nearly half (47 percent) struggle with shifting their business models to online ordering and the formats that come with it.
We’ve seen this play out in real time for better and for worse throughout the last several months. Restaurants historically focused on dine-in service have had to pivot to delivery and curbside pickup, not to mention find affordable tech solutions that could enable online ordering. Businesses have struggled to master off-premises operations. They’ve gotten really creative with ad hoc tech stacks and worked much harder to communicate with their customers. And most all of them have seen a rise in off-premises orders. Upserve’s report said that as of July, its restaurant customers “have seen a 782.7% increase in Online Order sales volume growth.”
But Upserve also points out that autumn is practically upon us, and once colder weather comes, the option for outdoor seating will go away, not just for its own customers but for everyone. “It’s key that restaurants find an online ordering solution that works for their customers by the fall,” the report said.
The call to action for all restaurants right now is to get their off-premises strategies fine-tuned, streamlined, and operationally efficient, regardless of the trajectory of the pandemic or the future of indoor dining. Even if indoor dining returns in some form close to what we used to know, its chances of unseating off-premises at this point are slim to none.
Here’s Why Delivery Price Hikes By QSRs Could Spike Demand for Drive Thru
Admittedly, I brushed over news from earlier this week that some QSRs are raising their delivery prices more than 15 percent. But the more I’ve thought about it over the last few days, the more I wonder at two things: the chains’ motivations behind the price hikes and whether they’ll prompt more customers to order drive-thru and pickup to save a few bucks.
Business Insider first wrote about the price hikes, noting that Chick-fil-A’s prices are 30 percent higher for delivery, while Starbucks and McDonald’s prices are about 20 percent higher. My own unscientific analysis compared the costs of McDonald’s double quarter pounder with cheese meal and found it to be $9.19 on Uber Eats versus $7.99 via McDonald’s own app. (Both prices are before taxes, delivery fees, and tip.)
That example is arguably not going to break the bank. But consider that since more people are staying home and ordering for the whole household, delivery orders are likely much bigger than a single meal, which could significantly raise the cost of dinner.
Of course, part of the reason for these price hikes is that large chains, just like small restaurants, have to pay the third-party delivery piper when it comes to commission fees, which can go as high as 30 percent. Passing some of that burden on to the customer makes sense from a business perspective.
Question is, will customers want to shoulder that delivery burden when they could hop in the car, drive a couple miles, and collect their food via curbside pickup for cheaper? In many cases, probably not. For one thing, a lot of food from QSRs just doesn’t travel well and you typically wind up with soggy fries, watery soda, and lukewarm burgers. For another, we’re in economically uncertain times, y’all.
Given all that, more customers will be motivated to order their fast food via pickup and drive thru, which may be part of these chains’ longer-term strategies in terms of price hikes. Restaurants make more money off pickup orders (no commission fees), and when orders are funneled through the business’s own digital properties, the customer data remains in-house. Over the last year we’ve seen an uptick in brands encouraging customers to order via in-house apps, while others are even launching their own full-stack delivery services.
Price hike’s won’t take third-party delivery down, but if customers respond by choosing pickup, curbside, and drive-thru, the loss of business will be another swing of the hammer currently trying to crumble third-party delivery’s chances of profitability.
Elsewhere in Restaurant Tech . . .
- Iconic hot dog chain Nathan’s Famous has partnered with REEF to use the latter’s ghost kitchen network to fulfill more off-premises orders. The partnership is now in Manhattan, and Nathan’s has cities like LA, Portland, and Minneapolis on the horizon.
- Yum Brands’ digital sales hit an all time high of $3.5 billion in Q2 of 2020. The parent company of Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut notably said on the call that opening dining rooms was important but not “critical” to the company’s success.
- Sonic unveiled a new drive-thru design that’s further proof the drive-thru experience is also being reinvented. Contactless order and payment capabilities, expanded patio areas, and “lawn games” (?!) are all part of the new design.
- Oakland this week became the latest city to approve a cap on commission fees third-party delivery services charge restaurants. The 15-percent cap is effective immediately and last until 90 days after the COVID-19 health emergency is over. Whenever that is.