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    The restaurant industry has been one of the worst-hit industries from the COVID-19 pandemic. The restaurant industry in India is estimated at INR 4.2 lakh crores with the share of the organized market at 35%. The drop in sales witnessed by the organized market is about 90%.  According to the National Restaurant Association of India, over 20 lakh people employed in this sector may go jobless.

    Many affected countries are beginning to open up their economies for business. But even if restaurants are allowed to offer table services it may be a while before the general public begin to feel comfortable with the idea of sitting inside restaurants.

    And with eased lockdown norms and within the confines of permitted business activities, the restaurants who could first generate business in months are the ones who offered take-away or home-delivery services.

    In this article, we will assess how restaurants can make home delivery services a turning point of their business timeline as we step into a new normal.

    Having a Mobile App and Promoting it via Digital Marketing

    With contemporary priorities heavily tilted towards social distancing and limited outdoor activities, home delivery service has emerged as a saviour for many restaurants and food joints.

    Restaurants have two options here. Either they can launch their own online food ordering platform or go through aggregators. Having an own app has long-term and intrinsic business benefits albeit it comes with a burden on resources in terms of manpower and infrastructure. The app/website design and development will have to be accompanied with restaurant delivery management software for order processing and fulfilment. And the app is in place and available for customers to download and use, the same also needs to be promoted via digital marketing channels like search engines and social media platforms otherwise people will not even know.

    Two key benefits of having in-house ordering platforms are customer feedback and data generation which can be further analysed to improve services, come up with better personalization campaigns, and resolve customer complaints more accurately.

    Listing with Aggregators

    Developing and integrating an app-based ordering feature involves more effort and investment as compared to registering with aggregator service providers and providing home delivery services through them.

    Many restaurants prefer to start with restaurant aggregators which have a multi restaurant online ordering system.  By joining hands with good restaurant aggregators, restaurant owners gain access to their well-established delivery network and mature food delivery systems. This also saves the cost of hiring new employees and vehicles for order fulfilment. With a key operation is taken care of, restaurants can focus better on their core product which is the food.

    By getting listed on popular food delivery aggregator platforms, restaurants also gain on the branding front.

    Offering Promo Codes to Existing Customers for Deliveries

    Restaurants that are cognizant of their customers’ tastes and preferences have better chances of reconnecting with their customers as economies limp back towards normalcy. These restaurants can offer promotional discounts to their existing customers giving them a reason to place an order.

    But restaurants need to understand the cliché here. If fewer customers have started to order food online, it is also likely that they will choose the restaurants that they trust not only for the taste but also for maintaining the relevant safety and hygiene norms in the entire process.

    Expecting that even the loyal customers would come back to the restaurants for dine-in would be a big ask for now. Therefore, app-based ordering and home-delivery service combined with promotional discounts strike a balanced note.

    Hygiene and Safety is the new Order

    Although hygiene and safety were always important service parameters for restaurants the on-going pandemic situation has taken it to new heights. This factor is now a critical element of customer experience. When we are talking about home delivery services the same holds true like magnets. No matter what reputation a restaurant enjoyed in the past if it has to survive and gain back the momentum from here on it must incorporate the relevant and scientifically-accepted standards of hygiene and safety in procurement and storage, in the kitchen and cooking, in handling and packaging, and in delivery and payment. Customers’ trust and confidence over how seriously restaurants are taking hygiene and safety norms will be a deciding factor in the success of home delivery services.

    Stronger Complaints Management

    Going with aggregators has a big demerit – restaurants lose touch with their customers. They only get only standardised feedback. Poor service on the part of the aggregator may lead to a collectively bitter experience for customers. Whether going through aggregators or an in-house ordering platform, restaurants need to ensure that they are getting the correct feedback from their customers and customer grievances get addressed as intended. Restaurants need not rely on the aggregators for the handling of customers’ complaints. At the end of the day, customers are receiving a collective service – from the aggregator and the restaurant. Even if there is a lapse of service on the part of the aggregator, restaurants still need to know what went wrong.

    Delivery SOPs

    A cardinal rule of managing any business operation is to be process-driven. The criticality of home delivery service is that all the brand reputation, the master chef skills, the feature-loaded app, or the social media popularity are wrapped in that final delivery act. Restaurants need to see home delivery service as a big responsibility and an important operation.

    By laying down the right procedure (SOP) for carrying out the home delivery task, restaurants can better ensure that the delivery person knows the what, when, where, how, and who of the entire activity in a step-by-step sequence as an operational roadmap. A competent restaurant consulting company can help in designing SOP manuals for restaurants.

    While it has not been a good year for the restaurant businesses so far home delivery service offers a silver lining for the industry. However, it must not be seen as a magic formula. It needs to be carefully planned and implemented as a business strategy.