Efficiently Delivering Orders Beyond Pizza
You're astute enough to know what travels well and what doesn't
When “Denny’s On Demand” launched last spring, placing it in direct competition with the estimated hundreds of thousands of restaurants offering delivery service, it didn’t come as a surprise to everyone. It emerged at a time when the restaurant industry was overall sluggish, and every idea to increase transaction averages should be considered, say experts.
“So many of the fast-casual and casual restaurants are having issues with their numbers and comparable comps within the last year,” says Doug Roth, a former third-generation restaurateur who consults restaurant groups and hotels nationwide with his company, Playground Hospitality. “Everyone is looking for ways to increase the top line. Delivery and carryout are two ways to do so.”
Denny’s has gone high tech in its effort, teaming up with digital ordering provider Olo, making it convenient for customers to place orders from their smartphones or tablets. What’s extraordinary is that the service is available 24 hours a day and everything on the menu may be ordered.
“Whether it’s a Grand Slam for dinner, a Fit Slam for breakfast, all-new pancakes at 3 a.m., one of our delicious burgers, or all of the above, the options are endless and now truly the world is your diner,” says John Dillon, chief marketing officer for Denny’s, in a press release.
While most user reviews of Denny’s service have been tech related, several detail excessive delivery wait times and complaints of the quality of the food. Roth says when issues like this surface, restaurants must re-evaluate their programs.
Hopefully you’re astute enough to understand what travels and what doesn’t
“Hopefully you’re astute enough to understand what travels and what doesn’t,” says Roth. “Shame on you if you’re in a position where you are continuing to deal with the items that don’t carry well. You have to do your homework before you even set out to do these things. That’s an amateur way of doing business if you say, ‘Let’s do our menu,’ without testing it.”
He adds that an especially busy delivery program puts additional pressure on the kitchen. “We used to get slammed on a Saturday night with both those orders,” he recalls. “What happens is that your dining room and delivery business are both sacrificed. There had better be a good way of how to produce those items so there isn’t a conflict both from a labor standpoint and also food quality consistency standpoint.”
For Bill Nevruz, a managing partner at delivery-only restaurant concept Seasides, the kitchen in which his team works is what makes his project a success. Seasides shares a spacious kitchen with Oyster Bah in Chicago’s Lincoln Park and Shaw’s Crab House in Schaumburg, Ill.
“There are limited seats in the two-level (Oyster Bah) and this was a way to reach more customers without physically expanding,” Nevruz explains. Seasides only delivers fried chicken, ribs and steamed lobster, and he is confident that his kitchen perfects every order.
He admits, however, that there was much trial and error before the recipes for the fried chicken and steamed lobster were ready. “The ribs are the easiest. They stay hot. You just pack them up and they’re good to go,” he says.
“The fried chicken’s challenge was keeping it crispy,” he continues. “Our chef did an amazing job in developing a process that takes three days with the brining process and the special batter and how we fry it. It really, truly stays crispy until (customers) get it. I can attest that the chicken is crispy until the next day out of your refrigerator.”
Delivering whole steamed lobsters was even more challenging, Nevruz admits.
“Lobsters don’t do well when you cook them, pack them away and then eat them 30 minutes later. They continue to cook with the steam and they become tough. It’s not very appetizing.”
To solve this issue, his culinary team worked overtime to create a lobster recipe that wouldn’t overcook or dry out. Their solution: a lobster finished with a parmesan topping that acts as an insulator when it goes into the oven. “It keeps the lobster meat, which is very low in fat itself, from drying out. It keeps it warm and juicy until you eat it at home,” he says.
Valentina Imbrenda, of Italian-focused Via Emilia 9 on Miami Beach, doesn’t shy away from delivering every item on her menu because she has confidence in her kitchen.
“We know how far the food can go where it will be okay,” she says. “If the driver is going to be late, and the food is cold, we will redo it to make sure it is right.”