Much of the strife in delivering food reaches its crescendo at lunch. “It’s much more chaotic at lunch, with a much shorter window,” because most guests are pressed for time and want to return to the office or work pronto, Reinstein says.
Moreover, Reinstein says, when restaurants focus on making sure delivery functions smoothly and assign additional personnel to meet demand, other areas of the restaurant may falter. At certain restaurant chains, “it’s much harder to get a server,” and getting the food to the table has slowed down considerably.
At some restaurant chains, where the kinks haven’t been ironed out, delivery leads to inaccurate orders, and because packaging wasn’t strengthened to keep track of demand, the food arrives soggy or cold, frustrating customers and denting guest sentiment.
However, times are changing. When many new restaurants are constructed, the design adapts to solve the reality of increased home delivery. Building much larger take-out areas and designing separate areas in the kitchen are some of the adjustments.
Home delivery isn’t new at Applebee’s
At Applebee’s, with 1,875 global outlets, including 1,690 in all 50 states with 69 company-owned and the rest franchised, delivery isn’t anything new, says Scott Gladstone, its Glendale, California-based vice president of strategy and development. It launched Carside To Go about 15 years ago. Customers can order food via phone or mobile app, which they pick up at the restaurant, and never have to exit their automobile. There are even separate parking areas arranged for Carside pick-up to quicken the experience.
“It meets customers’ need of speed of service and wanting to get in and out quickly,” he says.
Applebee’s introduced its new mobile app and website at the beginning of 2018. “It made it much easier for the guest to access the menu,” Gladstone says. In the third quarter, the chain’s off-premises sales spiked 30 percent. At the same time, Applebee’s introduced a new packaging line to “showcase the food better,” he says.
READ MORE: Applebee's reports best run in 25 years.
To ensure that everything flows between the kitchen and the guest, each Applebee’s assigns one, and sometimes multiple, Carside specialists. “They help answer the phone, take orders, package the food, and run the orders to the car,” Gladstone says.
Applebee’s also coordinates with several third-party delivery services such as DoorDash, Grubhub, and Amazon. These vendors integrated their delivery systems with Applebee’s point of sale to quicken pace and lessen any chances of inaccuracy. Currently, close to 1,100 Applebee’s offer delivery (most are on DoorDash, but this includes some local partners). Applebee’s anticipates covering 1,500 units eventually, or basically the entire system.