Want to start offering home delivery? Here’s how

9 min read
Tanya Jamal

While many local venues began offering home delivery during the height of the pandemic in Australia last year, it remains an attractive long-term proposition for local customers even now that restrictions have eased across much of the country.

Turns out, Australians love all three options: home delivery, contactless click and dine-in.

Adding a food home delivery service to your restaurant, café or brewery is a fantastic way to boost your sales and meet the needs of a wider variety of customers.

If you’re ready to get started, the next seven steps will serve as a guide to help you on your journey.

7 steps to adding home delivery to your services

If you’re ready to launch your food/beverage home delivery services, there are a few steps to work through. It’s important to carefully consider and set up each one before moving onto the next. This will ensure you provide high-quality customer service and seamless customer experiences that will keep them coming back for more.

1. Train your staff or hire delivery drivers

You need to decide if you’ll use existing staff, hire drivers or use a third-party courier. Before you make this decision, try to determine how many drivers you’ll need. This should include a plan for quiet times and surges in demand.

Man with an Uber Eats backpack walking a bike

If you choose to use your current employees as drivers, you’ll need to make sure they receive adequate training. This will ensure they are not only safe outside of the workplace, but can also deliver your produce efficiently and professionally.

While it’s tempting to use third-party drivers, customers generally prefer to deal with your business directly.

2. Arrange home delivery vehicles and fit them out if necessary

The vehicles you use represent your business. A dented and smoke-billowing rust-bucket doesn’t give your customers a sense of trust in your business or the quality of your products.

While you don’t need to go and buy the latest Mercedes Benz, you’ll want to make sure the vehicles you choose are:

  • In good condition
  • Get cleaned regularly
  • Are fuel-efficient

If your drivers are going to be delivering a lot of large orders, you may need vans instead of cars. If delivering cold foods that need to stay frozen (like gelati or cakes), you may need to invest in a refrigerated van or insulated packaging to ensure safe temperatures.

3. Check your insurance policies and update them if necessary

Whether the vehicles are owned by your business or by the driver, look at getting commercial car insurance to cover any incidents that may happen. You may also need additional insurance coverage for transporting food or updating your workcover insurance to cover workers when they’re off-site.

4. Buy equipment needed for deliveries

Spend some time thinking about how you’ll package the food and what types of utensils you’ll provide. Most food home delivery providers use items such as:

  • Take-out containers
  • Small portion cups with liquid-safe lids
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Food packaging wrap

You’ll also need to stock up on insulated food bags and ice bricks, then train your staff how to safely package and deliver them. For example, a steaming hot Pad Thai placed in the same bag as a tub of ice-cream is destined for disaster.

5. Plan and design your menu

Will you add your home delivery menu to your current menu or provide a separate one? Will you charge a flat fee for delivery on top of whatever your customers order? Or will it be absorbed into the cost of each item?

Close-up of a person reading a food menu

Once you’ve decided how you’ll manage the delivery rates, whip up a simple easy-to-read menu that’s visually appealing. Then, get it printed and have it ready for distribution. You’ll also want to make it available on your website and active social media profiles.

6. Set up online ordering

If you don’t have a website, you’re missing out on potential customers -- especially since more people are ordering online. There may even be government grants available in your area to help you get set up for digital ordering.

Make sure you test and trial your online ordering process before going live to sort out any tech issues.

Related: The A to Z guide to building a small business website

7. Plan your marketing

Now that you’re ready to launch your food delivery service, how will you tell everyone about it and tempt them to give it a try?

You could consider offering one of the following launch offers:

  • Free contactless delivery
  • 10% off first-time orders
  • Free drinks/desserts to encourage new customers to try your food

Start planning and writing social media posts, printing flyers and adding a new page to your website.

Questions to consider before offering home delivery

Once you’ve got the bulk of your planning down, you can begin answering some vital questions on policies, delivery management and any other scenarios you might want to be prepared for. Below, we’ll review the most common questions and discuss why they’re important.

What policies do you need to create for your delivery service?

Along with updating your training procedures, you need to do some risk assessments and create a policy around your business for protection. Consider policies like:

  • OH&S for delivery drivers
  • Safety and security of delivery drivers
  • Refunds and complaints
  • Food safety
  • COVID safe plan

Having these policies in place will ensure your staff understands what’s required of them.

How far will you deliver?

It’s important to establish a zone for your deliveries. After a certain distance, the cost of fuel and time starts to chew into your profits. Make sure to map out ahead of time where you can afford to offer your contactless delivery services.

Who is responsible for planning the route?

You can’t just dump your driver with a load of orders and a list of addresses. Someone needs to plot out the order of deliveries being made, so that it’s done in the quickest and most efficient manner possible.

There are loads of apps available to help you plan the quickest route. However, Google Maps is the most popular and keeps you updated with local traffic conditions.

Where will you handle the orders for delivery?

You’ll need to set up a designated space for drivers to pick up their orders. It’s best to make this away from the main flow of customers entering and leaving your venue.

How much will you charge for contactless delivery?

If you’re not already offering take away, you’ll want to create a delivery menu. You have two options:

Either include the delivery in the price for each item or make the delivery a set amount per order.

When choosing which approach to take, it’s worth considering how you set your pricing across the board. Increasing the price of food to subsidise the costs of delivery has other implications, so think about:

  • Will your customers tolerate it?
  • How long has it been since you last raised your prices?
  • Will you increase the price for take away only? What about pickup orders? Will you increase prices for dine-in as well?
  • Will you charge a fee if an order is outside a certain distance from your shop, and how will you regulate this?

On the other side, implementing a delivery fee allows you to be more flexible with offering deals, such as short-term free delivery offers. It can also be an incentive for new customers to try your restaurant. Offering free delivery over a minimum amount can help increase the total value of each order.

What will you do if things go wrong?

No one likes to think of a worst-case scenario, but a bit of forward planning can make it a lot less stressful. Along with training, consider giving contactless delivery drivers an information package that includes:

  • Contact numbers in case of an emergency
  • Instructions on what to do if they drop or spill food
  • How to handle dogs or dangerous situations
  • What to do in an accident or if they get stuck in a traffic jam
  • Answers to frequently asked questions
  • How to handle tips
  • General safety guidelines and how to stay COVID-safe

Thinking ahead is a great strategy for risk management, as it can help keep stressful situations from turning into unhappy customers and bad reviews.

Related: Do you have a business continuity plan to recover from a crisis?

How do you measure your businesses’ success?

It’s vital to track your progress by keeping an eye on some analytics. You can do this by monitoring:

  • Your busiest days
  • The size of the orders
  • How many repeat vs. new customers are using your takeaway services
  • The most popular menu items

There are sales analytics systems like Google Analytics that can record this data, so you don’t have to do it manually.

You should also regularly review the costs of offering contactless delivery services including:

  • Petrol
  • Insurance
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Takeaway containers
  • Marketing
  • Fees for digital platforms

Doing this will make sure it’s a cost-effective choice for your business.

Setting your business up for success

Your reputation is only as good as your food and service, so make sure you set up everything you need before sending your food or beverages out into the world.

Start by getting the correct licences, registrations and insurance to offer take away and delivery of food.

If you serve alcohol, make sure you’re compliant with liquor licencing laws and regulations as well.

Next, make sure that you have the resources to meet demand, including takeaway containers, bags, cutlery, drivers and cars/bikes.

Get online with an online menu and ordering system that make it easy for customers to order from you. Don’t forget to test out the ordering system before your launch date to iron out any glitches.

Takeout food sitting on a table overlooking a cityscape

Once you’ve got everything set up, it’s time to set up your marketing strategies to make sure people know that you’re offering delivery services. Having a strong launch will help win over new customers and tell existing customers about your new options.

While offering delivery services is seen as essential by many customers, it can come at a cost — the time, effort and organisation required are immense, especially in the setup phase. It’s  important to monitor whether home delivery is worthwhile for your business and adjust as you go to make sure you’re not losing money.