The delivery business is booming. GrubHub, UberEats, DoorDash and countless others that venture beyond compound words have taken a dining segment ruled by pizza and expanded it to every cuisine under the sun. On the surface, delivery is an excellent opportunity that allows restaurants to sell to guests who may not have visited them in person. Add in the fact that drivers are on-demand contractors and require no additional head count and you’ve got a pretty good deal.
Delivery still isn’t for everyone, however. A number of factors exist that restaurant owners should consider before going into the delivery business.
While delivery has undoubtedly gotten trendier, it still carries a stigma that can drag down the overall image of a restaurant. While delivery aligns perfectly with most any casual restaurant, the area gets grayer as the average check rises. Steakhouse patrons may question the quality of the food at their table if they see that the restaurant also delivers. While this example is a bit extreme, it’s up to you to assess where your restaurant sits on the premium spectrum and whether delivery is a fit.
On the other end, if you have a high-volume restaurant known for a line out the door, and that line is actually part of ‘the experience,’ delivery may hurt that element, not to mention burden your staff with additional orders and slow the line to a dangerous extent.
Food quality is always at risk in a delivery setting. The longer the delivery, the longer the food sits. Temperatures cool, sheen fades and your food can go from beautiful to unappetizing before the guest can even get a chance to look at it. In most cases, presentation can never match what you’d prepare onsite, especially when you’re at the mercy of speed bumps, sharp turns and other elements that will shake around whatever’s in the back seat.
If you’re comfortable with leaving your food on the counter for a while before a server can pick it up, delivery could be a viable option. If you tolerate nothing less than dishes going out the moment they’re ready, you may not want your food sitting in the back of a car for however long it takes to get to your guests.
Food delivery services can be very expensive, with commissions as high as 30–40% in some cases. This, no doubt, eats significantly into your bottom line. It’s critical to assess whether food delivery will actually be profitable to the point where it’s worth your time.
Determine the minimum amount needed to justify your costs, factoring in any holdups that take place for your dine-in patrons since your kitchen staff will be taking on more orders. If these thresholds are met, then any delivery orders that take place will deliver positive returns.
If you decide to go the delivery route, keep tabs on your revenues and average checks of dine-in vs. delivery business. If you see dine-in revenue slip dramatically, it could be that your dine-in guests simply switched over to delivery. Taking commission into account, this move is not beneficial for your business.
To remedy this situation, experiment with different minimum check requirements for delivery as well as dine-in promotions and events in order to distinguish your restaurant experience while retaining delivery as an additional revenue stream rather than a substitute revenue stream.
Most delivery services have streamlined processes that allow owners and staff to manage deliveries swiftly and efficiently. Even so, take note of the time it actually takes you to manage your deliveries and whether that’s affecting you or your staff’s ability to manage in-store operations.
Pressure on cooking staff is an ever-present factor, as is management needing to handle incoming delivery requests alongside pressing guest issues and handling the inevitable broken dish on the dining room floor. This assessment will likely be less analytical, but take time to consider whether your delivery business is truly manageable or more burdensome than it seems.
If you decide to go into delivery, monitor these factors on a regular basis. By taking a holistic look at how delivery is affecting you financially and operationally, you will be able to make beneficial, proactive decisions as needed to manage this revenue stream.
TRADE Food Hall epitomizes today’s fast-casual landscape, bringing together an array of comfort-centric eateries in a chic communal dining environment. And while you’ll find everything from pho to fried chicken, there’s an artistic element that ties every restaurant together within the TRADE confines. Beautiful food, with flavor pairings that push the boundaries of conventional dining ever outward, make virtually every TRADE Food Hall establishment something to strike intrigue with eye and palate alike.
If there’s ever a foodie concoction to blow up Instagram, it’s the magical burger at Ground House. This quadruple burger comes on a rainbow bagel bun, decorated with rainbow sprinkles and then covered with a heap of Lucky Charms marshmallows. And while there’s no doubt that most will order this outlandish burger for the pictures alone, it’s safe to say that most will be surprisingly pleased with the contrast of sweet and savory.
Magical burger aside, ‘conventional’ still wouldn’t be the best way to describe Ground House, which takes pride in its cheat day-worthy creations that put bacon and pork-centric items front and center. Those burgers, though, are top notch.
Neighboring restaurant Portside focuses on seafood, showcased in grand Cali fashion. Monster burritos stuffed to the point of explosion and tacos actually filled to capacity are a breath of fresh air from the faux ‘street style’ concepts that try to pass off paltry portions as more authentic. That surf ‘n’ turf burrito is absolutely worth a repeat visit.
Some of Irvine’s most inventive cocktails can be found at Center Hub, where mastermind Cameron Lang and team have come up with simply beautiful creations. Take the la chancla, a Mexican candy margarita made with blanco tequila, watermelon puree, tajin and a chili lollipop garnish, held on with the world’s smallest clothespin. Or the rock pops, basically a liquid alcoholic version of rock candy. And what better to pair with a quadruple burger than a gigantic mojito?
Wrap things up with a cookie monster milkshake at sweet comforts, made with blue cookies ‘n’ cream ice cream [think about it!]. And after all this, you’ve only scratched the surface at TRADE Food Hall. Perhaps best to pace yourself across a few visits to take it all in.
TRADE Food Hall is located at 2222 Michelson Dr. Irvine, CA 92612. Hours vary, but generally open 11a – 9p Mon – Fri, 11a – 8p Sat/Sun. Prices vary by restaurant. For more information, visit TradeFoodHall.com
Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse is your classic friendly neighborhood steakhouse. White tablecloths, plush booths, servers lad in chef whites and fancy dessert carts put Davio’s on somewhat of an endangered species list in this day and age of modern chic, but with 25+ years of history on the east coast, this place is making big bets on comfort, coziness and iconic charm. Those 25 years, however, were built up with steakhouse grade hormone-free cuts, homemade pastas and a menu that brings timeless and new age dishes together.
Davio’s 3,000-mile journey out west brought it to a business park in Irvine, where needless to say they’re killing it on power lunches and business dinners. But the experience goes much further, with corporate clientele coming back dressed down and with families in tow. The newest offering is Davio’s Sunday Brunch, which is picking up steam as a high-end weekend dining destination.
If you’re looking to make your Sunday afternoon fun and fancy, with a feeling of privacy and seclusion, plus the unbelievably rare opportunity to actually make a brunch reservation, you just got a solid go-to with Davio’s. Ridiculous beef tenderloin Benedict and a crab omelet with crab ‘impossibly everywhere’ are just a preview of how this steakhouse takes brunch to the next level, complemented beautifully with a bloody Mary cart complete with fresh bacon, jumbo prawns and virtually anything else you can put in a morning cocktail.
The full Italian steakhouse experience is readily available at brunch as well, with hand-rolled potato gnocchi, fresh lobster rolls and of course an array of classic steak and seafood options. And whatever you’re craving, you owe it to yourself to start with the spring rolls. Far from your typical Far East dish, these variations are stuffed with Philly cheesesteak, Reuben, chicken parmesan and east coast specialties that allow Davio’s to show off its historic roots.
Davio’s did adapt to SoCal quite well in its ambiance, finding a location with tons of natural light and an expansive patio. It makes it that much easier to enjoy another bloody Mary, glass of wine or craft cocktail. Then that dessert cart comes out and the hardest decision of the day is whether to go with the molten chocolate cake or the panna cotta. Make it easy on yourself and just get both.
Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse is located at 18420 Von Karman Ave, Irvine CA 92162. Open 11:30a – 10p Mon/Tue, 11:30a – 11p Wed – Fri, 5p – 12a Sat, 11a – 10p Sun. Avg. out-the-door price for split appetizer, entrée, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$85/person. For more information and reservations call (949) 477-4810 or visit Davios.com/Irv.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.