As restrictions lift and the industry refocuses, which creative delivery ideas should you develop further, and which have run their race?

Delivery is no longer confined to packaging up a ready-to-eat meal and sending it off to your customers. From DIY dumplings to remote dinner parties, the delivery boom has seen chefs provide innovative solutions. They have adapted to the new operating environment, capturing the attention of new diners and bringing back regulars.

Chef Consultant Paul Rifkin of Chef Paul Rifkin Consulting says the shift in delivery preferences forced chefs to re-evaluate their offering, and for some, it was unexpectedly profitable.

Dark kitchens, which cook purely for delivery, have sprung up across the country and show no signs of slowing down. “Some restaurants have done figures they’ve never seen before and have never had so much profitability because no-one’s sitting in the restaurant, they’ve got no waiters and no cleaners,” he said. “Now they’re reconsidering why they would even bother having seats anymore, when all they need is the kitchen and a delivery bike.”

Rifkin says the challenges of 2020 saw dark kitchens, which had previously only been in the city, pop up in the suburbs.

“A lot of suburban restaurants have found there is a huge market for dark kitchens now, because many customers who would have previously eaten in the city are now working from home and looking for something nearby.”

Rifkin believes the emphasis on delivery services is here to stay, however venues may need to tweak their idea or approach to reduce the labour and associated costs.

“Some of the amazing things that restaurant started doing with their takeaway is very labour-intensive,” he says. “Which I can guarantee that 12 months ago that would never have even considered as being a market or an opportunity worthwhile.”

However, Rifkin says there’s certainly opportunity to keep elements of these more labour-intensive offerings going.

What these restaurants keep will come down to who their customers are and what they want.

“It’s about understanding your customers and deciding who you might like your next customer to be, and how you can attract them.”

And it’s not just about tweaking existing offerings. Rifkin says innovating a delivery offering might be that point of difference that helps a venue stand out from the crowd.

“Before COVID and even more so now, customers are always looking for something that’s a little bit different. Whether that’s doing the dish they love with a twist, or providing unique service,” he says.

And even if customers continue to order the same thing 90% of the time, sometimes they just want to see something new or exciting happening, he says. This means it’s important to innovate without taking away what customers love about your venue.

“If you’ve got something that works, add things to the side and offer something new,” he explains.

For a step-by-step guide on how to best innovate your delivery service, download MasterFoods’ Rogue magazine here.