For a smaller restaurant franchise with a strong local following and already employing its own delivery drivers, launching partnerships with four third-party delivery services could seem like a way to invite unnecessary hassles, especially for franchisees tasked with executing the effort.
Not so says Deena McKinley, chief marketing officer at D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches, a 69-unit chain with locations throughout New England. The brand recently established partnerships with the four major third-party platforms, DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats and Postmates, a move McKinley says will put D’Angelo in front of new audiences.
“It’s a lot about awareness,” she says. “A lot of it is just being present. A lot of people go into these apps and they don’t even know what they’re going to order. It’s about being in the consideration set.”
Though D’Angelo and sister brand Papa Gino’s Pizzeria, both operated under franchisor New England Authentic Eats, have their own drivers and online ordering systems, a D’Angelo franchisee started using DoorDash last year and found it successful enough to bring up for company-wide consideration. D’Angelo began “tinkering” with it at some of its 39 company restaurants in late 2019, says McKinley, folding in the other third-party platforms and integrating the ordering process before recommending it to franchisees.
“Before rolling it out to franchisees we wanted to absorb the pain points first,” says McKinley, specifically making sure orders could be aggregated so franchisees didn’t have to monitor four tablets, and ensuring the menu was set up and optimized. “So by the time we presented it to franchisees, it was turnkey for them.”
While the limited access to customer data through services such as Grubhub has long been a point of contention for restaurant operators, as have the commission fees charged by the services, “At this point, we want the transactions,” says McKinley, adding as the partnerships mature the brand will address issues related to data and fees.
“We have to remind ourselves that sometimes opportunity is more important than perfection,” continues McKinley, noting other similar-sized brands considering delivery should also keep that sentiment in mind. “This is a space that’s important to be in, but it’s not perfect.”
All franchisees are using at least one of the third-party services, and early results are encouraging. McKinley, however, knows some indicators of success can be hard to quantify, and communicating that to franchisees is important.
“Awareness is something that’s hard to measure,” she says. “We bring data to the table. If numbers are growing, if transactions are growing,” that’s a good sign. But, “you might not see it overnight. But we’ll isolate activity and be able to show that correlation.”
With the news this week that Uber agreed to buy Postmates for approximately $2.65 billion in an all-stock transaction, McKinley hopes consolidation will yield a more streamlined network of drivers.
“The biggest difficulty with third-party delivery is drivers and getting enough drivers to pick up orders,” she says.
The Uber-Postmates deal is the second such acquisition in recent weeks, with Grubhub set to combine with Just Eat Takeaway.com in a $7.3 billion transaction.