Are You Ready for Contact-Free Delivery at Your Institution?

Whatever you want to call it - no-contact, contactless, or contact-free delivery – you are going to need to make this part of your dining strategy this fall.  And that’s assuming you haven’t already made it part of your plan.

What is Contact-Free Delivery

Contact-free delivery is leaving the food order at the door, in the lobby, or any designated safe place, then notifying the diner that their order is ready via a phone call, text, or email.  And the payment is made over the phone, through a website, or using a third-party app.

Why You Should Offer Contact-Free Delivery

Beyond the safety and health of your employees and customers, contact-free delivery helps you serve more people so your dining services can generate revenue.

Do-it-Yourself or Partner?

Whether to try to do contact-free delivery on your own or form partnerships to address the potential challenges of delivery and online ordering and payment is the million-dollar question.  And it’s one that requires a great deal of research and planning.

If you have been offering delivery service in the past, you probably have space in your restaurant or facility that you use for delivery preparation and packaging.  You might need to expand that space, depending on what you are projecting for delivery and on-site ordering – but if you haven’t been delivering orders, you will need to think about how you want to set up your delivery prep and packaging space.

Then there is technology to help your customers place orders and pay for them, as well as for your staff to prepare, package, and deliver the orders.  And depending on your current operations, you are going to need reliable Internet access as well.

You will also need to designate staff to contact-free delivery and make sure they have reliable transportation, commercial car insurance, a good smartphone plan, and proper training.  Let’s not forget uniforms and signage for transportation so the customers can easily identify your team.

Last but not least, you need the right delivery packaging.  And that includes what you use to package the meals and what you need to keep the meals at the proper temperature.  (HINT: clear packaging helps your delivery staff quickly check the orders before leaving on their delivery run. Also, use tamper-evident packaging that provides your customers with physical evidence that no one has tampered with the product.)

A Few Suggestions

You will most likely want to create a menu that is best suited for delivery, and that is easy for your staff to prepare.  Remember that it’s best to start slow, exceed everyone’s expectations, and then decide what to do.  Trying to do too much right out of the gate can cost you both customers and employees.

When it comes to health and safety, implement pre-shift screenings, and remember to practice safe distancing in your kitchen.  Increase the frequency of sanitizing high-touch and high-traffic areas and do the same for personal hygiene, including handwashing.

If you are leaning towards using a third-part delivery app like Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats, or Postmates, because they might be able to get your program up and running sooner and more efficiently –be careful about the costs.  For a little background on this, check out this article.

And if you are leaning towards using an in-house ordering app so you can take orders from your website, keep in mind that this can take longer and might require expertise you don’t have at the moment.

One last suggestion, and it's concerning the possible impact on waste generated from the packaging of grab and go meals.  Last year, a study in the UK found that grab and go meals created 11B items of waste due to the packaging.  This means that as you look towards packaging for both contact-free delivery and grab-and-go takeout, you should focus on eco-friendly packaging as well as adequate trash collection options.

Chuck Faulkinberry

Written by

A university auxiliaries administrator and dining services professional for a worldwide leader in food and facilities management. Chuck has over 35 years of hands-on experience and management focus in higher education dining and auxiliary services. Chuck’s insight includes: extensive campus dining expertise, contracted bookstores, university run mail services and print shops, card services, lease management and all aspects of event planning and operation. Having worked “in the trenches,” he has the personality to clearly communicate with your organization to evaluate site conditions, operating statements, meal plans, card programs and bookstore reviews.

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