2020 was a challenging year for the restaurant industry. As the novel coronavirus swept the nation, QSRs rushed to rescue their business, while also meeting the needs of increasingly anxious customers, by adopting delivery services.
This rapid transformation meant few QSRs had a true opportunity to strategize and optimize internal processes for food delivery safety.
As delivery services continue to explode in 2021 and beyond, implementing a defined and data-driven food delivery safety strategy will not only protect your customers, but also drive revenue for your restaurant.
In this guide to developing a delivery-focused food safety strategy, we’ll share:
By the end, you’ll know how to implement an efficient food safety program that meets compliance requirements and transforms new customers into repeat buyers.
From meal kits to delivery apps, the stay-at-home orders caused by COVID-19 led to a major spike in online food and restaurant deliveries.
As a result, the online food delivery industry is expected to drive upwards of $28,486 million in revenue in 2021.
This drastic shift in consumer habits signals to QSRs that it’s time to fully embrace the shift to mobile ordering and delivery services. But, it’s important to note that this change must also come with a heightened focus on food safety.
Yes, your restaurant should follow proper food safety procedures for compliance purposes. (After all, you need to pass inspections.) But, these procedures must also extend to your delivery services.
From ingredient preparation to the final handoff at the customer’s doorstep, every aspect of your delivery service must provide a repeatable, safe food experience for customers.
It’s simple: Restaurants that take food safety seriously win over more customers.
The pandemic forced customers to be hyper-aware of food safety protocols. A mid-2020 global study showed that concern over food safety is at an all-time high, with 55% of consumers expressing concern. Another NRA study from December of 2020 revealed that 91% of customers expect even third-party delivery drivers to be well-versed in food safety protocols.
Restaurants that demonstrate their commitment to food safety and provide customers with a consistently safe experience have an easier time earning the trust of delivery customers.
Once you earn the consumer’s trust, it evolves into tangible benefits including:
Following a food delivery safety plan not only guarantees that you can pass an inspection, but also fosters customer trust, which in turn, drives revenue.
As with any new product or service in the food and beverage industry, there are risks. When it comes to food delivery, however, all risks must be addressed immediately for the safety and health of your team and customers.
Foodborne illnesses are defined by the CDC as disease-causing germs that can contaminate food and cause harm to consumers. To date, there are more than 250 possible foodborne illnesses identified by researchers.
Foodborne illness outbreaks are not only unsanitary and harmful, they are costly.
Chipotle—a QSR unfortunately notorious for foodborne illnesses—recently paid a $25 million fine for foodborne illness cases that caused approximately 1,100 customers to become ill. The brand has only recently recovered from its record sales drop in 2017 because of food safety failures, four years later.
Online food and meal kit delivery services are being linked to foodborne illness outbreaks as well. In 2018, a salmonella outbreak in China was traced back to online orders from the same restaurant using a delivery app.
Without a digital food safety checklist or comprehensive delivery strategy in place, your restaurant is at risk for a foodborne illness outbreak.
Customers have endless food delivery options, thanks to third-party apps like DoorDash and UberEats.
But, restaurants have to decide:
“Is it safer to rely on drivers from third-party food delivery apps or create an internal food delivery and online ordering system?”
There’s no right choice. But, it’s best to weigh the food safety pros and cons of each before making a decision.
In-House Delivery Systems
QSRs always have the option of developing an in-house online ordering and delivery system. However, while you retain full control over the platform and delivery processes, these systems can be expensive to develop.
|Full control of all food delivery & safety processes||Expensive to develop an effective online ordering and tracking platform|
|Can assign delivery drivers from your internal team||If something goes wrong with the food or delivery, it’s your responsibility to rectify the situation|
|No additional fees required||Requires someone to manage all transactions, features, and activity|
Food Delivery Apps
While riskier for restaurants, third-party apps offer the ultimate convenience for restaurants and customers. It’s up to your restaurant to decide if the benefits outweigh the risks.
|Convenient turning off and on of delivery orders||No control over the choice of driver or driver protocols|
|Ability to reach new audiences through marketplace apps||Limited control over the delivery process|
|Optimized delivery service already built for your business||Potential for driver risks such as food tampering and temperature fluctuations due to AC/heat, long-distance drives, or multiple stops.|
Food temperature is a major component—and risk—in an effective food safety plan. And, the packaging you use to deliver food to the customer plays a significant role in maintaining proper temperature levels.
Food delivery packaging must:
It’s tempting to buy the cheapest containers available, but is the cost savings worth increasing your risk of a food safety issue? Absolutely not.
Eliminate risks and room for error while guaranteeing peace of mind for customers by optimizing your food delivery plan with these safety tactics.
Identify trustworthy members of your team who can operate as designated food delivery specialists.
These individuals will serve as your team’s “go-to” people for all things related to delivery services—they own delivery quality assurance—and are responsible for:
These team members must also be well-versed in:
Ask each food delivery specialist to also complete a ServSafe online course to guarantee they have a comprehensive knowledge of food safety.
Among the top delivery customer complaints is cold food.
And, on top of unsatisfied customers, improper food temperatures can lead to food sickness and bacteria growth. For reference, foods should always be stored and received at the following temperatures:
Optimize your food delivery safety plan by implementing an automated restaurant temperature monitoring system to record temperatures and trigger corrective action alerts.
A remote temperature monitoring system ensures that all food—whether ingredients stored in the prep refrigerator or a food delivery order waiting under the heat lamp—is kept at the proper temperature without the need for old-school logbooks.
And, if something does go wrong, you’ll receive an automatic email or text alert to fix the situation ASAP.
With such a system in place, you’ll have ample temperature data to back up your claims in the case of a customer complaint or delivery error.
Remember to keep your food temperatures consistent and storage areas safe by:
First and foremost, your delivery orders should always be packaged with customer and delivery driver safety in mind.
Food packaging best practices include:
Another key element of safe food packaging is tamper-proof seals.
A 2019 study from US Foods discovered that 1 in 4 delivery drivers admit to eating part of your order! What customer wouldn’t be upset to find half of the french fries missing from their order?
To combat this, restaurants stick tamper-proof seals on delivery bags and containers. A broken seal indicates evidence of food tampering.
Tamper-proof seals and stickers not only reduce risk but also work to foster customer trust by proving your restaurant’s commitment to food takeout safety.
After you’ve accepted the order, prepared the food, and stored it properly to wait for pickup, the delivery driver is the last hurdle standing in the way of a safe food delivery.
We suggest asking all drivers to:
If using your own fleet of drivers, be sure to regularly review defined safety protocols and equip their vehicles with everything they need for a sanitary delivery. This can include drink holders, ice packs, insulated containers, and dividers if allergies are a concern.
The best way to optimize your food delivery safety plan is by communicating clearly with customers.
Effective and efficient customer communication includes:
Remember, it’s all about building trust and earning repeat orders! Go the extra mile and be sure to display your food safety protocols across social media, review sites, and your restaurant’s website.
In a world riddled with anxiety thanks to a pandemic, we look to food from our favorite restaurants as a comfort and escape.
By executing an optimized food safety plan, you prove that customers can trust your restaurant for safe, repeatable, and on-time online food delivery.
Eliminate the guesswork and run a tight food delivery operation that drives more orders with optimized digital food safety checklists, remote temperature monitoring, and automated alerts.