At the 2021 Pizza Expo, third-party delivery was a hot topic in all my sessions, even those that had nothing to do with third-party delivery. If you decide to partner with a third-party delivery company, then I suggest you truly PARTNER with them. That means they are in business with you. Do right by them and don’t have an adversarial relationship. The person coming to pick up food from your location is in business with you. They are your pizza ambassador. They are helping you get more money. They are not leaching off you and your business. If you view it that way, they will treat you negatively, and you will have a counterproductive relationship. Bear in mind, you have approved this relationship. You have said, “Yes, I am willing to let other people deliver food to my customers who order on their app on my behalf.” Hence, it’s in everyone’s best interest to have the most mutually beneficial experience.
What does that mean? It means, simply put, be cool. Be nice to them. Give them a water or soda while they wait. Say hello to these drivers. Give them a spot to sit down if it’s taking some time. Or better than that, don’t have it take much time at all and make sure all third-party delivery drivers have priority access, so they get in and out quickly. Have a set station for them; even wrap a hot box with their company’s logo on it, so it’s blatantly obvious where to go as you increase their speed of service.
Here’s another big reason to be cool to them. I’ll let you in on something; all your third-party delivery drivers are talking to each other. They are on Facebook groups gossiping all day like a sixth-grade slumber party about which restaurants treat people well and which restaurants to avoid. If your restaurant is known for treating drivers well, they’ll circle your restaurant as their go-to place, waiting for pizza orders to come in. They’ll do this if you are known for being quick and kind. If they know they’ll get reliable service, maybe even a soda, then they’ll haul for your delivery and come right back to your pizzeria all night. Without speedy transactions in store, some driver will pick up the order eventually, and they’ll do it reluctantly or out of naivety.
Quick pick-up times and more driver interactions will increase your viability on the algorithm and visibility on the third-party delivery website. This practice is good things leading to good things when you’re a partner with your delivery drivers. These people who pick up your food are not only your temp workers; they’re also potential customers. If you treat them like minions doing your bidding, as opposed to potential customers, they’re not going to like you. They’re going to speak negatively about you to their friends and family, in addition, to the other third-party delivery people. Dealing with drivers might sound like a lot of pain and aggravation, but in reality you could be building a whole new customer base with a solid, robust delivery program.
Not every driver is perfect, far from it. Be active in blocking in the app, those who don’t represent you well, and make those who do right by you feel like gold. If you’ve owned a pizza place for a while, it’s highly likely you’ve brought pizzas to an on-site event at one point or another. Maybe a church or a corporate lunch. Think about the ones that we’re excited to see the pizza show up and greeted you warmly. Now think about the people who treated you like “the help” and how crappy that felt. I remember going to deliveries and hearing, “Pizza-boy is here; where should he take everything?” Do you want to treat people like that? Of course you don’t, so build relationships you can be proud of and be good to the drivers because they’re hustling in the game just like you.
In a post-COVID world, Andolini’s Pizzeria went from 8-percent dine-in to a decent even split of pizzas that leave our restaurant versus pizzas that stay inside. That means treating all to-go procedures and delivery procedures with a high level of professionalism and courtesy. It is essential for profitability. Partner or a pest? Decide which one you want to view delivery drivers as and they will return the favor in how they treat you.
MIKE BAUSCH is the owner of Andolini’s Pizzeria in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Instagram: @mikeybausch