Delivery as a marketable service

pizza boxes, receipt

Nearly 80 percent of U.S. pizzerias offer delivery. What does delivery mean to you as an operator?
a) An additional avenue of revenue?
b) A selling proposition?
c) A daily challenge of overseeing drivers and deliveries?
d) All of the above

You probably answered “d.” Today’s diners regard pizza and delivery as going hand-in-hand. Many of our patrons echo the sentiments of Tiger Woods: “And I don’t cook, either. Not as long as they still deliver pizza.” Thus, more than 1 billion pizzas are delivered each year and every single one of them is transported to its destination in an unpretentious yet precisely designed cardboard box or bag.

King Umberto and Queen Margherita had the privilege of getting the first known pizza delivered in 1889. Raffaele Esposito, the most famous pizzaiolo in Naples, Italy, made a pizza honoring the Queen and offered it to her. It was a hit. Imagine the scenario. How do you think Raffaele presented the pizza to royalty? How did he present himself? If we assume the pride and diligence of Raffaele then we will have a marketable delivery service to offer.

Pizza came to North America with the arrival of Italian immigrants in the late 19th century, but did not gain popularity until mid-20th century. At that time men returning from WWII created a demand for pizza and the advent of the car culture impacted the retail industry. Enter Tom Monaghan. This American entrepreneur saw a need and an opportunity. Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza, is commonly credited with establishing pizza delivery as a profitable enterprise. Domino’s Pizza used this marketing strategy to become one of the fastest growing franchises in history simply by positioning themselves as the delivery experts. “Free pizza delivery” and Domino’s Pizza became synonymous. In fact, their entire business was initially fueled by the slogan: “Fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” With the nation watching, other pizza store owners discovered that it was essential to incorporate delivery as an important marketing tactic. Soon, nearly every pizzeria offered free delivery.

With rising energy costs over the last two decades, a delivery charge was instituted throughout most of the industry to offset the rising costs associated with delivery service without raising menu prices across the board. Today, delivery is not an amenity, but a service rendered for a fee. Therefore it needs to have value in the eyes of the consumer to be marketable.

The value of delivery service is the convenience of being able to have fresh, hot pizza at your doorstep in a reasonable amount of time.

What Would Raffaele Do (WWRD)? Raffaele himself delivered his pizza to make the best possible representation of his craft. Today, pizzeria owners should ensure that drivers are properly trained, licensed and insured.

Follow a checklist before you send out someone to represent you in your neighborhood:

  • Personal appearance is neat, clean and uniformed.
  • Drivers and delivery equipment visibly marked with your logo.
  • Vehicles are marked safe and well maintained. Having these things checked will keep your driver accountable to the public as he performs his duties. I feel there is a need and advantage to cross train drivers. Once they understand how products are made and packaged it will reduce deliveries with missing and mishandled items. This also empowers them with considerable knowledge of your product, enabling them to handle customer inquiries on home deliveries.

A few incidentals to optimize your delivery service:

  • Flashlight –– reading house numbers at night.
  • Pen –– essential for credit card payment.
  • Street map –– getting lost is costly.
  • Mobile phone –– considered necessary to contact the store or householder for clarification.

If you really want to go the extra mile, supply drivers with hospitality mints, parmesan cheese or red pepper packets or even doggie treats. A good driver will pick up signs from the householder and appropriately offer such items for that special touch of service.

Delivery service starts with the order placement. So WWRD? In 2013, Raffaele would have a POS designed for pizza and delivery. This will enhance and quicken the order-taking process. The order taker must have a working knowledge of the anticipated preparation and delivery time. If the time you quote customers is off, the result will be late deliveries and customer dissatisfaction. The order taker can additionally help expedite the delivery by asking customers to turn on the porch light, calling back and verifying late night orders and writing down special instructions for hard-to-find places. Meeting customers’ expectations keeps them calling.

An able pizzaiolo like Raffaele will put effort into finding the right packaging for his pizza so that it is properly supported and vented during transport. Boxes, bags and delivery pouches are vital to the home presentation and must provide strength, heat retention, and product protection.

Your POS makes it easy to obtain statistical information on your staff’s performance such as the number of late deliveries, out-the-door time and on-the-road time. Be proactive and monitor delivery service so you can make corrections to badly quoted ready times, kitchen inefficiency or under-performing drivers. Things we can’t control, such as weather or traffic, can generally be handled with patience and honesty in dealing with the customer on the initial call. You’ll increase productivity and efficiency while cutting down on waste and redundancy. That means better customer service and more money in your register.

Problem on delivery? Item missing or pizza smashed? WWRD? Handle it immediately. A replacement item with due apologies should go to the customer’s house with the very next delivery run. If no orders are ready or all the drivers are out, delivering it yourself will show the customer how much you care.

Delivery can be a profitable venture for you. First, remember that it is a service to your customers and do all you can to make it a positive experience. This is a service created by customer demand. Look for opportunities to market your delivery service. Late-night delivery service, hotel deliveries that include silverware and napkins, New Year’s Eve and events where people are glued to the TV are but a few times that you can underscore the consumer benefits of delivery.

Scott Anthony is Fox’s Pizza Den franchisee in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and a marketing consultant in the pizza industry. He is a frequent guest speaker at Pizza Expo.