13 March, 2018
Food delivery is one of the hottest topics on the today software development market — in The Software House, we are receiving many enquiries from food delivery companies asking about an optimal solution. It’s not surprising, as acquiring an application for the management of meal ordering can be a game-changing investment for many entrepreneurs, whether it be restaurant owners, food chain owners or franchisers.
According to Conor McCarthy from Flipdish:
“Having an online ordering system is now as important as having a phone”.
However, there are plenty of options and the process of choosing one of them can really give you a headache. To make things easier, I’ve summed up all the possibilities, both with their pros and cons — this way you can decide on the software which is the best for your business.
Food delivery aggregators
If your business is still fairly small, food delivery aggregator may be the best option for you. Such aggregators offer their customers access to multiple restaurants via a single online portal. There are some world-famous aggregators, like GrubHub, Just Eat and Foodpanda, but many countries have their own local platforms.
Having your restaurant included in one of these portals is an opportunity to approach clients who otherwise wouldn’t even know about your small business.
Introducing the new solution is usually plug-and-play easy and you are provided a bunch of services. For example, as Magdalena Szulc from UberEATS points out, you can have a photographer visit your restaurant and take professional pictures of the food you want to offer.
What is more, many aggregators — often described as “new-delivery players” (e.g. UberEATS) — offer logistics for your restaurant, both with providing you with food packaging products and even making the delivery itself, which is a chance for those who hadn’t provided delivery services before and don’t have the necessary equipment and know-how. On the other hand, the aggregators aren’t usually very customisable and it’s very hard to retain your brand’s recognisability. You should also forget about introducing more unusual discounts and loyalty programs. And, last but not least, prepare for paying 10–20% commission fee (or even 30% if you choose a company which makes the deliveries for you).
Summarising, aggregators are the best solution for a company which is just introducing the delivery services, as it gives you an infrastructure and a new sales channel. It’s the easiest way to find out if the delivery model works for your business.
Another option is paying for a SaaS (software as a service) solution. There’s plenty of such applications (just to mention a few: OrderLord, Trackin, Flipdish) and functionalities vary considerably between different products. Probably the most important difference between aggregators and SaaS solutions is that the latter are usually white-label, i.e. you can customise them with your own logos, brand colours, taglines etc., thus developing a platform with your own branding.
Depending on the software you choose, it can cover the whole process — from registering an order to e-payments, managing deliveries, tracking drivers etc.
Many companies offer additional mobile apps for delivery guys both with AI scripts which can, as stated by Maria Auxtova from Orderlord, take care of the “auto dispatch of orders and automatic assignment of drivers”.
Usually, you can also request a demo to check the software for free for a few weeks. Carrying out such a trial is a very good idea, as SaaS products for food delivery may turn out to be problematic. Probably the biggest flaw of most of them is integration. The biggest SaaS solutions provide integrations with major POS (point of sale) platforms out of the box. Nevertheless, if you are using something custom-made or less popular it might not be compatible with the new delivery software. The same goes for your internal processes in general. Deciding on a SaaS product is a good idea for many medium-sized restaurants, restaurant chains and franchises, but be prepared for changing some of your business routines.
All in all, a SaaS system is the best solution when a number of deliveries grows. You have two options then: firstly, you can use both systems (an aggregator and a SaaS product) simultaneously for a while. According to Conor McCarthy, some companies “use the aggregator to get new customers in the door and then migrate them to their own branded [SaaS] apps”. However, many restaurants finally decide to completely stop outsourcing delivery to aggregators and transfer solely to the SaaS system. Probably the most important business quality of SaaS products is that using them is a very good way of testing your internal delivery workflow and checking what’s working for you and what isn’t.
Bespoke software development
When your restaurant business grows and you’ve already learned the delivery process perfectly suited to your business, you should think about taking the next step, which is developing your own custom software. It’s, of course, the most expensive of all three options, but you should compare it to buying a house rather than renting it — instead of being charged every month and for every delivery (as this is how most of SaaS solutions charge), you invest a certain amount of money and get fully bespoke software which belongs solely to you.
When developing a custom product, the sky’s the limit, so you can get all the functionalities your business needs and the new software will be fully compatible with the POS system that you already use — everything is simply on top of your business model.
What is more, going for the custom software is the most scalable. When the number of deliveries grows, monthly costs of maintenance do not increase further, like it usually is in case of SaaS systems or aggregators. Therefore, if you plan to expand your business, consider contacting a software company — whether it be a local or an offshore one — and ask if they have experience in developing bespoke products for food delivery. Many software houses offer free consultations and prepare free quotes, so you don’t lose anything.
To sum up, custom made software is the best solution for big players who have many restaurants, many drivers and, most probably, custom delivery processes. With a bespoke software product, introducing features specific for your business — like loyalty programs and local payment providers — is no biggie.
Solution tailored to your needs
As you can see, there isn’t one universal solution good for everybody, as everything depends on your present and future business goals. While food delivery aggregators can be a good, plug-and-play choice for small companies, they can also, unfortunately, quickly become limiting. Therefore, bigger players should rather go for SaaS products which enable more thorough personalisation and branding of your product. And if you’re planning an expansion of your business in the following years, you should definitely start thinking about developing bespoke software — in the hands of a creative entrepreneur, it can become a game-changing investment. And we all know that making your business stand out is one of the most important things on the food market.