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Delivering food as easy as pie: Choosing the right food delivery software

Marcin Mazurek

Marcin Mazurek

Sales Director

Food delivery is one of the hottest topics in today’s software development market — especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic outburst. At The Software House, we have been receiving many inquiries from food delivery companies asking us about an optimal solution even before the pandemic. However, now it’s definitely a super hot topic. 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 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.

But first, let us discuss all the recent changes in the world of food delivery software.

Food delivery software and online ordering during the pandemic

So, delivery software for restaurants and other gastronomic businesses, right? The food industry is currently blazing again with the support of technology. First and foremost, it’s really important for restaurants to have an online food order system that is easy to use for customers. And food ordering software – with a website for food delivery, as well as an online food ordering app for mobiles – definitely makes it more convenient for your clients to order food in times of the coronavirus pandemic.

With more people locked down at homes due to the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) outbreak, there has been a surge in demand for food delivery services and food order software.  Multiple restaurant delivery software operators such as UberEats, Glovo, Deliveroo, JustEat and Postmates have responded to the crisis by introducing the very popular contactless delivery online ordering option – to eliminate the risk of spreading the virus between the customer and drivers.

Because of the pandemic, food delivery software and online ordering apps are constantly upgraded with additional features – the features are not always directly connected to the coronavirus outbreak itself but the changes are definitely introduced faster because of the current situation. Push notifications in your mobile restaurant ordering app let you keep your clients informed about the status of the delivery. Chat systems make it possible for your customers to contact delivery drivers directly. And you, as the business owner, and your employees can control all of that better thanks to the ever-improving food delivery management software.

But what are the options for choosing the modern food delivery software that’s best for your business?

Food delivery aggregators

If your business is still fairly small, a 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 GrubHubJust 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 a plug-and-play integration, 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.

Many aggregators  –  often described as “new-delivery players” (e.g. UberEATS)  – offer logistics for your restaurant, both by 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. The aggregators aren’t usually very customizable and it’s very hard to retain your brand’s recognizability. 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).

To summarize, aggregators are the best solution for a company that is just introducing the delivery services, as it gives you the infrastructure and a new sales channel. It’s the easiest way to find out if the delivery model works for your business.

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SaaS products

Another option is paying for a SaaS (software as a service) solution. There’s plenty of such applications (just to mention a few: OrderLordTrackinFlipdish) 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 customize the food ordering website with your own logos, brand colors, taglines, etc., thus developing a platform with your own branding.

Depending on the software you choose, it can cover the entire process — from registering an order to e-payments, managing deliveries, tracking drivers etc.

Many companies offer additional mobile apps for delivery personnel 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 an excellent idea, as SaaS products for food delivery may 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. 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. 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.

Unsure about outsourcing? Success depends on who you work with

A SaaS system is the best solution when the number of deliveries grows. You have two options then: first, 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 food delivery software development

When your restaurant business grows and you’ve already established the delivery process perfectly suited to your business, think about taking the next step which is developing your own custom software for delivery, online ordering, and delivery management. It’s, of course, the most expensive of all three options, but 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 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.

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 the 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 lose nothing.

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.

A solution tailored to your needs

As you can see, there isn’t one universal solution for choosing the software for the food delivery business. 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 that enable more thorough personalization and branding of your product. And if you’re planning an expansion of your business in the following years, 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.

One example, when we proved to be successful in cooperating with the food delivery business, is a project with Kuwait. The company handles parcels and food delivery. At some point, they started thinking about expanding their business and introduced a new brand that would integrate all existing courier services in the country.

The Software House developed an entire system for the new brand — a native iOS app with an eye-catching and intuitive interface. Now clients can order a parcel delivery in just a few clicks using their smartphones. The order is immediately presented to multiple delivery companies and the one which volunteers first takes the job. It significantly speeds up the complete process. The project proved to be an enormous success, as during the first two weeks the app was downloaded 1500 times, with no marketing support. The Software House and Porter Express then continued the collaboration, adding new functions to the app. Now, it is also a complete food-ordering software.

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