food Takeout delivery

Food takeout, delivery still strong, but comes with cost

Pam GeorgeCulture, Headlines

food Takeout delivery

Taco Reho in Rehoboth Beach already has a drive thru that allows diners to pick up their dinner to go; it’s expanding to Middletown.

During the pandemic’s peak, restaurant takeout soared.

Partly, that’s because it was the only option in spring 2020.

However, more than a few consumers still haven’t dined inside, and others have grown accustomed to the convenience of taking dinner home or having it delivered.

As a result, takeout is still trending. However, the demand can stress the kitchen, which is typically short-staffed, and some operators don’t trust third-party delivery services, while others depend on them.

food takeout Two Stones, usually associated with beer, has opened its first pizza parlor -- 2SPizza in Newark.

2SPizza in Newark partly grew out of Two Stones’ frustration with finding ways to pack takeout dinner.

Growing across concepts

Takeout has always been a selling point at fast-food restaurants, and in 2022, 85% of all fast-food orders were to go, according to market research firm the NPD Group.

That number was down from 90% in 2020 but up from about 76% in the years just before the pandemic.

Among full-service restaurants, 33% of orders were to go in 2022 — nearly double the pre-pandemic rates.

But while quick-service restaurant menus are designed for takeout, other concepts have had to adjust — and it’s not easy.

“Everybody wants items they can take out in a box. Everybody wants DoorDash,” said Mike Stiglitz, founder of the locally based Two Stones Pub chain. “And that’s one of the things we’ve struggled with.”

For instance, Two Stones takeout nachos require multiple containers, and customers must assemble them at home.

The dilemma helped give birth to 2SPizza, which opened in Newark last month.

But even pizza places are feeling the pinch.

“The takeout operation on the weekends is at capacity,” said Robbie Jester, owner of Pizzeria Mariana, which is also in Newark. “There is definitely still a demand.”

food takeout close up of a plate of food

Pizzeria Mariana manages the stress of takeout, delivery and indoor diners by slowing phone and delivery orders.

The struggle to keep up

When Pizza Mariana is overwhelmed, Jester snoozes online ordering, typically in 20-minute intervals.

“It helps give us pockets of breathing room to get the food out and regroup,” he explained.

Similarly, users of third-party delivery services, such as DoorDash, may notice that some restaurants go offline even when they’re open for on-site dining.

Consider them swamped.

That’s also the case if the phone just rings when you call to place an order.

Jester’s restaurant phone set to three rings.

“People call back if they aren’t able to get to us right away,” he noted.

Wit Milburn, the owner of Kapow Kitchen and Ubon Thai Kitchen & Bar, switched to a new point-of-sale system that can process takeout and delivery orders and on-site dining.

“It’s made everything seamless,” he said. He’s also carved out a to-go pickup area in Ubon.

Milburn uses all of what he calls “the big three” for delivery — Uber Eats, DoorDash and GrubHub.

Some restaurants pick one service, typically DoorDash. Indeed, Bloomberg Second Measure’s transaction data shows that in January 2023, DoorDash and its subsidiary Caviar earned 65% of U.S. consumers’ meal-delivery sales.

Between January 2019 and January 2023, DoorDash’s market share roughly doubled.

Food takeout Grain

Grain has grown disenchanted with delivery services and offers customers a $1 drink ticket to pick up takeout themselves.

Refusing to take chances

Not every restaurant is a fan of such services. Greg Vogeley of Drip Café in Hockessin and Newark won’t use them.

“I’ve always had a mental block about someone touching my food before it gets to the end user,” he said.

His concerns have merit.

About one of four delivery orders placed through a third-party service’s app is botched, according to Zion & Zion, a Tempe, Arizona-based marketing firm. More than 50% of dissatisfied customers blame the restaurant — not the service — for a problem.

There are other issues, especially in the upscale dining sector.

Rude and impatient drivers waiting for orders can disrupt the dinner service, said Cristina Savage, manager of Culinaria in Brandywine Hundred.

To maintain a good “vibe,” she does not use the services.

Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen, which has five area locations, stopped using third-party deliverers.

“We saw drivers come in to pick up an order with two other packages in the car,” said co-founder Lee Mikles. “There is no way that food is getting there at a reasonable time.”

In February, Grain began rewarding customers who picked up their orders with a $1 drink voucher. Underage patrons can purchase a soda. To date, 76 people have taken advantage of the offer.

BBC Tavern and Grill in Greenville found another way to address delivery concerns.

“We have our own,” says owner David Dietz. “The food is out the door as soon as the bag is packed.”

BBC delivery is only available within a five-mile radius of the restaurant.

So, what will the future hold? Many restaurants are crafting takeout menus with an eye on to-go container costs and how well the food travels.

Now they will also have to keep an eye on a bill expected to work its way through the General Assembly that will ban foam cups and food containers as the state banned plastic bags.

Technology will continue to play a role in delivery — Grain uses an online ordering platform even without a delivery option.

However, customers will also experience a learning curve.

If they want delivery and takeout, they may need to pay extra for it, and the past few years have proved that many are willing to cover the cost.


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