Retail

The Nimble, Climate-Based Approach To On-Demand?

On demand

There’s always an app for that – and, usually, depending where one is in the country, there are several apps for food delivery. How, then, does a food delivery platform stand out from the crowd? For starters, these companies may seek to expand into areas that are under-served by other providers.

Platforms like Bite Squad are taking this approach, with a major point of differentiation from their competitors: Instead of using contractors to make deliveries, they have W2 employees who bring meals to customers. This model comes with a major advantage – and selling point – for consumers.

On other platforms, drivers can reject orders because they are contract workers. Why might a driver not want to make a delivery? They might be discouraged from picking up an order if a restaurant has a reputation for having customers who don’t tip, for instance. “Our drivers cannot refuse orders,” Bite Squad Co-founder and CEO Kian Salehi told PYMNTS.com in an interview. And when Bite Squad delivers an order, he said, his staff will come to the door to drop it off, even in a multi-unit building like an apartment, hotel or condo.

To access the service, a customer can visit Bite Squad’s website and enter his or her address to show nearby restaurants. After a consumer places an order and pays by credit card, the platform notifies the restaurant of an order by a tablet placed neared the host stand or bar area that rings and blinks. A member of the restaurant’s staff confirms the order and provides feedback as to how long it will take based on the day of the week, time of day, number of orders and the item itself. “They can upward and downward adjust the timing based on how busy they are,” Salehi said.

And that business can also depend on the climate and time of the year.

Cold Climates

In terms of regional markets, food delivery services can be especially useful in places with particularly cold weather, such as Minnesota, where Salehi’s company is based. In the winter, “we’re incredibly busy, and people don’t want to leave their homes,” he said. And as restaurants – and their patios – are busy in the summer, Bite Squad slows down. “[The service] helps the restaurants normalize their revenues,” Salehi noted. And it could help them avoid closing early on a rainy or cold day.

Salehi noted that chain restaurants fare particularly well in some markets, but in the larger picture, the overwhelming majority of orders on the platform are for independent restaurants. Indian, Thai and sushi do particularly well. Why? Salehi thinks his customers might have a hard time cooking those cuisines at home. And just as the platform seeks to provide a wide selection of restaurants, it also ensures that it can fulfill different cuisine types, and aims to expand its offerings beyond consumers looking for a meal after work or late-night eats.

Corporate Catering

In the early days of his startup, Salehi talked with customers who wanted a gifting option for his service. Teams at large corporations, in particular, wanted to come together as a group to purchase gift cards for their colleagues when they were ill and couldn’t visit a restaurant. To serve this need, Salehi manually uploaded credits into individual accounts. That experience inspired him to automate the process, ultimately rolling out gift cards for his customers to print or email directly to recipients.

As another offering to his corporate customers, Salehi offers catering – but it doesn’t come without challenges. For starters, food deliveries to companies can’t be late or missed. Secondly, platforms may find it hard to win over the business of the administrative assistants who order food and could get blamed if there is a problem with an order. For that reason, they are understandably reluctant to change services and try something new. But for Salehi, that segment is easy to serve from a logistics standpoint: “We already have the platform,” he said.

To introduce corporate catering to his customers, Salehi simply has to ask restaurants for their catering menus to add to his platform. And just as his service helps restaurants balance out their quiet, cold winters with busy summers, the corporate catering helps his delivery business when it is less busy. Much of his business is dinner orders, while corporate catering tends to focus on lunch.

What services will food delivery platforms like Bite Squad introduce in the future to compete in a crowded marketplace? That remains to be seen, but it’s becoming clear that food delivery services can take steps to stand out in the crowd.

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