I recently visited my local McDonald’s, but as I parked my car, a McDonald’s worker rushed over. “Sir, sir, I’m sorry,” he said, “but you can’t park here.”
“Why can’t I park here?” I asked.
“Because this is for Uber delivery pickup only.”
That’s when I saw it: a row of spaces specifically for Uber Eats drivers.
In the last five years, according to the NPD Group, revenue from restaurant deliveries has increased 20%, and the overall number of deliveries has risen 10%. Due to the rise, restaurants have had to change operations, including redesigning interiors and modifying menus.
At many Subway restaurants, for example, a dedicated register behind the counter continuously updates with delivery orders from Postmates and status updates on Postmates drivers en route to stores. At Sharkey’s or Panera Bread, you’re likely to see separate pickup lines specifically for third-party delivery orders.
“Delivery has become a need-to-have and no longer a nice-to-have in the restaurant industry,” said Warren Solochek, NPD’s senior vice president of industry relations, in a statement. “Restaurants need delivery in today’s environment in order to gain and maintain share. It has become a consumer expectation.”
Since partnering with DoorDash in 2016, Ellen Chen, co-founder of artisanal sandwich restaurant Mendocino Farms, told the Los Angeles Times that she’s allocated more counter space at existing restaurants for DoorDash pickups, negotiated with landlords for more 10-minute parking spots to accommodate delivery drivers, and has knocked through a wall at one location to create a pickup window just for DoorDash orders. “We’ve had to go back to every store and reorganize them,” her husband and co-founder Mario Del Pero said. “You can’t make them any bigger, but you can allocate more space to it.”
Beyond adding separate pickup lines, dedicated parking spaces for delivery drivers, and order monitors, some restaurants offer a smaller, modified menu for delivery customers. For example, Los Toros Mexican Restaurant in the Los Angeles suburb of Chatsworth doesn’t offer nachos to its Postmates customers because it fears the dish won’t keep well by the time it arrives at its destination.
Delivery is also transforming restaurant expansion plans. Chains are opening so-called “ghost” kitchens without any eat-in dining areas. “We can rent a 10-by-10 kitchen on a monthly basis and jump right in without having to spend a year setting up a restaurant,” Allen Wong, president of Chinese restaurant Fat Dragon and a partner at the Sticky Rice Group, told the LA Times. He went on to say that he believes it will soon be as easy to order food as it is to hail an Uber, and that’s when delivery will truly become a core part of all restaurants. “We want to be well positioned for that,” he said.
Nevin Barich is the Food & Beverage analyst for Industry Intelligence, a Los Angeles-based market intelligence firm. It's the perfect job for him: He loves junk food, he often works besides a glass of Diet Dr. Pepper, and anytime one of the health nuts in his office gives him grief for eating a Big Mac, he gets to smile and say: "Hey, this is my job." Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.