Bridging the Safety Gap Between On Demand Delivery and Restaurant Operators

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Bridging the Safety Gap Between On Demand Delivery and Restaurant Operators

By Michal Christine Escobar, Managing Editor - 05/26/2017
From GrubHub to DoorDash and Postmates to UberEats, third party food delivery services are skyrocketing in popularity among consumers. However, not all restaurant operators are as thrilled as their guests to work with such companies, especially when it comes to food safety concerns and liability. During a presentation at the 2017 National Restaurant Association Show, Cicely Simpson, executive vice president government affairs & policy, National Restaurant Association and Anna Tauzin, vice president, marketing and innovation, Texas Restaurant Association, discussed what operators need to do to ensure their customers are safe and happy.
 
One food safety issue that should be of concern to restaurants revolves around the technology third party delivery companies use to take customer orders. Some operators have had very negative customer experiences because the delivery companies do not offer as robust of an online ordering platform as the restaurant itself. Tauzin gave the example of a Minneapolis-based pizzeria with approximately 20 locations that caters specifically to those with special dietary needs: gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, etc. It offers its own online ordering system which is very detailed and comprehensive and it has its own delivery drivers. Unfortunately, a third-party delivery company began delivering their food without permission and the online ordering form used by the delivery company was not as comprehensive as the restaurant's. This ultimately resulted in a consumer being hospitalized for ingesting dairy-cheese on a pizza that should have been made with non-dairy cheese.
 
"There is a lot of anger there because we want to protect our consumers," Tauzin said. "For a third party delivery company to blatantly not include those options, knowing people are out there trying to eat this food that will keep them safe, is just terrible. Addressing bad actors means holding their feet to the fire and saying people will get sick."
 
While most third party delivery companies understand the importance of working with restaurants so as to offer good safety practices, they often say it is difficult to get the restaurant to call them back so they can explain their delivery model and ask if the operator wants them to deliver their food. Operators must do their part to ensure customer safety. That includes making their needs known to these third party companies, Tauzin said. Operators should clearly state "yes" or "no" to a partnership.
 
If an operator agrees to a partnership, it must think about and discuss with the delivery service the issue of food safety and liability, Simpson said. That includes answering the following questions: What are the food safety expectations during delivery? Are there certifications the delivery service should be expected to have? If there is a problem, how is it determined who is liable?
 
By establishing a set of guidelines that address these and other important questions, both operators and delivery companies will be better equipped to ensure consumers' food is safe and enjoyable.