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Lessons in Native Delivery

“It has been this locomotive that is building,” says Matt Friedman, cofounder and CEO of Wing Zone, about the concept’s impressive same-store sales during the pandemic and economic downturn. 

“Between April and May, our sales were up 45% with two-thirds of our business from delivery,” says Friedman. “The sheer number of delivery
increases was pretty dramatic.”

For Wing Zone, 80% of delivery is done in-house by a Wing Zone employee and about 20% is by third-party delivery services. That relationship was “a little bit of a test,” says Friedman. “Within 18-24 months it has blossomed.”

Is Third-Party Delivery Worth It?

Third-party delivery companies are maligned for their fees, of course. “When the fees creep up to 30%, the question becomes: Is third-party delivery profitable and worth it?” But third-party tech platforms help brands market to new customers and capture additional revenue. Delivery providers have their place in the marketplace, says Friedman, and may be the right decision for restaurant brands looking for additional exposure.

“We do view them as a competitor, but we are in business with them. They offer delivery across the country for the products we have. Wing Zone works with the big three (third-party delivery companies) as well as some local options.”

The Benefits of Owning Delivery

“We believe in direct delivery and the power of data. When a customer orders direct, I know their favorite order, their favorite sauce.” 

Those customer insights can be leveraged in multiple ways and through a whole slew of marketing campaigns including direct mail, SMS and email. (Wing Zone uses Plum Reward for SMS and Bronto  for loyalty rewards tied to customer phone numbers.)

When customers order direct, the brand is able to control the experience, from order to delivery. Wing Zone prides itself on food coming from a Wing Zone driver wearing a Wing Zone uniform and carrying a hot bag. These details matter, says Friedman, as the brand is looking to build and maintain consumer confidence and loyalty.

“We do not market any third-party delivery in our stores,” stresses Friedman. “I think it is important to have aggressive marketing of our delivery program. ‘Be a part of our loyalty program’ – we market the benefits of ordering from us.” 

“A lot of restaurant brands think it is easy to implement their own delivery,” cautions Friedman. “It is very challenging.” Liability, insurance and packaging are three concerns he rattles off. “You have got to have the right POS system to do it. You have got to understand the challenges of delivery drivers,” a position that has a high turnover.  

Future Outlook

Nevertheless, Friedman expects delivery, curbside and pickup to have staying power. “For the next 18 months, those all will be strong performers,” Friedman predicts.  

As for Wing Zone, Friedman is optimistic about the future. “My outlook is continued strong sales,” he says. “Delivery is here to stay.”

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