The best restaurant delivery service options (that won't break the bank)

Emma Woodward
Freelance Blogger

Wouldn't it be great if you could serve your customers wherever they are? By optimizing your restaurant delivery services and food ordering website, you can reach your current customers more frequently, and you may even access a new group of customers. 

With an extensive array of delivery apps and services available and more customers using food delivery services than ever before, it makes sense to focus on creating a stellar delivery experience for customers. And restaurant food delivery services are expected to see a 5.1% year-over-year increase until 2024, according to Fundera.

The best cheap restaurant delivery options are first-party delivery, third-party apps, local courier services, and a hybrid mix of all three!

Why delivery matters

Diversifying your revenue streams is one of the keys to managing a successful business. Let’s say you make the majority of your income through in-person service. Then, hypothetically speaking, an infectious virus starts spreading rapidly, and in-person service essentially disappears as an option for a while. Restaurants focused on delivery and in-person service have a higher likelihood of surviving. 

Restaurant staff delivering an order for contactless curbside pickup.

We all know that the world can change in a minute, and the more options you have for how your business makes money, the better. If you want to build a resilient restaurant business, make sure you have multiple ways to make money. 

Restaurant food delivery services are a significant revenue stream option for restaurants, and delivery isn’t going away; it’s getting increasingly popular. Online food delivery alone reached a market value of $26.2 billion in 2021, and it’s projected to more than double in value by 2027, according to a forecast by Reasearchandmarket.com. Making sure you have delivery services set up for your restaurant gives you a good hold on an additional revenue stream. 

The cheapest delivery options for restaurants

So, how can you implement an excellent delivery strategy for your restaurant while maintaining high cost-to-income ratios? Let’s dive in and explore the cheapest delivery options for restaurants. 

First-party delivery

First-party delivery, or in-house delivery, means you plan and coordinate the deliveries. You hire a delivery person or team and intake and fulfill all of the orders yourself. You can either hire dedicated delivery drivers or outsource deliveries with a service like DoorDash Drive. 

Pros of first-party delivery

  • Take home more money: With an in-house delivery setup, you do all the work, so you get to keep all the revenue. You don’t have to pay any commission fees to a third-party service. 
  • Customize and personalize: As the chief designer and executor of your delivery service, you can do it however you want. You get to decide everything from how to train your delivery team to the technology you use to intake orders and how you package meals
Restaurant staff delivering an order via bike.

Cons of first-party delivery

  • Higher time and money costs: Developing a fantastic delivery service takes time and money. When you own the system, you have to invest all your own resources to implement it.
  • Every problem is your problem: When something goes wrong with first-party delivery, like a tech issue or a delivery employee calling in sick, you have to deal with it.
  • Marketing of services required: If you build your own delivery service, you have to market it to customers. It’s your job to make sure customers know you offer delivery and let them know how they can use your delivery services. 

Join a third-party app

These days, there are a lot of third-party food delivery apps out there — like DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats. These apps already have the framework and technology set up for delivery services. As a merchant, you can sign up to use the app in exchange for fees taken from each sale made through the app. 

You can use just one of the apps or sign up for multiple to maximize reach. Using a third-party app can be a great way to build your delivery services without putting in as much work upfront. 

Pros of joining a third-party app

  • All systems are a go: Everything is already set up — from how customers order delivery to coordinating delivery drivers, so you can just plug in your info and start. 
  • Outsource delivery services: With a third-party app, you can let the app coordinate delivery drivers. No need to hire and manage extra team members. 
  • Higher visibility for your business: With over 112 million Americans saying they’ve used a food delivery app as of 2020, you are likely to reach many people. With the best online food delivery technology, you may be able to boost your restaurant sales quicker. 

Cons of joining a third-party app

  • Service fees: Pre-existing delivery systems and a large customer pool come at a cost. Using a third-party app for food delivery means you may have to pay fees as high as 30 percent of each sale made through the app.
  • Less control over the delivery experience: When you outsource the main delivery service components, you lose the ability to make major customizations. 

Use a local courier service

A courier service delivers packages of all different types from businesses to customers, and most courier services specialize in a specific type of package. For this conversation, we’re talking about courier services for restaurants. 

Courier services to hire for delivery management (DoorDash Drive, C3 by SBE, Relay)

Similar to DoorDash Drive, using a courier service can allow you to customize your restaurant delivery services but outsource the delivery of your orders. A few different services like this exist specifically for restaurants, such as Relay or other local food delivery services. 

Relay even allows you to work with various food delivery apps for ordering and marketing while using the courier service for delivery. Doing it this way means restaurants can save on delivery fees through third-party apps while keeping the marketing advantages they provide.  

Pros of a local courier service

  • Customize delivery without managing delivery employees: You can create the custom delivery system that works best for your in-house team without taking on additional employees for delivery. 
  • Get the best possible revenue stream: Using a local service like Relay allows you to reap the marketing benefits of using third-party apps while bypassing their delivery fees, meaning you pocket as much money as possible. 

Cons of a local courier service

  • Couriers are independent contractors: Couriers aren’t technically on your payroll, so you can’t customize this part of the experience as much for customers. 
  • Less marketing opportunities: Depending on the courier service you use, you may not gain the marketing reach you would with third-party delivery apps. 
Retrieving an order from a pickup counter.

Make the best choice for your business

Your business delivery needs depend on your restaurant model and vision. What works well for one restaurant may not be the best option for another. Different strokes for different folks and all that jazz.

It’s important that you thoroughly analyze your business resources and needs before you decide on a food delivery system. The good news is there are many options out there — You’ve just gotta find the best one for your bottom line. 

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