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As a college freshman in 2003, living in a new city 500 miles away from home, I was eager to begin the next chapter in my life. While I was excited for independence, I was not prepared for the removal of the assortment of meals I knew and loved, typically served around the same time each night by mom. The dining hall closed early and I was forced to find alternatives.

Not far from the dorm was 23rd Street, and on 23rd was a one mile stretch of almost every national restaurant brand imaginable. Turning the corner onto 23rd, all the familiar QSRs aligned and logos lit up like the Las Vegas Strip. It was comforting to see these familiar brands and exciting to see new ones not offered where I grew up. With so many options, it was overwhelming, but I typically settled on eating something familiar.

Map of QSRs on a 1 mile strip of W. 23rd Street in Lawrence, KS
Map of QSRs on a 1 mile strip of W. 23rd Street in Lawrence, KS

Today, this experience (or customer journey) is happening digitally, and often on third-party delivery platforms. Restaurant brands are spending a lot of time and money to get customers' attention on these crowded apps, and it's important to do everything in your control to perform at a high level.

Here's a few best practices for third-party delivery success. 

Customize your menu 

It is important for the menu to be customizable within each third-party delivery app so that customers can make their perfect order. Optimizing the menu for delivery by allowing for substitutions and additions will increase the chances that the customer receives exactly what they want. This will help improve customer satisfaction and lead to better reviews. Better reviews can lead to higher placement, depending on the third-party delivery app.

Along with a customized menu, create family meals and combos with your best-selling items and place them at the top of the menu. Typically, these bundles include a discounted price, but will increase the basket size for larger groups and customers who like a deal.

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While this sounds obvious, it is important your restaurant is set up with the correct categories. This holds especially true for brands with a diverse menu. For example, if you're a pizza restaurant, Pizza should be your number one category. However, depending on what you offer, it might make sense to also add Italian, Pasta, Salad, American or Desert (if applicable). This offers an opportunity to cast a wide net and get in front of customers who typically wouldn't associate your brand with the desired item. 

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Make it widely available

To increase revenue and customer reach, be accessible. According to Gallup, "81% of third-party customers are not looking for your restaurant. The first thing they do when they use 3PD is scroll through browsing the available food options, not brands." Because of this, expand your brand on multiple third-party delivery platforms to identify performance and reach a larger audience.

Customers may also be financially tied to using one platform over another. Third-party delivery companies such as DoorDash and Uber Eats are partnering with credit card companies in hopes of gaining market share. Depending on the card, both Chase (DoorDash) and AMEX (Uber Eats) offer credit card members complimentary DashPass and Uber Eats Pass subscriptions, allowing customers to take advantage of $0 delivery fees.

  • Do your research to identify which apps are the most popular in your local market.
  • Direct your customers to these new platforms through your website and social media.
  • Offer a first-time-order discount to drive initial traffic.


In the era of digital marketing, the impact of photos on food delivery apps can make or break performance. When swiping through the menu, the customer may see the description of the food, but all focus will be on the image.

Not only is it important to have quality photos, but it's equally important to have photos for each item. According to Deliveroo's statistics, "items that have images next to them have an average increase of 6.5% in sales, compared to those without."

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Customers are also generally picky when it comes to food, and having seen what is going to be delivered prior to ordering builds customers trust. It also increases the chance for customers to get adventurous and try new foods that they typically wouldn't order if only for a description of the item.

Digital marketing to drive online orders

In order to run a successful delivery business, you must have a digital marketing strategy to go along with it. This includes marketing within each third-party delivery app, across social media, paid advertising, email, SMS, review sites and any other creative digital avenues that can be measured.  

As a new restaurant on the digital marketplace, some third-party platforms might give you a head start as you're thrown into the arena. This may include preferred placement, digital signage (logo ribbon) or in-app marketing campaigns (free delivery), but it is up to you to keep that momentum a week or two later when these freebies go away.

As large third-party platforms merge and new apps arise, the delivery app landscape is changing quickly. Whether you choose to stick with third-party services or build in-house options, there is no denying that demand for delivery continues to grow at an exponential rate. 

Somewhere today, a group of college students sit in their dorm room, swiping through photos of the menu on their app, only to complain that their spicy chicken sandwich with extra tomato, large nonfat sugar-free vanilla latte, loaded nacho fries with no onions and spicy rigatoni with light parmesan... will take 15-20 minutes if they order NOW. 


Feel free to leave any questions or comments below and reach out to us directly to start the conversation about your organization's needs.