Restaurant deliveries, with a personal touch
Delivery? Definitely! It’s had years of success but has always a little bit of a niche activity there in the background (mostly in big cities and principally delivering three things: pizza, hamburgers and sushi), but now home food deliveries, like so many other technological innovations – have really taken off. During lockdown they were indeed the only way bars and restaurants could make any money and maintain contacts with customers. And now that establishments are opening up again, there is an expectation – as is happening China – that many will be reluctant to go back to eating out in restaurants as they did before, with different situations in different parts of the country depending on how badly affected they were by the pandemic.
There have been lots of initiatives in Italy from McDonalds to the Da Vittorio restaurant with three Michelin stars. And it is indeed especially at the top end, where customer relations count for so much, that particular efforts have been made to personalise the experience and improve communications. This has spawned a whole range of new ideas and practices which, we believe, will now become the norm.
Couriers as ambassadors
They have to convey a sense of food safety and fly the flag for the establishment they are delivering for. Claudio Liu at Iyo, a star-rated Japanese restaurant in Milan, was already planning his own distribution company, Aji, long before the pandemic, and is now working on a dark kitchen. He has his own couriers, containers and means of transport designed to withstand the journey – and no shortage of anti-bacterial cling film. Many have drawn on the services of the couriers at home. The secret ingredient is to turn them into ambassadors. And that includes putting them in a uniform, which conveys a sense of hygiene and professionalism (Caffè Terzi in Bologna does this).
Deliveries in cities in particular are ideally made by cargo bike or electric vehicles, because environmental issues will be an even stronger force after the pandemic. This is something Tostato believes in very strongly: this specialty coffee concern is based in Brescia, which was one of the areas of Italy hardest hit by the pandemic. It has now started up neighbourhood meal deliveries.
Everything has to be “delivery-ised”. Not all dishes are suitable for transportation and special menus for delivery will have to be drawn up. Cristina Bowerman of Glass Hostaria Roma says: “I’m not doing it yet, but I’m thinking about starting up a delivery 5.0 service with a specially-devised second line, involving dishes designed to survive the delivery journey. You always have to keep costs in mind.” Allergies and the risk of contamination are other areas to consider.
Half in the restaurant, half at home
One idea is that restaurants prepare a box of ingredients and semi-finished products with some cooking to be done at home, like boiling the pasta. This was what Vivana Varese of VIVA Milano decided to do: “I started with the Easter menu: 96 orders for 200 covers, with dishes designed so that a part is simply heated up and some of the work is done at home. The experiment worked well so I’ve decided to continue with it. Of course I’ve had to rethink my website: all the IT has to be redone.”
Delivering through social media
A lot of chefs organised their lives around social media during lockdown, and those platforms turned out to be very useful allies. Someone who has become an expert in using them is Giuseppe Iannotti of Krèsios, who dreamed up an interactive delivery service through social media. As he himself explains: “we deliver by courier, then send out the instructions via WhatsApp with suggestions for place settings, before sending out reminders on what has to be done first. For the preparation I did a video to follow, and at Easter I did it live on Instagram. The idea behind all of this was not so much to make money as to stay in touch with my customers.”
Not just the food, but also the service
Recreating the relaxed, convivial and indeed quite hedonistic atmosphere of a restaurant won’t be easy after re-opening. So there are those who are even thinking about taking the restaurant into the home instead. Not just the cuisine – the whole experience: “People won’t really go back to eating out at restaurants properly until they feel completely relaxed about it,” say Fabio Pisani and Alessandro Negrini of Aimo e Nadia in Milan. Our customers need to feel as safe in our restaurants as they do at home. That’s why we believe that home deliveries will become a mainstay of the catering industry”. And considering that “in high-end catering the delivery aspect is often disappointing, and you lose all sense of atmosphere” another idea is now also taking hold. “You actually send the chefs out to the homes, together with sommeliers and waiters. That way you can reproduce the star-rated experience in the home.”
The road ahead is a long one, but companies and professionals have plenty of creative and innovative tricks up their sleeves. As indeed does HostMilano. We’ll have more to say on all of this right here, on our social media pages and through our observers, as ever. So stay tuned!