How the Gig Economy Impacts Full-Service Restaurant Customer Experiences

I spend a lot of time thinking about how businesses use technology to deliver value to their customers. One of the more interesting developments over the past decade is the rise of ubiquitous restaurant delivery – Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats, and others. But a great delivery experience isn’t only about handing food off to a driver.

In a full-service restaurant, both the size of the dining room and the skill of the front-of-house staff act as a limiter to the amount of demand that will fall on the kitchen at any given time. The dining room only has so many seats and the host staff can time reservations and seating to spread out the demand over an evening. When the kitchen falls behind, a restaurant can suffer serious problems that often materialize as damning online reviews.

To contrast that, a quick-serve restaurant (QSR) is focused on delivering food product as quickly as possible through a highly regulated, consistent, and repeatable service experience. The elements that might slow down full-service experiences such as waiting to be seated, waiters, even food that takes a long time to prepare, are removed.

If we contrast those two types of restaurants, the QSR model is clearly in the best position to enhance their offering with delivery. They can make food on demand, that is, the food can be created in line with the delivery driver’s schedule. What’s more, the focus on creating highly repeatable food quickly enables the restaurant to deal with spikes in demand.

Today’s GrubHub was formed in 2013 as the combined forces of two take-out and delivery aggregators; Seamless formed in 1999 during the dot-com bubble and the original GrubHub formed in 2004. The resulting merged company went beyond aggregating standard delivery menus and, for arguably first time, gave full-service restaurants the ability to function within a delivery environment.

Given the distinction between Full-Service and Quick-Service restaurants, consider the perceived value of each. While business owners approach their operations from the inside-out, carefully crafting internal processes to deliver value, consumers approach a business from the outside-in, forming a singular value perception of that company based on their interactions with its touch-points. Consumers use this value perception to decide whether something is worth the expense and effort or not.

Value is a difficult thing to quantify, as its perception tends to vary wildly from consumer to consumer. In order to understand it better, brand marketers break it down into a few categories: Tangible, Intangible, and Aspirational. Tangible values are objective; either the business fulfills a desire or doesn’t. Intangible values are more subjective and tend to be qualities rather than specifics – a car is spacious, fast, or efficient. Aspirational values are like intangible values, but as they relate to the buyer’s persona – many fashion brands rely on aspirational value. The collective interpretation of these values by a consumer is where perceived value is derived.

   Full-Service Restaurants  Quick-Service Restaurants
  Tangible Values Eat a fully prepared meal, Eat a fully prepared meal
  Intangible Values Relaxing, ambiance, personal attention,  restaurant experience Fast, efficient, easy, consistent
  Aspirational Values Destination, “We’re having dinner at this  great place.” Brand, “Look, we’re eating food from this great place.”

While the tangible values remain relatively similar across each restaurant format, the other value propositions diverge. A full-service restaurant must give up a significant amount of its value when it interacts with customers in a delivery environment.

For any business seeking to expand into other modes of service is to get a handle on not only the value you deliver but also how customers perceive that value. Brand perception is the accumulation of experiences your customers have with you. Changes at any level of your business might impact how customers engage and failure to adequately understand this impact has implication beyond that specific change.