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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 6, 2019 1 month ago

Dining delivery: Pita Pit, Fort Myers

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Pita Pit owner says meal delivery offers more good than bad parts.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Erin Donati is new to restaurants — but not new to operations and marketing, having worked in ecommerce for Fort Myers-based retailer Chico’s FAS for nearly a decade, among other roles. Seeking something more entrepreneurial, in October Donati bought an existing Pita Pit franchise in Fort Myers, in a high-traffic plaza on Colonial Boulevard and Fowler Street.

While she gulped when she heard some delivery services take up to 30% of each order, Donati, in her short time at Pita Pit, has embraced the trend. That’s partly to keep up with quick-service competitors already doing it and partly a marketing effort. “If you’re not relevant in your restaurant, you will never be seen,” she says. “You have to keep up with the times.”

That’s especially pertinent with Pita Pit, she says, which doesn’t have the brand recognition of a Chipotle or a McDonald’s. “We are not top of mind,” she says. “We are more like a hidden gem.”

Donati’s Pita Pit uses Bite Squad, Uber Eats and EZ Cater, a newer player on the delivery scene with a niche in office and offsite client meetings. About 20% of the Pita Pit’s total sales in November were delivery-based, says  Donati, with 10% or so EZ Cater and 8% Bite Squad and Uber Eats combined. Bite Squad and Uber Eats take about a 30% cut, while EZ Cater charges about 17%, with a volume-based discount. She fills at least one or two EZ Cater orders for offices in the area everyday.

Donati, 39, sees both sides of the trend. While she says if “you’re not on there you can be losing a lot of sales,” she also realizes it’s a big risk. “The toughest part is once it leaves your door you lose quality control,” she says. Donati will put stickers on the wraps and bags, in an effort to protect the quality of the brand, before food goes out the door but she admits a large portion of it is out of her control.  

Even with that challenge, Donati is all-in on delivery, down to exploring adding DoorDash. “As we get smarter about the technology and customer behavior,” she says, “I think this will really take off.”

 

Click below to see how other area restaurants vary their strategies on how to handle the surge of meal delivery.

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