When Gecko’s introduced meal delivery, it used a local company to handle the service.
But then a couple years ago, a restaurant delivery giant bought the local delivery company — and Gecko’s lost local control.
“You have folks picking it up who you don’t really know, and you’re not really sure when it’s getting there,” Gecko’s Hospitality Group co-Owner Mike Quillen says.
Delivery was also causing problems at the group’s brick-and-mortar locations, of which is has six, from south Sarasota County to north Manatee County. At one point it got so popular, Quillen says, Gecko’s was having a hard time taking care of guests in its restaurants. On a Friday night, it might have gotten 10 or 15 or more orders it wasn’t expecting. “It was very much affecting in-house dining,” he says. “Some nights, we would have numerous delivery people standing in our lobby area waiting. Guests were having a hard time coming in the restaurant. It created a lot of chaos, to be honest.”
So the company canceled delivery. “It works for a lot of people; it just didn’t really work for us,” Quillen says.
He misses the revenue but says that since they eliminated delivery, a lot of customers have come back to dine at his restaurants. Gecko’s also maintains to-go areas in the restaurants. “We do a tremendous amount where we bring it out to the car,” Quillen says.
Gecko’s is considering offering delivery again — but this time staff would handle delivery themselves. “What we’re doing right now is studying and watching the big players and watching them put their in-house delivery teams together,” Quillen says.
One option for in-house delivery would be to set up a separate kitchen in a central location, akin to the ghost kitchen concept gaining popularity in some urban areas. That way it wouldn’t interfere with the restaurants. It might also include scaling back the menu to remove items that don’t travel well. To help cover the cost of the driver and insurance, Quillen says they might charge a flat fee for delivery instead of a percentage.
Quillen says they’re exploring options, and there’s no timetable for a potential delivery program. “It was a big decision we made to stop it because, hey, all of these people are ordering food,” he says. But making sure all of the company’s customers were happy was key. “Our model is taking care of the people in the restaurants, day in and day out.”
Click below to see how other area restaurants vary their strategies on how to handle the surge of meal delivery.