No Delivery? Why Applebee’s, Olive Garden and Other Restaurants May Stop Delivering Food During Peak Hours

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Food delivery from our favorite restaurants became a way of life during the height of the pandemic and remained one of the better things about a challenging year. But this perk may be going away as a result of labor shortages and a return to on-site dining, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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In order to keep up with more profitable sales from dine-in customers, many restaurants are shutting down delivery and online sales during peak periods, such as evenings and weekends, or at times when the location is short staffed. Some of the companies scaling back on delivery and dine-in orders include:

“We are always going to make sure that we’re serving the guests that are physically in front of us, because that experience has got to be right,” John Peyton, Dine Brands chief executive, told the WSJ. Dine Brands is the parent company of Applebee’s and IHOP. For these establishments, that means turning off delivery in the evening for Applebee’s and on weekend mornings for IHOP.

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Regarding Olive Garden, Darden Restaurants exec Gene Lee made it clear that to-go orders were to be placed under a quota during busy weekends: four to-go orders per every 15 minutes, to be precise. “There are a lot more orders than that… We know we have excess demand,” Lee told investors this fall.

Customers Notice the Shift to Dine-in

In a recent poll by Lisa W. Miller & Associates, 15% of diners polled said delivery wasn’t available from full-service restaurants during peak hours. However, a separate study also discovered that more than 33% of diners are choosing delivery or take-out over indoor dining experiences, largely as a result of new variants of the coronavirus circulating.

In July, August, and September, DoorDash and Uber Eats reported increased sales year-over-year from 2020, even though many restaurants opened their doors for dining this summer. Despite many patrons now dining indoors, delivery sales haven’t dropped, per the WSJ.

As an alternative to going without the foods you want, it’s smart to order at off-peak times, order before you’re really hungry (or craving a certain item), or simply resign yourself to going to pick up the food.

Food Delivery Services Seek to Help Restaurants Balance Orders

Representatives from Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Grubhub all told the Wall Street Journal that restaurants pausing deliveries has had only a “limited” impact on sales. All three services permit restaurant managers to pause delivery service when their workers are too busy to fill orders.

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Many consumers may have hoped food delivery service would remain as a modern convenience even as businesses re-opened. And while some restaurants are opening dedicated to-go areas to serve this customer base, others are just counting on a return to normal indoor dining — a return that will keep profits up without adding extra staff or infrastructure.

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