Contributing editor, Peter Backman is a long-term foodservice sector guru and founder of theDelivery.World, a platform that connects the delivery sector and makes sense of the myriad changes and challenges that affect the sector across the globe.

As the restaurant industry continues to evolve and adapt, the shift towards first-party delivery is becoming increasingly prominent. This trend, deeply rooted in the desire to regain control over customer relationships and data management, is reshaping the global delivery landscape.

The seventh Food On Demand Conference in Las Vegas recently brought together nearly a thousand stakeholders from the restaurant delivery ecosystem to discuss this ongoing transformation. The discourse revealed two main issues at the heart of the industry’s evolution: the continuous disruption brought about by technological advancements and the need for a business model that retains direct customer interaction.

Traditionally, the restaurant business has thrived on personal interactions—being fundamentally people-oriented and customer-focused. This intrinsic nature clashes with the impersonal, technology-driven approach of third-party delivery platforms, where high fees, lack of transparency, and minimal customer contact prevail.

Restaurants are now facing a pivotal dilemma: continue with third-party platforms that offer wide reach but less control, or move towards a first-party model that promises greater autonomy over the entire delivery experience. The latter choice allows restaurants to maintain the quality and service that define their brand, directly manage customer data, and foster stronger relationships.

In the United Kingdom, PizzaExpress has established its own delivery service, ensuring that the essence of what makes their dining experience unique is not lost when translated to home delivery. Similarly, Nando’s manages its delivery services in-house in the UK and South Africa to uphold its high standards of food quality and customer service.

In Asia, Jollibee in the Philippines and Sushi Tei in Singapore have taken similar paths. Jollibee ensures timely and reliable service through its delivery network, essential for maintaining the quality and warmth of its offerings. Sushi Tei controls its delivery processes to guarantee that the sushi delivered to homes matches the freshness and quality expected in its restaurants.

The shift to first-party delivery is fraught with challenges, primarily around the integration of new technologies and the reconfiguration of business models to accommodate direct delivery operations. This includes mastering software integration, managing new staffing models, and redesigning physical layouts to serve both dine-in and delivery efficiently.

Moreover, the industry must cope with the rapid pace of technological change, including the integration of AI and data analytics, which are now essential for competitive delivery services. The dynamic nature of technology demands that restaurants not only keep up but stay ahead in their operational capabilities.

The drive towards first-party delivery requires more than just operational shifts; it calls for a cultural change within restaurants. They must evolve from purely food-focused establishments to technologically adept businesses capable of managing complex delivery logistics.

While some restaurants have successfully transitioned, the journey is ongoing for many. The industry, as a whole, needs to foster continuous dialogue and collaboration, as seen at industry conferences, to share best practices and develop common standards that benefit all parties involved.

As restaurants navigate this complex landscape, delivery aggregators must also adapt. They are increasingly offering tailored solutions like white-label services that allow restaurants to brand their own delivery experiences while leveraging the logistical strengths of third-party platforms.

The move towards first-party delivery is not just about logistics or technology; it’s about aligning modern delivery practices with the timeless essence of hospitality. It’s about ensuring that every meal delivered represents the restaurant’s brand as if the customer were dining in-house. As the global restaurant industry continues to adapt, the focus remains on enhancing customer experience, controlling quality, and building lasting relationships—all hallmarks of successful first-party delivery systems.