Overview: Converting existing restaurants into best practice, delivery-only operations
Part one: Best practice delivery-only operations - physical set up
Part two: Organising staff and other personnel - welfare and responsibilities
Part three: Operations for the highest level of safety - hygiene and customer care

Staffing a restaurant for a delivery-only service will be brand new to most of our partners, so we've prepared a guide based on our learnings from Editions sites - more than 200 delivery-only kitchens in 14 cities, worldwide. 

In particular during this time, the safety of staff is the number one priority and will be paramount in any decisions taken about how to maintain operations as delivery-only.

The need for customer-facing staff and many other functions, including different layers of in-store management, is greatly reduced. A lean operation not only makes delivery-only set up safer, it can also more cost-effective. 

Key takeaways

  • Safety and hygiene should be your first consideration
  • A delivery-only restaurant kitchen can be run by two or three experienced, flexible staff 
  • This means breakeven of £4 - £8.5K for high volume kitchens and £3.5 - £6k for lower volumes


How can my restaurant operate with limited staff? 

Working with limited staff, you will need to schedule team members who can be flexible to cover a range of tasks throughout the shift. 

Weigh your decision against staff contracts and preferences - so your team's duties and responsibilities can still be carried out.

To make this limited staffing model work, restaurants should consider using an experienced and flexible team, keeping the menu simple with components that can be batch-prepped (between lunch and dinner), prepping effectively to ensure ingredients and packaging are easily to hand.

1. The commercials of staffing delivery-only shifts

We've provided examples below of essential responsibilities and tasks, as well as some detailed financial estimates by business type. This should help you to decide how many team members you need to run your kitchen.

Staff safety should be your number one consideration for any operational decisions you make about setting up as delivery-only.  

Find out more about staff safety and welfare precautions.

We've estimated that, depending on cuisine, 'high volume' restaurants i.e. national chains can achieve cash breakeven (excluding rent) at £4-8.5K net sales per week and 'lower volume' restaurants i.e. local independent restaurants, takeaways ands cafes can achieve cash breakeven (excluding rent) at £3.5-6K. 

Figuring out your essential labour requirements will be key to your restaurant's success at this time. For example, one of our partners, a national chain, operates with a labour cost around 30-35% of net sales in standard restaurants but by comparison, labour cost is around 20% in their delivery-only kitchens. 

If your restaurant isn't able to achieve the orders needed to break even using the below staffing model, two other measures could be explored to manage profitability: opening only for dinner, or only on peak days.

Cash breakeven estimates

The below is broken down by cuisine type and restaurant group type (national vs. independent) with associated site volume to develop indicative breakeven estimates. These figures are sales figures net of VAT, and are marginal cash breakeven numbers (i.e. excluding fixed costs such as rent). All estimates are conservative. *

* A note on methodology

Cash breakeven estimates above are indicative only, based on general assumptions by cuisine type and the size of a restaurant. 

Exact breakeven thresholds will differ depending on staff hourly rates, food and delivery costs. These figures are conservative across multiple elements: wage rates, food costs, and number of hours of staff time required. 

Over time as teams get more experienced operating in a delivery-only environment, the model could be further optimised. These estimates are designed to provide restaurants with indicative information when evaluating the marginal cost trade-off between opening for delivery-only and closing temporarily. For this reason, fixed costs such as rent have been excluded from the analysis.  

2. Roles and responsibilities before, during and post-service

Two or three staff may be sufficient to run your kitchen, based on what we've seen. 

Where an Order coordinator is not used, chefs will also be responsible for packing orders and running them to the delivery tables for collection. If this role is filled by a salaried manager (and therefore, not drive incremental cost), then the cash breakeven figures could be further reduced. 

Find out more about contact-free handoff and front of house set up in this guide.


Chefs (preparation team)

Between service peaks: Take stock inventory and record temperatures of food item, Accept and receive goods in, Label and store new deliveries of ingredients, Prep recipe components (sauces, vinaigrettes, grains, etc.) for upcoming services.

Peak: Cook & package orders according to the prep-for time on the tickets

Post-service: Label & properly store prepped ingredients, Clean equipment, smallwares, surfaces and floor, Record inventory requirements for the next purchase order.

Order Coordinator (depending on your cuisine and order volumes, this role could be filled by a Head chef or Shift supervisor).

Between service peaks: Check online menu item availability and tablet settings, Assist with prep, inventory stock taking, food purchasing.

Peak: Assist cook(s) with dish execution (if qualified and required), Manage incoming orders, packing and running to delivery hand-off locations (tables or drive-thru) as required, Take customer service calls and enquiries, Ensure social distancing requirements are met, If the site becomes overwhelmed with too many delivery riders, place the tablet on ‘busy mode’ (or similar setting on other platforms) through the tablet to reduce the number of incoming riders until demand has stabilised

Post-service: Assist with cleaning, stock taking if required, Perform administrative roles (scheduling, reporting, etc.), Sanitise the FOH and set the dispatch up for success for the following day’s service

In larger operations, the following additional shift staff may be considered: 

Customer-facing order coordinators

For restaurants with takeaway and drive-thru service, an additional staff member could focus on taking customer orders and contribute to packing and running orders to customers and designated delivery tables. 

Dishwasher, cleaner or kitchen porter

If cleaning becomes a major bottleneck, this role could support chefs by cleaning the surfaces, equipment, and smallwares. This allow chefs to focus solely on cooking food as efficiently as possible.

3. Three key ingredients for a reduced staffing model 

As mentioned above, this staffing model is likely to be significantly different from the usual model used by restaurants. It includes only essential staffing levels, which means that some tasks and activities will need to be carried out in different way than your normal set up.

An experienced, flexible team:
Using an experienced team will ensure the operation is more efficient with minimal oversight required. In this model, staff will be required to perform a range of tasks that may have been outside their previous remit, so flexibility and willingness to pitch in to different tasks will be extremely valuable.
Restaurants should plan ahead which kitchen zones/stations require the most work, attention, and specialisation - this helps guide staff as to which staff should stay more specialised during peak times and which can assist at multiple stations if necessary.

A simple menu:
Keep it simple with a limited menu to lower complexity for the team and to speed up food production. Menus of only your best sellers will likely satisfy most of your demand, lower labour cost/headcount, reduce food waste, and simplify your supply chain.
The more elements that can be prepped in large-batch components, the more streamlined the operation can be.

Effective prep:
A delivery-only kitchen needs to be set up as much as possible like a production line. Further, sufficient ingredients for the shift should be on hand. As much as possible, the ingredients should be ready-to-go with minimal cooking and assembly time during the order peak.
Time between peaks should be used to prep for the next day’s service. The assembly or finishing area needs to have packaging on hand and access to tickets and markers to properly check every order before sealing and bagging to go.

Other considerations:
Contractual terms of your staff might influence the responsibilities and hours that they can work. Staff might also have a preference for how shifts are divided. A longer shift (rather than two short shifts) can help to reduce staff travel costs and contamination risk.

We thank you for your collaboration in these circumstances in which extreme precautions are fundamental to our ability to serve customers safely and support the overriding interest of safeguarding public health. We will continue to develop these policies as this situation develops.



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