Opinion: Decide to Deliver, or Get Left Behind?

How are you going to handle this latest game changer?

By 
Mike Lawshe, President and CEO, Paragon Solutions

Uber, Amazon, Starbucks, Whole Foods, Facebook, Tesla: What do all these and many more companies have in common? Aside from being stocks that I did not buy at the right time, they are all serious interrupters. They each have changed an industry in their own way.

These companies did not accept the status quo or the fact that others had tried and failed before them. Paying attention to them can be very profitable, whether you’re buying their stock or seeing how their game-changing actions affect your business.

I recently had the opportunity to try one of the latest interrupters. My wife, Cathy, and I were sitting at home and feeling lazy. She didn’t want to go to the store, and I didn’t want to cook. (Or was it the other way around?) Either way, we were unified in our laziness. So I reached over my glass of wine and picked up the phone to explore my latest app download, DoorDash. It gave me choices among my favorite restaurants for food to be delivered to our door. With a few keystrokes in the DoorDash app, it helped me contact Istanbul Grill, and from there I ordered our favorite Mediterranean dishes.

I tracked the process as our food was prepared, picked up and delivered in prompt fashion. It resembled

Uber in the technology because I was told who the driver was before she had even picked up the food. I followed her progress on the map as she got closer and we got hungrier. I got up once to open the door to a delicious meal that we enjoyed poolside. Being lazy has its benefits.

Don’t Be Left Behind

I can’t help it: I started to think how this phenomenon could help our industry. I could just as easily have ordered something from my local convenience market, but that wasn’t offered as one of the options. Why wasn’t it? The frequency of online ordering and delivery continues to accelerate, and I can’t help but feel like we are being left behind like Kirk Cameron. A network of delivery options, from UberEats and DoorDash to dozens of others, is already crisscrossing our streets, delivering delicious options and needed items conveniently. My local grocery store now offers delivery and pickup services. Don’t you think the industry with “convenience” in our name should be all over that? Why aren’t we? If necessary, the delivery services can be outsourced.

What is the possible downside? I can’t see any. Some might say the fees, but I have certainly spent money on crazier things than delivery. Our customers will still come see us as they travel in their cars hither and yon for fuel and their favorite foods. It would seem to me that these delivery occasions would represent an incremental increase in “trips” to our stores. Would it represent a 5%, 10% or greater increase in sales? I don’t have that answer, but it is certainly greater than zero.

Why do you think Amazon bought Whole Foods? Are the two companies together going to revolutionize another industry? Online ordering has affected many retailers in both good and bad ways, depending on how they embraced change. Those that were slow to acclimate to the desires of their customer base have suffered. The innovative retailers that have embraced change have had a much higher success rate.

A Logical Conclusion

This latest phenomenon reminds me that we have had restaurant delivery for decades, as long as we have wanted pizza or Chinese food. It is not that delivery of food is new as much as it is being expanded to its logical conclusion. Remember when Mr. Kim (the Chinese food vendor) delivered lunch to Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) in “The Fifth Element” in his flying restaurant?

OK, maybe this is not the logical conclusion. Or maybe it is. What happens when you cross a food truck with a delivery man and a drone? Sounds like the start of a bad dad joke, but isn’t that what is really happening? When we look at historical norms and factor in new technology, what we get is a game changer.

So how are you going to handle this latest game changer?


Mike Lawshe is the president and CEO of Paragon Solutions. Reach him at [email protected].