Elevate Your Restaurant Delivery Experience with 'Unreasonable Hospitality'

Famed restaurateur Will Guidara's transformative concept can change the way you connect with delivery customers.

9 min read
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Food delivery is hugely popular — according to the Restaurant & Alcohol Online Ordering Trends Report, 33% of consumers say they're ordering delivery more often in 2024 than 2023. Delivery is vital for a restaurant’s bottom line and getting it right for guests is just good business. As restaurants adapt to the popularity of delivery, differing expectations can sometimes lead to tension points between diners, restaurant staff, and delivery drivers. 

Looking to create a positive delivery experience? Here are tips on how to improve relations between all parties involved using a straightforward, yet profound, approach known as ‘Unreasonable Hospitality.’

The origins of unreasonable hospitality 

In 2012, New York City restaurateur Will Guidara’s restaurant Eleven Madison Park ranked in the top 10 on the famed World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. How was this massive success achieved? It wasn’t the quality of food alone, but the ethos of the restaurant that helped set it apart. In a recent interview with Forbes, Guidara traced his “lightbulb moment” back to when he decided to serve a classic “dirty water dog” (i.e., a hot dog served from the iconic pushcarts in New York City) to a surprised table of diners who he had overheard lamenting the fact that their New York City vacation had been hot dog-less. Their response to his attentiveness was so inspiring that Guidara started staff and server training in the art of what he dubbed “unreasonable hospitality.”

Essentially, when customers no longer feel like regulars, brand loyalty suffers. It doesn’t take much to make someone feel better about their restaurant experience. Guidara says that “food, service, and design are simply ingredients in the recipe of human connection.” And as delivery orders continue to grow, operators today must ensure that sentiment doesn’t end outside their brick-and-mortar walls.

Restaurant worker at computer

Service beyond the dining room

Guidara believes that restaurants need to focus on improving relationships. That means unreasonable hospitality applies to every relationship, including customers and delivery drivers.

“There are restaurants where I’m a bigger regular through the delivery apps than I’ve ever been at a restaurant in real life,” Guidara told Fast Company. “Every time I go to a restaurant where I am a regular, they’ll do something to acknowledge me.” 

Here are a few ways that DoorDash restaurants can extend unreasonable hospitality beyond the dining room to improve relationships with delivery customers and Dashers. 

1. Make off-premise customers feel valued

In his TED Talk, Guidara suggests that restaurateurs focus on “being present.” It’s crucial to connect with people on a human scale to make them feel seen. At Eleven Madison Park, they did it in sensational ways — like creating a custom in-house beach scene or impromptu Central Park adventures allowing families to play in the snow for the first time — but restaurants can positively impact a customer’s experience in far smaller ways. 

“One size fits one,” Guidara stresses, meaning that the experience must be tailored. Customization is king, so let individuals know you appreciate them and their patronage. For example, DashPass members can be acknowledged with occasional handwritten notes dropped in their bag to make them feel valued as individuals. DoorDash partners can also view reports on repeat customers in the Merchant Portal and target them with offers and promotions to drive continued loyalty. 

2. Focus on Dasher relations

It’s no secret that relationships between Dashers and restaurants can become strained at times. Dashers are in a huge hurry and waitstaff are focused on dine-in guests, plus there’s often limited room in the front-of-house for Dashers to wait. Channel unreasonable hospitality to apply patience, grace, and kindness when times get tense — and use these tips to make the Dasher pickup experience as smooth as possible.  

  • Consider rewarding your Dashers when they go the extra mile. For example, Dasher Leo Ney has completed more than 13,000 pickups in his six years. One time an order was missing a smoothie, so he made a second trip back to the restaurant to pick it up and deliver it to the customer. The restaurant was so grateful for Leo's dedication to their customers, that the staff made a smoothie just for him. Leo also recalls a Thai restaurant that provided Dashers with cold washcloths on a particularly hot Houston summer day. 

  • Rate Dashers through the Merchant Portal, which contributes to a Dasher’s rating (and earning potential) while also optimizing the overall delivery experience. In the Orders tab, select a Dasher rating — Poor, Good, or Great — and curate a fleet of expert Dashers. 

  • Think of Dashers as an extension of your team. During busy shifts, it’s easy for Dashers to get lost in the shuffle, so remind your staff that delivery drivers are a part of your team — with a shared goal of creating the best possible customer experience. Every effort to make a Dasher's job easier means they’ll be more likely to have your back if something goes awry with the order. 

  • Make delivery order pickups easy for Dashers. Clearly labeled bags and a dedicated space and pick-up rack makes for a rapid and simple Dasher handoff.

Mx Blog - DoorDash Delivery Bag

3. Optimize your menu to make it easier for everyone 

Make sure your restaurant is set up to avoid mistakes in delivery orders. Optimize your menu so customer confusion is minimal:

  1. Monitor your stock levels frequently and keep the menu current by marking items as out of stock.

  2. Be sure to provide realistic photos that show only the item offered.

  3. All menu items need clear descriptions, including a list of ingredients.

  4. Keep customization options simple to streamline kitchen processes.

  5. Set accurate prep times for each item, and adjust them as needed if your kitchen gets too busy.

4. Respond to reviews on DoorDash

Understanding delivery customer feedback is key. Good reviews are great and bad reviews are regrettable, but both are valuable to restaurant operators. They’re opportunities for restaurants to bolster brand loyalty, so it’s important to look at reviews regularly and respond publicly. 

DoorDash partners can reply to positive and negative reviews right in the Merchant Portal. Consider using our pre-written templates, or create a personalized message (and perhaps even offer a discount to incentivize them to place another order). 

A new era of restaurant hospitality 

Unreasonable hospitality can be a conceptual game-changer, yet you may still have questions about putting it into practice. Read more about training your staff, including ideas for building a server training program. Fundamentally, it all begins with empathy and consideration.

Looking for more ways to optimize your delivery operations and provide an excellent customer experience? Visit the Learning Center for step-by-step guides on taking your DoorDash business to the next level.


Sara DeForest
Sara DeForest


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