Navigating Off-Premise Food and Alcohol Operations in 2023

With delivery and pickup now essential offerings in today’s market, here’s how you can kickstart your off-premise food and alcohol sales.

13 min read
dasher walking up stairs with food

Over the past two years, offering delivery and pickup has proven essential for many businesses. Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, food delivery has become a global market worth more than $150 billion, having more than tripled in value since 2017. Today, customers are continuing to enjoy having the option to dine safely at home.

However, navigating off-premise operations can be daunting if your business has primarily relied on on-premise dining up until now. Keep reading for tips on launching pickup and delivery services in 2022—including best practices for delivering alcohol.

Food delivery has become a global market worth more than $150 billion.

What is off-premise dining?

First things first, what is off-premise dining? And what's the difference between dining off-premise vs. on-premise? 

Dining on-premise means eating at a restaurant, sitting down somewhere to eat. You might have a server taking your order, or you might have ordered at a counter and are munching at a nearby table. 

Off-premise dining, on the other hand, refers to any dining experience that takes place off restaurant grounds. This includes food delivery, takeout, ordering meals from ghost kitchens, and more. It’s a great way to drive business while minimizing your on-site operations. In fact, 75% of restaurant operators consider off-premise dining to be their best growth opportunity. 

75% of restaurant operators consider off-premise dining to be their best growth opportunity. 

But while the definition of off-premise is simple, how restaurants deliver food for off-premise dining has changed a lot since 2020. With COVID-19 threatening profits, businesses have been forced to get creative in their off-premise dining methods. For example, early in the pandemic, a bakery in San Francisco used a basket and rope to provide no-contact takeout, while other restaurants have resorted to using robots to fulfill staffing shortages and maintain social distance.

Now, many customers are versed in low-contact food handoffs, and third-party delivery partners like DoorDash offer no-contact delivery as a standard option. 

Interested in signing up with a delivery partner to provide a safe, high-quality off-premise dining experience for your customers? Here’s how to get started.

How to sign up with a food and alcohol delivery partner

When you think about offering food delivery, it might seem daunting. How will you set it up? What will it cost? What will the customer experience be like?

With a partner like DoorDash, getting started is easy. Any business that wants to offer food, alcohol, and other goods for local delivery can sign up for a DoorDash account on our website. If you prefer to speak to a representative, you can reach out via our contact us page and the team will help answer your questions.

From there, you'll need to provide your menu—either as a PDF, an existing online menu, or a photo of a physical menu. For alcohol retailers, our team can help you determine if alcohol delivery is available in your location. You can upload photos and menu descriptions that are enticing to customers. 

Next, select your order protocol. This step outlines how you wish to receive your orders. One of the primary ways to receive pickup and delivery orders is via tablet; DoorDash can either send you one, or you can use one of your own. You can also receive orders by email, fax, or by integrating your POS system. After that, you enter your business information, such as hours and address. In general, the quick and easy sign-up process takes about 5-10 minutes. 

Once you’ve provided all the necessary information, our team will begin building your menu and uploading it to the DoorDash platform to get your restaurant live as soon as possible. From there, DoorDash manages incoming orders, payment processing, and delivery logistics using the platform  your customers are already familiar with, so all that you need to focus on is packing up off-premise food and alcohol orders and handing them off to Dashers.

How to market new pickup and delivery services

It’s important that customers new and old know that you’re now a DoorDash partner, which means that you need to establish a marketing strategy.

You can use your existing marketing channels. If you have an email subscriber base or social media accounts, leveraging these should be your first step in getting the word out. Facebook and Instagram recently launched “stickers” that help restaurants promote gift cards and food delivery in their posts, making it even easier to highlight your business and its mouthwatering menu.

What’s more, when you partner with DoorDash, your menu and website will be featured on our platform, which reaches 94% of the US population, 80% of the Australian population, 75% of the Canadian population. This means increased brand awareness as well as access to game-changing marketing tools that help boost your SEO and drive more traffic to your listing.

45% of consumers say that mobile promotions and loyalty programs would encourage them to order food delivery more often. 

Bolster your off-premise delivery fleet

Maybe you’ve considered delivery before but have decided that the logistics—collecting orders, coordinating drivers, preparing packaging—are too much of a hassle. With DoorDash Drive, you can leave the coordination to DoorDash’s world class logistics platform and focus on owning customer relationships.

DoorDash Drive enables businesses to fulfill on-demand delivery orders with a white-labeled logistics platform that easily integrates with their existing POS systems. In other words, you can drive incremental sales on your online ordering system while DoorDash handles the delivery logistics.

Offering alcohol delivery

One of the latest trends in off-premise dining is offering alcohol to go. Many cities and states lifted restrictions on off-premise alcohol sales during the pandemic, freeing up local businesses to bolster their sales by offering beer, wine, and custom cocktail kits for pickup or delivery. It’s likely that your city now allows restaurants to sell alcohol to go, but make sure to look into local laws to see if you need to apply for a new license or fill out any additional paperwork before you’re in the clear.

Alcohol delivery is a big hit with customers; even before the pandemic began, the National Restaurant Association reported that 56% of consumers over the age of 21 say they’d likely order alcoholic beverages if they were offered as part of a food delivery order from a restaurant.

A partner like DoorDash can make local off-premise alcohol sales a breeze with built-in age verification steps that help ensure alcohol is only delivered to customers who are of age in your area.

Food delivery during COVID-19: health precautions

The safety of our community continues to be our top priority, which is why we're remaining in close contact with health experts and helping restaurants follow CDC and WHO guidelines. Below are some of the ongoing recommendations and best practices for food delivery. We encourage businesses to visit our COVID-19 page for the full list of available resources.

DoorDash's safety guidelines and initiatives include:

  • Ensuring that drivers who are sick can focus on recovering. We are providing financial assistance to eligible Dashers and Captains diagnosed with COVID-19 or quarantined. 

  • Providing all US-based Dashers with access to virtual urgent care visits for just $4 through Doctor on Demand.

  • Rolling out contactless delivery as the standard delivery method. Dashers leave food at the doorstep or a safe place near the customer's location, then call or text the customer upon delivery to ensure it has arrived.

Creative food delivery and marketing tactics

The pandemic has forced restaurants to get creative with how they market, sell, and deliver their food. Here are a few trends and best practices happening across the restaurant industry in recent months: 

  • Menu photography is more important than ever in the modern restaurant landscape (after all, delivery customers can’t peek at the table next door to scope out different dishes before placing an order). Cater to this trend by ensuring you have lots of high-quality photos on your menu to make potential customers hungry. Unsure where to get started? Read this guide to learn menu photography basics. And once you have some five-star photos, don’t forget to show off your most mouthwatering dishes on social media!

  • Promotions and discounts are also popular among restaurants, as 45% of consumers say that mobile promotions and loyalty programs would encourage them to order food delivery more often. At DoorDash, we have optional marketing promotions such as Try Me Free to provide free delivery to first-time customers, and Order Again and Save to help encourage repeat business. DashPass monthly subscribers also receive free delivery on eligible restaurants; having your restaurant on the participating list is a great way to promote your business to frequent delivery customers.

  • While there are several ways to choose the best packaging for transporting food, such as looking to other successful chains, we recommend doing your own research. The best way to assess whether your food travels well is to package it, wait 20 minutes to simulate delivery, and then eat the food yourself. As a chef or restaurant owner, you'll know best whether the dish is suitable for delivery.

  • Keeping an eye on modern trends, you may also consider using sustainable food containers to be more eco-friendly and boost your brand reputation—because a staggering 92% of consumers believe that minimalist, eco-friendly, or biodegradable packaging matters. Test out different brands of green packaging to find the boxes, lids, and dining ware you like best.

Managing off-premise food and alcohol sales

At DoorDash, we remain committed to supporting restaurants, both new and existing, through the pandemic and beyond. Ready to grow your business with a food and alcohol delivery partner that customers already know and love? Sign up for DoorDash today


Andrew McCarthy
Andrew McCarthy

Director of Content Marketing

logo subscribe to blog

Subscribe for insights to help you run a great business, delivered weekly to your inbox.