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2021: Restaurants Took Control With Aggregators

In 2021, many restaurants were able to take their relationship with aggregators into their own hands. Unlike the previous year, when the mad dash to get online and make foods easily available for off-premises channels forced many establishments to accept inopportune, often unsustainable deals with third parties, this year has offered a chance for restaurants to be make the model work more in their favor. Leveraging their learnings from the early months of the pandemic and the new freedom that came with the return of on-premises dining, these businesses were able to rethink how these aggregators factor into their omnichannel offerings.

Many restaurants are marking up their prices on third-party marketplaces, helping them to cover the cost of aggregators’ often steep commission while incentivizing value-seeking consumers to turn to direct ordering channels instead. The move especially makes sense in light of the fact that aggregators’ customers tend to be more willing to shoulder higher costs. High-spending consumers are significantly more likely than low spenders to purchase from aggregators, according to data from the PYMNTS report, Digital Divide: Aggregators and High-Value Restaurant Customers, created in collaboration with Paytronix, which surveyed a census-balanced panel of more than 2,100 U.S. adults about their food purchases.

Still, restaurants’ direct channels are the most popular choice for digital customers. Specifically, the study found that, in the prior three months, 45% of diners had ordered online from quick service restaurants (QSRs) through their direct channels, while 23% had ordered online from QSRs via an aggregator. Similarly, for full-service restaurants (FSRs), 39% had ordered through direct channels and 17% via an aggregator.

View the full report: Digital Divide: Aggregators and High-Value Restaurant Customers

Far and away, the most common reason consumers cite for using aggregators is that they are seeking ease and convenience, while the next most common reason is that it was the only option available. Meanwhile, those who order direct most often report doing so either because the restaurant offered free delivery or because it saved the consumer time. Noting the former, some restaurants have been getting strategic about how they charge for delivery on third-party marketplaces and how they charge on their own brand channels.

To meet as much demand as possible without diverting too large a portion of their profits to third parties, many restaurants are adopting a flexible fleet model, fulfilling the orders they can with their own drivers while tapping third parties to accommodate the peak-hour rushes or to deliver outside their typical radius. Noting this shift, DoorDash and Grubhub both announced features in November that allow restaurants more choice in how they utilize these services’ drivers.

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These moves are part of a larger trend toward flexibility, giving restaurants more choice. As eateries find new ways to reach their consumers in digital spaces outside aggregators’ marketplace, leveraging navigation apps, social media networks and even video games (take, for instance, Chipotle’s Roblox virtual location) to reach their customers, aggregators are responding in real time, rethinking their value prop.

“I think companies like DoorDash are very smart — they see that [shift] happening and they’re starting to unbundle their products and offer their services piecemeal, because they see that unbundling occurring, and the experience is getting embedded,” Steve Simoni, CEO of contactless ordering and payment technology provider Bbot, told PYMNTS in an interview. “That choose-your-own-adventure is the trend right now.”

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