6 Best Third-Party Delivery Services For Food & Drink In 2022
The best third-party delivery apps for restaurants & other food services have a large user network, are easy to use, and have clear fee structures.
Whether your business sells restaurant food, alcohol, or groceries, there’s a good chance that you use or have considered using third-party delivery services. Today’s customers increasingly use delivery apps to buy their food and drinks. Not only are these apps third-party courier services, but they’re also online marketplaces where customers discover new businesses.
Just how popular have delivery apps become? A 2021 NextBite study found that 43% of consumers aged 18-65 order delivery at least once a month, and 23% order delivery once a week. This means that if your food business is not offering delivery, there’s a lot of money you’re leaving on the table.
When it comes to delivery for restaurants (and other food and drink businesses), there are numerous options to choose from and it can be difficult to determine the best app or apps to use. In this post, I’ll evaluate your best options when it comes to third-party delivery, as well as the pros and cons of using third-party delivery services versus in-house delivery.
Other Featured Options:
- 2ndKitchen: Best for serving food without a kitchen.
Read more below to learn why we chose these options.
Table of Contents
6 Best Third-Party Delivery Services For Restaurants
The most popular third-party delivery services for restaurants are DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats and 2nd Kitchen. Drizly and Instacart and also top choices for third-party food and drink delivery.
1. DoorDash: Best For App Popularity
- Most popular food delivery app
- Suitable for restaurants, grocery, alcohol, & convenience
- Numerous POS integrations
- Self-delivery, pickup, & white-label delivery options
- Hefty delivery commission fees
DoorDash is a major player in the delivery game, operating in most major cities and partnering with many of the largest chain restaurants in the industry, along with small businesses. In fact, DoorDash is the most popular food delivery app on the market, which means being a part of this marketplace will get your restaurant in front of a lot of eyes.
DoorDash integrates with a variety of POS systems, including Square, Toast, Aloha, CAKE, Harbortouch, and others. You can also connect DoorDash to your POS using an order aggregation service like Chowly, Deliverect (through which you can integrate Lightspeed POS), and ItsaCheckmate.
How Much DoorDash Costs
DoorDash pricing for most businesses ranges from 15-30% (delivery commission on each order), depending on which plan you’re on. You also have the option of white-labeled delivery using DoorDash, which lets you integrate DoorDash with your own in-house delivery website. Self-delivery (using your DoorDash’s ordering network but your own delivery drivers) and customer pickup are also options, and you’ll be charged 12% and 6% on those order types, respectively.
2. Grubhub: Best For Marketing Features
- Free Grubhub tablet
- Free menu photoshoot & menu consultations
- Access to promotions and loyalty perks at higher plan levels
- Self-delivery, pickup, & white-label delivery options
- Potentially high marketing fees
Grubhub is another major third-party delivery service in the US and is offered in most major cities across the country. Though Grubhub can get expensive depending on your marketing package, Grubhub has a convenient price calculator on its website to help you determine your restaurant’s projected monthly profit should you add Grubhub as a delivery option.
Grubhub integrates with many popular POS systems, including Clover, Revel, Toast, Upserve, and NCR, as well as third-party order aggregators including Deliverect, Chowly (through which you can have Grubhub orders sent to your Square KDS), Ordermark, and ItsaCheckmate.
How Much Grubhub Costs
Grubhub fees include a 10% fee on all delivery orders, plus credit card processing fees and a 5 to 20% marketing fee depending on your plan tier. You can adjust your marketing fee to increase your visibility on the app. At higher tiers, you also have access to loyalty perks and promotions that drive sales.
3. Uber Eats: Best For Large User Network
- Large user network
- Simple, easy-to-use interface
- Used by restaurants, grocery stores, liquor stores, & more
- Self-delivery, pickup, & white-label delivery option
- High delivery fees
According to research by McKinsey & Company, Uber Eats is the second-most-popular food delivery service in the US, after DoorDash. Uber Eats benefits from the vast Uber network, which also includes Uber users who use the popular ridesharing service. Uber and Uber Eats users can use their Uber profile, Uber rewards, Uber Cash, and Uber One pass across both apps, incentivizing Uber users to make Uber Eats their food delivery service of choice. With Uber’s recent acquisition of and merger with Postmates, Postmates users have been absorbed into the Uber network as well.
Uber Eats integrates directly with POS systems including Lightspeed Restaurant and Toast, and aggregators Deliverect, Chowly (which you can use to connect with Square for Restaurants and other systems), and ItsaCheckmate. You can also create your own POS integration within the system.
How Much UberEats Costs
Like DoorDash and Grubhub, Uber Eats includes a standard delivery option, as well as a reduced-fee pickup option and a white-labeled self-delivery option. UberEats pricing includes a 15-30% delivery commission depending on your plan, or a 6% fee for pickup orders (same pricing as DoorDash). You’ll pay 15% on self-delivery orders, which is a bit higher than DoorDash’s fee for this type of order.
4. Instacart: Best For Grocery Stores
- Perfect for grocery stores & retail
- Hands off for stores — Instacart shopper handles orders & delivery
- Can grow your store’s sales with new online customer base
- Pricing for stores not disclosed online
- Could take away from your own internal online sales
Instacart primarily focuses on grocery delivery, while also delving into alcohol and other retail delivery. Unlike restaurant delivery services, there really isn’t much for retail business owners to think about when partnering with Instacart. It has personal shoppers who will gather the products themselves and, often, your business may find itself on Instacart’s platform even without you knowing it.
Instacart is ideal if you want to offer online sales and delivery and do not already have your own internal online ordering/delivery system. Instacart is hands-off and requires little effort on the part of stores, other than listing items on Instacart and making sure they’re in stock.
How Much Instacart Costs
Instacart does not disclose its fees for businesses online and it’s not immediately clear how stores can partner with Instacart. So, you’ll have to contact the company to find out how to list your products on Instacart. Instacart does say that stores can set their own prices on Instacart and that these prices can be higher than the price they charge in person.
5. Drizly: Best For Alcohol Delivery
- Suitable for liquor stores, wine markets, & other stores that sell alcohol
- Includes staff training & dedicated account manager
- Strong reporting features
- POS integrations
- Delivery services not included in all states (stores must use their own delivery driver)
- Pricing for stores not disclosed online
Drizly is a popular alcohol delivery service that allows alcohol retailers to sell alcohol online. Similar to other third-party delivery apps, liquor stores and other alcohol vendors can pay to list their store and its products on Drizly. Customers can then place orders from the app and have them delivered to their homes. Though stores have to pack and deliver their own Drizly orders (except for in certain states where third-party delivery services are available), Drizly helps you put your liquor store online, and helps ensure compliance with alcohol sales regulations.
Drizly also includes many tools for retailers, including a driver app, ID verification scanner, reconciliation reports, market insights, and more. Fulfillment options may include on-demand delivery, scheduled delivery, in-store pickup, and even intrastate shipping in some cases. Drizly also has direct integrations with several liquor store POS systems, including Lightspeed, Vend, and Clover.
How Much Drizly Costs
Drizly does not list its pricing for retailers but states that stores do not have to pay any fixed costs; you only pay a percentage of each order (similar to DoorDash and other food delivery services).
- Great for hotels that want to outsource room service
- Great to offer restaurant food at your bar or brewery
- Curate a unique menu with the best local restaurant offerings
- Pricing not disclosed online
2ndKitchen is another food-and-drink delivery marketplace, but it works a little differently from the other apps on our list. 2ndKitchen is specifically intended for businesses that do not sell food but want to give customers the option to order food on their premises. For example, this app appeals to kitchen-less hotels that still want to offer room service. Bars, breweries, and wineries without kitchens can also use 2ndKitchen to offer food to their customers.
Restaurant businesses and ghost kitchens can also join 2ndKitchen to expand their reach and increase online orders.
The way 2ndKitchen works is that businesses who want to use the service compile a limited menu of offerings, based on items available for restaurants in the network. Customers place orders from their rooms or tables using their phones or a supplied tablet, and 2ndKitchen drivers deliver those orders directly to the appropriate room or table.
How Much 2ndKitchen Costs
2ndKitchen does not list pricing on its website but states that pricing is commission-based. You can visit the company’s website to reach out for a quote.
Looking For One Of These Third-Party Courier Services?
These delivery services did not make our top picks. Read on to find out why.
Waitr is another customer-facing food delivery app and restaurant marketplace. Restaurants can use Waitr to offer in-house delivery, takeout, or contactless dine-in. However, Waitr does not have nearly as wide of a reach or userbase as the other leading food delivery apps, which means most of the customers you’d like to reach probably aren’t using it. Part of the reason for this is that Waitr’s delivery service is currently only available in a handful of US states. Moreover, the company announced in 2022 that the company plans to shift its focus to non-restaurant deliveries, particularly cannabis.
Shipt is a retail-based delivery app and service that’s owned by Target but is also used for same-day grocery and retail delivery by stores such as CVS, Costco, BevMo, and others. However, unlike Instacart, Shipt doesn’t seem to partner with local small businesses; rather, they focus on partnerships with enterprise-level brands. For example, the only stores that deliver from Shipt in my major US city are about a dozen nationwide chains. So, Shipt does not appear to be an appropriate delivery service for small, independently owned grocery or convenience stores.
Benefits Of Third-Party Delivery Services
There are many potential benefits to using third-party delivery services.
Online Ordering Can Increase Your Visibility
Opening your business up for online ordering and delivery can give thousands of new customers access to your products. Having your site appear on delivery apps can dramatically increase your visibility to customers in your area who may have otherwise not known you existed. If your kitchen can handle the uptick in orders, the ability to ring up sales without taking up space in your restaurant might be too much to pass up.
Customers Expect Delivery Options
Not only will putting your business on delivery apps grow your customer base, but a rising number of customers demand an online ordering and delivery option (or options) from the restaurants they frequent—ideally on one of their favorite delivery apps they already use. If you don’t offer online ordering and delivery, a certain portion of your customer base will instead choose a different restaurant that delivers, and you will lose out on their business.
Survival During COVID
We learned in 2020 that during an unprecedented event like the COVID-19 outbreak, being able to still make delivery sales during a time when your restaurant is otherwise shut down could make the difference between staying afloat and going under.
Though the time of forced shutdowns seems to have ended (at least in the US), it’s certainly not out of the question that closures or capacity restrictions could be reinstated in the future. Also, many would-be restaurant patrons still feel safer dining at home, making delivery apps the preferred mode of ordering for many customers.
Can Use Multiple Third-Party Delivery Apps Simultaneously
Since most delivery apps charge on a commission basis, this lets your restaurant use multiple delivery apps simultaneously without necessarily incurring a higher monthly spend. This way, your business appears in multiple online marketplaces, appealing to a wider range of customers.
Trying multiple delivery apps can also help your restaurant determine which apps have the highest profit margins, so you can dump the services that you find aren’t worth the cost.
Third-Party Apps Can Save You In Overhead
Using third-party delivery apps vs. in-house delivery can result in certain overhead savings. Most notably, you won’t have to staff delivery drivers or pay high gas prices. Saving on staffing costs is especially poignant during this time of worker shortages and high restaurant employee turnover.
Third-party delivery apps can also save you on software costs; in-house restaurant delivery software can carry a steep monthly charge, vs. third-party apps, most of which just charge you a per-order fee with no recurring monthly charge.
Third-Party Delivery Apps Are Convenient
Third-party delivery apps are very easy to set up and start using. Compared to implementing in-house delivery, it’s often easier and more convenient to use a delivery app. The entire order process is automated and you don’t have to worry about coordinating the deliveries themselves. If your POS integrates with the delivery apps you use, that makes the process even smoother.
Cons Of Third-Party Delivery Services
There are some potential downsides to using third-party delivery services—namely the costs involved.
High Fees = Thin Margins
Restaurants are already squeezed by rising food costs and staffing costs. Delivery apps carry high costs as well, further cutting into your profits. Generally speaking, once you factor in commissions, the margins on online orders with delivery apps are razor-thin, potentially making it not worth the added burden to your kitchen.
You also need to factor in if the increased visibility of your restaurant makes up for the negligible profit margin. In some cases, the cost of the delivery service justifies the extra profits and visibility you’ll get from it, but in others, it may not.
More Expensive Than In-House Delivery
A potentially cheaper way to implement in-house delivery is to use a POS with online ordering and delivery—most restaurant POS systems now offer online ordering and as a monthly add-on. Some systems even offer free online ordering and access to delivery drivers if you don’t have your own.
For example, Square includes online ordering free with Square Online. Customers can pick up orders placed online for no added fee (apart from credit card processing charges). You can offer customers a delivery option for $1.50 per order using Square’s courier services, or $0.50 using your own drivers. This is a far better deal than what you’d pay using a third-party delivery app.
May Be Harder To Build Loyalty With Third-Party Apps
While third-party delivery apps do offer customers some loyalty perks, the rewards customers accumulate are usually related to the delivery service rather than to your particular restaurant. On the other hand, if you use an in-house online ordering and delivery system, customers can earn loyalty points from your specific restaurant, encouraging repeat business.
Some delivery apps do let customers earn restaurant-specific rewards but you’ll have to pay extra if you want to offer this feature, and you’ll usually have less control than if you were to offer rewards using your own in-house system.