The online food delivery market is growing rapidly. Before the pandemic, it was projected to hit $365 billion globally in 2030. Since then, the trend has only accelerated, with COVID-19 supercharging digital orders. As the space expands and diversifies, there is more room for specialized delivery services to find their niche.
Crumbl Cookies, for instance, the “nation’s fastest-growing gourmet cookie company,” is about to open its 200th delivery- and takeout-only location after hitting the 100-store milestone less than a year ago. The rapid expansion of the company, whose menu includes just cookies, ice cream, milk and water, suggests that consumers are ready for more specialized delivery options.
“Where food delivery used to deal with more traditional offerings, such as pizza and wings, it has now expanded to much more than that,” Crumbl Chief Operating Officer and Co-founder Sawyer Hemsley told PYMNTS in an interview. “We are seeing loads of items being added to the delivery market every day. People are craving new food items every week, and our menu follows that mindset.”
To retain delivery customers’ interest, Crumbl rotates out the cookies on the menu every week, providing the sense of novelty and surprise that these consumers are seeking.
One of the ways that Crumbl has pulled off this rapid growth is through its clever use of social media. Hemsley explained, “Our fans are incredibly engaged on social media and are eager to share their opinions on flavors and love for the company online. This level of customer involvement has built a great deal of organic hype for the brand before and after we open in a new territory.”
He noted the company’s “Instagrammable in-store and packaging experience,” with stores featuring photo walls and “open-concept kitchens” in which customers can watch the baking process, with orders coming in social media-friendly pink boxes. Additionally, the company’s popular Instagram page reposts customers’ pictures and videos, encouraging active participation. The page also promotes each week’s menu items, deals and promotions.
Digital Tools, Inside and Out
“We prioritize tech development in a big way to meet the needs of our consumers and internal crew,” said Hemsley.
On the consumer-facing side, digital ordering — either through the company’s site or mobile app or through the self-serve kiosks that launched during the pandemic — is key to the experience. In addition to facilitating orders, the app also includes order tracking features and “Crumbl Cash” loyalty rewards.
As far as internal operations, the company uses technology to maintain brand consistency across locations and to keep lines of communication open. Hemsley noted, “Our recipes, digital menus, POS and internal apps are all … managed by corporate, ensuring that information is always up-to-date and readily available to our franchise partners and crew members.”
Making Delivery Work
The economics of food delivery are notoriously tricky. Crumbl offers franchise partners the choice between using in-house delivery drivers or delivering through DoorDash. One of the factors central to this decision is the franchisee’s local labor market. Hemsley explained that hiring drivers “is more profitable overall, but there are fewer drivers available.” DoorDash, meanwhile, charges a fee, but enables higher-volume locations to meet the demand.
Additionally, Hemsley said, “With DoorDash, we are at the mercy of a third party to ensure that the order is delivered on time and with the quality level we guarantee with all of our cookies. Yet, DoorDash also opens us up to more communities and individuals who may not know about Crumbl organically.”
One of the ways the company mitigates the risk of compromising on quality with third-party deliveries is by “ensuring our recipes are foolproof and well-suited for a delivery experience,” said Hemsley. “We work closely with our internal drivers and third-party delivery partners to establish best practices and feedback loops, ensuring they have what they need to acquire the correct cookies, ensure quality and reach the delivery address as quickly as possible.”
To earn its “fastest-growing” descriptor, Crumbl makes note of “all other top-tier cookie brands in the U.S.,” counting the number of stores currently open and the number of upcoming openings in the pipeline, comparing these numbers to Crumbl’s openings “per week, month and year.”
Even now, as consumers return to their in-person lives, industry leaders predict that demand for digital delivery will remain high. PYMNTS’ data featured in this month’s Delivering on Restaurant Rewards report, created in collaboration with Paytronix, indicates that 92 percent of vaccinated restaurant customers plan to continue ordering online at least somewhat as often as they do now. Additionally, research from the February edition of the report found that rewards programs such as Crumbl’s can convert occasional customers into enthusiasts, encouraging them to spend more per order and order more each week.
Looking ahead, Hemsley said, “I’d hope that the hype — and quality delivery in that hype — we see around our brand continues to spread until we become a global iconic cookie company.”