Even Fortune 500 corporations haven't been able to sustain franchises in the restaurant delivery service industry. It turns out, this business requires an involved local owner-operator who knows the community, has the skill and knowledge to maintain relationships with restaurants, and can make quick decisions when needed.
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I expanded Eat Out In to San Antonio in 2009 because it's only 90 miles away and I already had good relationships with many restaurants there. I have no plans to expand the business geographically because I couldn't devote the time necessary to maintaining those relationships.
If I had pursued my dream of becoming the next McDonald's, I might not be in business today, and I certainly wouldn't have such a close relationship with my daughter.
I often run into people who tell me they thought up the idea for a restaurant delivery service but didn't do anything with it. If I hadn't started Eat Out In, someone else eventually would have taken the plunge, and I'd be sitting here today saying: "If only . . ." My big idea didn't turn out exactly as I expected, but it did turn out pretty well.
New ideas are hard to come by. If you have one, act on it and don't wait for someone else to make it work. Here are some lessons I've learned over the past 25 years:
Be persistent. When I started Eat Out In, my brother-in-law told me I was ahead of my time, and he was right. It took awhile for the idea to catch on. Meanwhile, I learned to hang in there, develop my concept, and not get discouraged that it wasn't an overnight success. That experience has helped me get through lots of rough spots.
Know your business. Even though I started a new concept, I knew a lot about the restaurant and delivery industries. Restaurants would never have signed up with me if I hadn't understood their business. Knowing your business builds credibility, which is essential for long-term success.
Trust your instincts. There was no road map for running a multi-restaurant delivery service, so I had to trust my instincts about many decisions. If I made a wrong choice, I learned from it and did things differently the next time. Have confidence in your instincts and the ability to learn as you go along.
Extend your skill set. I provide hands-on management of our advertising and marketing and employ freelance designers and copywriters rather than an ad agency. I feel comfortable in this arena because of my experience in sales, marketing and communications. We have saved huge amounts of money for investment in other parts of the business. On the other hand, I know my limitations and always hire professionals to do what I can't.