Restaurateurs losing thousands of pounds because of unreliable courier services

By James McAllister and Stefan Chomka

- Last updated on GMT

Restaurateurs losing thousands of pounds because of unreliable courier services Vinny Patel Doosra Tommy Banks meal kits

Related tags meal kits Coronavirus Delivery & takeaway Restaurant

Restaurateurs offering nationwide meal kit deliveries are losing thousands of pounds because of courier services failing to deliver the perishable products by the intended target dates.

Courier companies have been accused of failing to take responsibility and liability for delays to deliveries, which often lead to restaurateurs having to offer customers refunds out of their own pocket.

Vinny Patel, owner of Indian restaurant Doosra in Surbiton, says he has faced regular issues with APC since launching his ‘curry by post’ service during the first national lockdown last year.

“The problem with these courier companies is that they’ve never dealt with the delivery of perishables on such a huge scale before,” he says.

“APC don’t even have a product code to make the drivers aware that the goods they’re delivering are perishable, and so need to be prioritised.”

Over the recent Easter weekend Patel says he faced significant delivery issues, with only one box out of all those sent out for delivery on Good Friday arriving at its destination on time.

As a result, Patel had to give all his other customers across the country that were expecting to receive a meal kit that day a refund on their order, and is also committing to offering a small discount voucher for the hassle caused.

Problems across the country

Patel isn’t the only restaurateur to face significant trouble from couriers. Many took to Twitter at the weekend to voice their complaints, in response to a tweet​ from food critic Marina O’Loughlin, who was one of the Doosra customers whose delivery failed to arrive on Good Friday.

Elizabeth Haigh, who runs Borough Market-based counter restaurant Mei Mei, said she is having issues with 10% to 20% of the deliveries she arranges through APC, and that it is costing her ‘a small fortune’.

Meanwhile Sandra Leong, UK director of Singaporean restaurant group Old Chang Kee, voiced broader frustrations.

She said: “This happening up and down the country to restaurants. Courier companies are doing big business, but they take no responsibility for any delays.

“They don’t commit to any targets even on premium services.”

Chef Tommy Banks, who with his family runs Michelin-starred The Black Swan at Oldstead and the more informal Roots restaurant in York, has also faced problems with APC’s service.

He says the courier failed to deliver the majority of the meal boxes sent out for Mother’s Day in March, which cost his company £11,000 in refunds.

“There’s no guarantee and there’s no comeback if a courier loses your parcel,” says Banks.

“Most companies advertise a 98% success rate and think it’s brilliant, but if I sent 100 parcels, I’ve got two very disappointed people. In most industries 98% would not be good enough.”

In the case of the Mother’s Day boxes, which contained ingredients for afternoon tea, Banks sent them out on Friday for delivery on Saturday so they would be ready for Mother’s Day. However, he says they were put on the wrong delivery and that he subsequently was informed mid-way through Saturday morning that 370 out of 450 boxes would not arrive on time.

“They contained non-perishable cakes and would have been fine on Monday but that’s too late for Mothering Sunday,” says Banks, who had to inform customers they would not be receiving their boxes as well as give them a full refund.

“It cost a lot of money but saved we saved face – people got a full refund, enough notice to arrange something else and they still got the box on Monday and the food was edible.”

He says that in the event of a failure to deliver on time the courier refunds their charge, but that the restaurant business has to bear the financial brunt.

“The revenue was all gone, we made a big loss on it, [Mother’s Day] was by far the worst scenario we’ve had. Even though the courier is a third party it reflects badly on us.”

Rethinking delivery days

The ongoing issues have caused Patel to rethink the days Doosra offers delivery of its ‘curry by post’ boxes, saying that he believes the service to be more reliable earlier in the week.

When he first launched ‘curry by post', Patel focused delivery on Friday and Saturday slots, but because of the ongoing delivery issues – particularly on Saturdays – he has subsequently moved to Thursdays and Fridays.

Now, though, in light of the problems over the Easter weekend, he says he is considering only using Wednesday and Thursday slots, which he adds could also lead to a downturn in sales.

“There’s no joined up thinking across the different depots, and no transparency of how may targets met across the network.”

Banks says his delivery days are such to take into account any problems with delivery. Made in Oldstead sends out boxes on a Thursday for a Friday delivery so if there is a problem, a back-up box can be sent on a Friday afternoon that arrives on Saturday. “We apologise and tell people there was a problem with the courier, and people appreciate that level of service.”

BigHospitality ​has contacted APC for comment.

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