Restaurants should embrace "dancing with the devil" and build a strategy to capitalise on the growth of delivery companies like Deliveroo and Uber Eats, according to the bosses of Prezzo, Pizza Express and Las Iguanas.
Speaking at the Peach 2020 conference this week, Karen Jones CBE, founder of Café Rouge and chairman of Prezzo, Hawksmoor and Mowgli, said: "We're all wrestling with Deliveroo. It's dancing with the devil, but you feel you can't do without it," she said. "It has got to be brand enhancing and a fruitful relationship or you'll get a bad result."
On becoming chairman of Prezzo, which this year closed a third of its sites and recorded a £65.7m loss, Jones said: "I must like a challenge."
"Prezzo is very much a turnaround," she said. "You have to remind yourself of the basics as it's easy to forget what makes great hospitality: price, quality, service, listening to the customer and teams delivering moments of personal engagement."
Pizza Express managing director Zoe Bowley agreed that operators should work with delivery partners and said the company had embraced margin-enhancing deliveries.
"It will be a strategic pillar in 2019," she said. "We will be focusing on the best product to travel, packaging, experience and communication. The bottom line is it's adding incremental value."
Whereas Pizza Express has committed to one delivery partner in order to build a better relationship, Las Iguanas CEO Mos Shamel said his business offers a reduced menu through three different partners.
"We tried one partner but it didn't work. Customers are upset about the reduced menu, but you're never going to get steaming hot fajitas delivered and nachos don't travel well," he said.
Shamel said Las Iguanas used the rise of deliveries to create white label product Blazing Bird to add incremental sales to a new audience.
"It's the same half a chicken coming from the same kitchen, but with different packaging and appealing to a new audience," he said. "It's like a new restaurant, but without the build."
Meanwhile, Bowley revealed that Pizza Express will unveil a rebrand in the new year to increase the "relevance" of the 53-year-old chain.
"We're a scale brand which has advantages and disadvantages, like we got a bit complacent," she said.
"We've listened to our customers and have looked at the product, culture, service and heritage to make ourselves relevant again."
However Shamal predicted there would "definitely" be more casualties in the next six to 12 months due to rising costs, unhelpful landlords and Brexit uncertainty.
"There will be massive winners and big losers," he said. "Understanding customers really well will grow site numbers, like-for-like sales and help you win out."