Consumer demand for delivery is only set to increase, and operators ignoring that trend are doing so at their peril, Pizza Pilgrims co-founder Thom Elliot has said.

Speaking at William Reed’s Hospitality Week virtual event, Elliot said that initially both him and his brother and business partner James were “super sceptical” about delivery, but were convinced to pursue it given the “undeniable” consumer demand.

“We were literally getting customers emailing us asking if we were a pizza company or not, because we should be able to deliver a pizza,” he said. “People want to have stuff delivered to them more and more. So, if you’re ignoring that, you’re ignoring it at your peril.”

Alongside its new meal kit ‘Pizza in the Post’ concept, which it operates via courier, Pizza Pilgrims currently works exclusively with Deliveroo for its hot delivery offer, a partnership which has worked well for the brand.

Admitting the business has been through “a lot of rocky roads” in trying to integrate delivery since 2015, James Elliot said that Deliveroo’s development has made for a mutually beneficial relationship.

“The early days of delivery weren’t all peaches,” he said. “We had delivery drivers turning up, putting the pizza on its side or putting it under their arm and walking out the door, but it’s matured now.

“Our scores are great on Deliveroo at the moment. The product arrives hot and it arrives on time. I think it’s a great thing, they’ve just got to figure out how to make it profitable.”

Also at the event, Creams Café managing director Othman Shoukat added that for his business, the onset of coronavirus has been the catalyst for a significant delivery drive.

“Historically we’ve been more of a brand that people come in and experience, and so we’ve never really focused heavily on delivery,” he said. “But during the lockdown period we put a lot of effort into keeping the stores open in a safe manner, and reconfiguring our model in such a way that we could focus wholly on delivery.”

Whilst the majority of its approximately 90 stores are back up and running for eat-in, Shoukat said the brand was determined to keep its delivery momentum going, and “strike the right balance” between its two revenue streams.

“We’ve used this as an opportunity to understand our customers a bit better, and to use the delivery channel more effectively,” he said. “It’s about striking the right balance, maybe having a curated menu that can be targeted on delivery of things that travel well and using the data you have to inform you on how to optimise the menus.

“It’s about embracing the change but also managing it in accordance to what will and won’t work.”

However, whilst Shoukat is aware of the level to which the virus has accentuated the delivery trend - something he agreed was set to continue and should be a “key component to any strategy” going forward - he doesn’t foresee it overtaking demand for dine-in.

“I don’t think the human race has become that desolate that they’re just going to sit at home and consume products in their pyjamas,” he said. “People still want to experience going out and having a good time.

“Human beings are social beings, so it’s just about pivoting what that in-store, delivery split my look like, depending on the brand.”