Want Sliders Delivered? White Castle Tries It Out

monday-briefs-1017-art-ggregkb8-1white-castleGot a hankering for a plateful of Sliders but no desire to hop in the car? Some Columbus-area customers can phone in an order for the diminutive, onion-steamed hamburgers and other White Castle favorites, and have them delivered to their door.

The Columbus-based fast-food company is experimenting with delivery. It is advertising for drivers to deliver to homes and businesses near its restaurant at 6791 E. Broad St., where the service has been underway for several months, as well as its 1080 S. Hamilton Rd. restaurant, where delivery will begin in August.

Burger King began trying out delivery early last year to learn whether customers will take to hamburger delivery the same way they have pizza delivery. If they do, other fast-food chains probably will add the service.

“Restaurants are looking for additional channels to sell their product,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a Chicago food- and restaurant-research firm. “To add value to store-level sales, adding delivery could be a good option.”

White Castle started its delivery experiment late last year at its Westerville store. It “was a great place to start … but the volume of calls wasn’t what we had hoped,” and it was discontinued, said Jamie Richardson, a White Castle vice president.

So the chain moved the test to its 6791 E. Broad St. store, where it is being embraced.“It seems that customers are really sparking to (the service),” Richardson said.

Since the delivery experiment began on the Far East Side, White Castle has noticed that demand picked up during football season and end-of-year holidays, said Cathy Adams, the chain’s office manager, who is screening delivery-driver applicants.

White Castle is using the tests, including the one expected to begin at the S. Hamilton Rd. location next month, to find the right technologies to keep its food hot in transit and figure out how to train employees.

Started in Wichita, Kan., in 1921 and later moved to Columbus, White Castle picked the locations for its 406 restaurants in a dozen states for reasons other than home delivery. So it is learning what makes a good delivery market.

“We want to learn more about why adoption can be strong at some locations and not as strong at others,” Richardson said.

Part of the delivery strategy is getting customers to buy more than a meal for one person. White Castle’s minimum order is $12, and its delivery fee is $2.

“At White Castle, it’s more about the Crave Cases,” Tristano said. A Crave Case of 30 cheeseburgers costs $24.60. “That’s a perfect opportunity for a large price off-premise,” he said.

Burger King, which started testing home delivery in Washington, D.C., in January 2012, offers several “delivery deals” including sandwiches, french fries and drinks for between $15 and $20.

Since then, the Miami-based fast-food chain has entered 12 large, urban test markets, including Chicago, New York City, Houston and Miami, Tristano said.

“This is a case where Burger King has become more of an innovator than a follower,” he said. “If it’s successful, other brands will be jumping in.”

Calls and emails to Burger King and its advertising agency were not returned yesterday.

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