Having a website is an absolute necessity for most businesses today. This is particularly true for restaurants due to an emerging trend in the industry that is helping to increase sales: online ordering. Customers will often visit a restaurant website to learn all about it, including the menu. Now, however, customers expect more; the savvy restaurant customer wants to be able to order online.
Statistics Are Overwhelming: Digital Restaurant Orders Are Rising
To stay current, many restaurants have made the move – more of a giant leap – to online and digital ordering systems. In an article entitled, “Restaurants Face Digital Dilemma,” Fortune magazine reports that, “the percentage of orders booked online or using a smartphone or tablet app—now 6.6% of the total—exceeded the quantity placed verbally over the telephone (5%).” Electronic orders have almost tripled in the past five years, and, while the number of visits TO restaurants has been steadily declining, the number of orders FROM restaurants has been sharply increasing. What does this mean for your restaurant?
It means that if you want to increase sales and exposure, online ordering is an important avenue.
Don’t Look for Excuses Not to Implement an Online Ordering System
Restaurateurs that haven’t moved over to online ordering may have loads of excuses and reasons, most of which don’t add up. Your restaurant IS right for online ordering even if you don’t realize it, and the reasons are many. Even if you work through a third-party site, it pays to look at the advantages of an in-house online ordering system as compared to exclusively using a third-party service. These perks include higher profits, insights on individual customers, a customizable user experience and interface, and more.
Online Restaurant Ordering Systems Benefit Customers…
The demand for restaurant online ordering is real and it’s not going to slack off any time soon. Guests love to order online because there’s none of the stress and pressure of a phoned-in order; they can take their time, clarify and change their orders as many times as they want (before pressing Send), and minimize mistakes. When you offer online ordering to your customers, it shows them that you and your business are forward-thinking, even if you founded your restaurant 25 years ago. Since 2014, about 30% of diners aged 18 to 54 have ordered food from a restaurant’s website via their phone or tablet. In addition, a survey shows that digital restaurant ordering is growing 300 percent faster than dine-in traffic, and that very soon more delivery orders will be placed online than over the phone.
…and Restaurant Owners Too
Looking at a menu online, and eliminating the need to talk to a real person (who may be impatient or hard to reach), means customers are more inclined to take the time to explore all the menu options, and consider items that they may not have thought of before. The result: digital orders average out to $4 more than non-digital orders. Less pressure means bigger orders – the equation is that simple.
Online ordering also makes restaurants more efficient; there are fewer botched orders and no frustrating phone calls, minimizing waste and the need for extra staff. Online orders are precise and unambiguous, and you can’t put a price on that. With online ordering, you’re giving more customers more ways to order your food. They don’t need to call, which is handy if they’re somewhere, like an office, where they don’t want to be overheard making their lunch order. In addition, having an online ordering system could tip the scale in your favor, especially if your competition doesn’t have one yet.
In-House Ordering vs. Third-Party Ordering
Even if you now use a third-party online ordering site, it’s time to consider operating an in-house, internally managed, online food ordering system – either as an alternative to a third-party site, or in addition to one. With your own online ordering platform, you can make instant, real-time changes to your menu and design. You’ll have control over your own brand, and customers will be looking at the website you created when they place their orders.
Using your own website for orders also eliminates the intermediary. Unlike a third-party ordering site, hosting an online ordering system from your restaurant means you keep all the revenues from the transactions. The more you sell, the more profit you earn. No more losing large profit percentages to the middleman; instead, the flat fee that you pay for your ordering system allows you to plan your budget with one fixed expense, eliminating the need to leave room for unknown and unpredictable percentages and commissions.
Collect Crucial Customer Data
In a business where knowing what your customers want is an enormous advantage, in-house online ordering is a great way to get that insight. When diners come into your restaurant, they usually eat, pay, and leave. You aren’t left with any of their contact information. With online ordering, you get the best marketing tool – your customers’ email addresses. Armed with this information, you now have a way to contact them again and re-market to them. You can thank them for their business, invite them to re-order their last meal, or suggest that they try something different. You can send promotions or special event notices. Online ordering is a way to establish a relationship with your customers. If you continue to build and nurture that relationship, you’ll have the added benefit of repeat customers.
The Online Menu: An Integral Part of an Online Ordering System
If you want to increase your sales through online ordering, your online menu should be a central component of your website. Your menu should be easy to locate, easy to read, and contain beautiful photographs. It should include comprehensive and tantalizing descriptions of the menu items, along with a complete listing of all the items that you offer.
Also, not everyone likes to order menu items as is. Customers who shun olives, for example, will ask to remove them from their Greek salad; while tomato haters may ask for their BLT without the “T.” You can make all your customers supremely happy if your ordering system allows them to modify their orders on your website. Letting them customize what they order online will do wonders for your online ordering – and your success.
Pickup and Delivery Services
It’s very helpful to customers if, after they place their orders online, you offer an estimated time for pickup right on your website. This adds to the convenience of online ordering and will make your customers even happier. You can give an approximate time or, if you’re really efficient, an exact time, but a range is perfectly acceptable. Allowing your customers to pay for their purchases online will also simplify the process. Many online ordering systems will store a customer’s credit card information, which invites repeat business and streamlines the process even more.
For an even higher level of service, offer delivery (or free delivery within a certain mile range or order amount), and your customers will line up to praise you. Many of today’s diners prefer the ease of ordering online and then waiting for someone to deliver their food so that they can eat in the comfort of their own homes. Delivery allows you to grow your business so that you can serve in-house diners, take-out customers, and delivery customers. Having a delivery service makes the process of ordering food from your restaurant easier and boosts your sales even more. If you do choose to offer delivery, free or otherwise, be sure to make it easy for your customers to input the address where they would like their food to be delivered and, like with pickups, indicate the approximate time of delivery – and try very hard to stick to the schedule.
There’s No Time Like the Present
If you aren’t yet harnessing the power of online ordering, it’s time to get started. Online ordering is a trend that’s here to stay because it not only benefits you, it benefits the customer. Your customers experience convenience and simplicity because they can order without any pressure. You experience increased revenue and a broader customer base. Bottom line – your customers are happy when they get to order online, and you’re happy because they’re spending more money than they would in a face-to-face or an over-the-phone transaction.