If you operated a table service restaurant before 2020, chances are your business looks a lot different today. Restaurant online ordering is on pace to grow from an $82 billion market to $200 billion by 2025. That growth has restaurants of all concepts and sizes wondering how to get a share of that revenue. Deploying the right restaurant online ordering system and adapting your business strategy can lead to continued success, even as customers change how they prefer to dine.
What to Consider When You Choose a Restaurant Online Ordering System
Taking orders online requires the right technology. However, there are two categories of restaurant online ordering systems, and each has pros and cons for your business. You can choose:
- A third-party platform: These are systems like Grubhub or Uber Eats that allow you to post your menu on their platforms. There is a cost to using these services, sometimes as much as 30% of each order, but you may also find that they help you get your menu in front of new customers because these platforms have so many users.
- Directly through your website: You also have the option to use a restaurant online ordering system hosted on your own website that accepts orders directly. You pay a small monthly or transactional fee for use of the software. You also have the advantage of controlling all of your online customers’ data, which can help you personalize marketing and build loyalty.
Whether you decide to use a third-party platform or a direct online ordering system, make sure it integrates with your point of sale (POS) system. Integration means when a customer orders online, the information will automatically be sent to your POS system. You won’t need to have an employee reenter the information – which cuts down on errors. Furthermore, if you’re like most restaurants struggling to fill job openings, this is one less task you need to schedule an employee to do.
Restaurant Online Ordering Strategy
Setting up online ordering alone won’t help you build business online. You also need to create an effective strategy. Consider these points:
- Menu: Dine-in favorites may not travel well. For many restaurants, it makes sense to have a different menu for online ordering than for the dining room. Use your online ordering data to help determine customer favorites, so you can build a popular menu for takeout or delivery. Also, choose a system that allows you to easily manage different menus and prices.
- Operations: Your kitchen staff will need to adapt from primarily preparing menu items for the dining room to also preparing food for takeout or delivery. Work with your team to devise an effective way to prioritize orders so meals are always appetizing and ready on time. A kitchen display system (KDS) integrated with your POS system and restaurant online order system can streamline communications with the kitchen and management.
- Packaging and labeling foods: Unlike foods that a server takes to a table, preparing menu items for takeout or delivery also involves packaging and labeling them. For the greatest efficiency, you’ll need to designate floor space to package orders and stage them for pickup or delivery. Additionally, for the best customer experiences, choose containers, cartons, and other packaging that will keep food warm and appealing. It’s also smart to produce professional labels with your logo to make your brand more visible in your market.
Employee management: If your operation is evolving from a mostly dine-in eatery to preparing more orders for delivery or takeout, you may need to make decisions about where to assign workers. Evaluate your employees’ skills and where they’ll be most valuable, whether waiting tables, managing deliveries, or engaging customers when they arrive to pick up orders.
- Customer experiences: Even though many of your customers aren’t enjoying meals inside your dining room, providing great customer experiences is still important to business success. Satisfied customers are more likely to order again. Make sure the entire experience — from reviewing your menu online and placing an order until the customer opens the packaging to enjoy your cuisine — is a good one. Your restaurant may benefit from requesting customer feedback so you can evaluate your online ordering offering from a diner’s point of view. Including a brief survey at the end of the online ordering process or including a link with the receipt can help you understand your customers better and ensure you’re always meeting their expectations.
Expanding your business to include online ordering takes the right tools and the right strategy, but it can pay off with increased revenues and an agile business that can adapt when needed to continue to serve customers.
To help you organize your strategy and choose the right restaurant online order system for your growing business, download our Successful Restaurant Online Ordering Checklist.