Even before the coronavirus pandemic, online ordering was already a huge and lucrative opportunity for restaurants, with over half of restaurant spending projected to take place off-premise in 2020. Now, the COVID-19 outbreak has caused a shift in consumer behavior, whether mandated by the government or a self-imposed decision to stay away from dine-in restaurants. As the stay-at-home and social distancing directives continue, online ordering and delivery may be the only options restaurants have to remain open and serve guests.
As overall economic activity slows, you have the opportunity to catch up on restaurant technology. Here’s how to set up online ordering for restaurants to future-proof your business.
Assess Your Restaurant Needs
Every restaurant is different, and before you decide on the specifics of an online ordering system, it’s important to determine your individual needs. Some questions to consider:
- What will I need to purchase in order to launch online ordering? At a minimum, you’ll need to-go packaging and online ordering technology (including a website and mobile app). If you add in delivery, you’ll need transport bags, drivers, and vehicles (and insurance for them).
- How much staff will I need to execute an online ordering system? You’ll need people to prep, cook, package, and fulfill the orders (in-store take-out, curbside pickup transactions, or delivery, or all of them). If your dine-in facilities are closed because of the outbreak, you can reallocate staff such as servers or bussers to new positions as needed. As your online business accelerates, you may need to hire more people.
- Will the online ordering channels integrate with my restaurant point of sale (POS) system? Integration is crucial for efficiency, accuracy, and data capture.
You’ll also need to evaluate your online ordering options:
- Integrated online ordering with your POS and delivery vehicles branded with your restaurant's name
- Pros: The majority of consumers prefer to order directly from a restaurant. By doing so, you can control all touch points with the customer to ensure you’re creating stronger loyalty and a better experience. Integrated online ordering allows for less order errors and greater revenue per order for owners. You’ll also get to keep 100% of your customer data.
- Cons: You may need more staff to handle delivery in-house. However, as online orders increase, phone orders may decrease, freeing up resources and labor. You also may have to devote more attention to marketing in order to promote your online availability and capture a wider audience.
- Third-party online ordering using providers such as DoorDash, UberEats, GrubHub, etc.
- Pros: You can reach more consumers who may not be aware of your restaurant until they see it on the third-party site or app. Additionally, delivery tasks are out of your hands with third-party providers—they’ll pick up and deliver the food for you.
- Cons: You’ll keep less of your profits—some third-party providers take as much as 30% in fees. You may have technology integration issues. For example, if your systems aren’t integrated, you may receive orders through Uber Eats and have to manually enter them into your POS system. Juggling multiple systems or doing double entries during peak hours is not ideal. And, if your systems aren’t integrated, you often don’t own the customer data, making it harder to grow loyalty.
There are good and bad aspects for each option. Ultimately, you need to choose the one that’s right for you. The best solution may be to partner with a third-party for overflow during peak hours when you are short on drivers, or to help expand outside of your normal delivery areas.
Plan to Maximize Your Exposure
When determining if and how to set up online ordering for restaurants, owners should know that one of the main benefits is the increased audience and opportunities for sales. To maximize your exposure and online ordering strategy when offering it through your restaurant, be sure to:
- Optimize Your Website: Make sure your website is set up to have an updated, detailed digital menu that reflects your brand and showcases your food—especially because there is more space online for appealing photos, descriptions, and nutritional information. Set up and test the online ordering process prior to launch to ensure it’s working smoothly and delivering the best user experience. The process should be responsive, secure, and require minimal steps for the customer to place their order and checkout.
- Consider a Mobile App: Branded mobile apps complement your website to provide an optimal online ordering strategy and is especially important if you operate a franchise or multi-unit business. Not only does an app give you an even greater online reach, it also strengthens customer relationships, accessibility and enhances brand loyalty.
Establish an Integrated Customer Loyalty Program
If you don’t have one already, launching a customer loyalty program integrated with your online ordering platform is a great way to motivate customers to try it out. If you do have one, now is the time to encourage customers to log in and collect/redeem rewards online. With an integrated loyalty program, you can better collect and manage your customer data, which is crucial as you add more ordering channels. You want to maximize data collected from customers no matter which ordering path they choose in order to create and execute more personalized marketing messaging.
A loyalty program also keeps customers even more connected with your brand, and increases the chance they will order again—even up to four times more per month. It can be a crucial tool in encouraging online ordering by rewarding customers for doing so (by offering discounts and specials online for rewards members). It’s especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, since you can only interact digitally for now.
The Next Steps Toward Restaurant Online Ordering Implementation
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way restaurants operate. Without the proper online ordering platform, your restaurant could have difficulties getting your food to your customers. Amid anxieties about grocery shortages and food availability, customers are flocking to restaurants that are offering online ordering for takeout, curbside pickup or delivery. They’re especially interested in restaurants who can offer unique fulfillment options during this time, such as contact less delivery and curbside pickup. Because of these new needs, this is an opportune time to assess technology investments that will help your restaurant or chain survive and take it to the next level when the pandemic has passed. The best strategy is to implement an integrated point of sale, loyalty, and delivery support with the HungerRush online ordering solution. When you use the same provider for all of your restaurant tech needs, everything is automated and efficient, making it easier than ever to scale your business to address the current situation while preparing for the future.
To learn more about the HungerRush online ordering solution, request a demo today. You can also download our free ebook of strategies to protect your revenue and reduce costs while surviving the COVID-19 pandemic.