What will go down as the societal advancement of the 2010s? Will it be groundbreaking cancer treatments? Leaps in virtual reality technology? The onset of self-driving cars? It’s too early to tell, but I’m going to put some early money on the revolution known as online ordering. Because who needs life-extending medical advancements if it means living in a world where you still have to put on pants to get food from your favorite local restaurant?
Mobile ordering has taken the restaurant industry and the limits of my own laziness by storm. According to a recent post by POS company Upserve, 60% of US consumers reported ordering delivery or takeout at least once a week. 31% of responders said they used those services at least twice a week. And digital ordering has grown 300% in the past five years compared to dining in at restaurants. This boom can obviously mean there’s potential for huge profits for restaurant owners. But there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind when thinking about adding online ordering to your own business. In this post, we’ll break down how online ordering works, how to set it up for your business, and what your options are in terms of using your own system or a third-party.
How Do Restaurant Online Ordering Systems Work?
From the consumer’s perspective, it couldn’t be simpler. Decide “I think I would like some food!” make a few clicks on your phone or laptop, and food from your favorite restaurant arrives at your door in a timely fashion. But from the restaurant’s side of things, well… no, actually it’s still pretty simple.
If you’re using a POS system with integrated online ordering, you likely just need to activate it. Sometimes, if the service is an add-on, it will come with an additional monthly fee. From there, the software does the work. An order that is made online can either pop on the POS system and then be sent back to the kitchen or it can be sent directly to the kitchen, along with the time that the order was made and when the customer or third-party delivery person plans on picking it up. In this instance, a POS that comes with a Kitchen Display System (KDS) can be beneficial as it’s a convenient and efficient way to track a high volume of orders.
If you’re new to online ordering, you’ll also want to make sure that your website is intuitive and has the capacity for a potential influx of visitors. If you’re starting a website from scratch with the intention of adding online ordering to your business, you’ll want a good eCommerce platform. Many POS systems come with eCommerce functionality built-in (often for additional monthly fees) and others integrate with strong eCommerce software like Shopify.
If your POS does not have its own online ordering system, it may integrate with one (we’ll get into some of the better online ordering integrations later) and, in that case, you will likely just need to download and install the app on your system and you can be up and ready to take orders in minutes. The other option is to use one of the popular marketplace apps like UberEats or GrubHub. These apps are easy to use and widely-known among customers, but they also take a larger percentage of your profits.
How To Implement Online Ordering For Restaurants
Now let’s start getting a little more detailed. As we briefly talked about, there are a few different types of online ordering systems each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
Restaurant POS Add-Ons
These are systems that are built-in to existing POS software. They usually come at an additional cost for users but require very little additional set-up.
- Works Seamlessly With Other Software: Obviously, if this is a part of the overall software, it will be designed to work with other POS functions like loyalty or eCommerce and the interface will be immediately recognizable.
- Lower Costs: Keep in mind that, with most POS systems, online ordering is either an add-on that you will have to pay for in addition to your monthly software cost or you will need to subscribe to a higher tier plan. The good news is that this is a fixed fee. Considering that you won’t be hit with fees per order like other apps charge, it’s usually the most economical choice.
- Store Customer Information: Many online ordering systems can pair directly with a POS system’s loyalty program. This allows you to keep a record of customer information and transactions. You can easily see customers’ past orders along with how often they frequent your business and how much they generally spend. You can then offer rewards or send out targeted marketing to encourage customers to return.
- Availability:Â Unfortunately, not all POS systems have integrated online ordering. You may love everything else about your system and aren’t willing to switch over to another just for one additional feature.
- Visibility:Â Like it or not, the third-party apps do serve a purpose: they can help your restaurant reach customers who may not know about you. With a built-in online ordering system, a customer will have to specifically know about your restaurant and order directly through your website.
While multiple POS companies now offer some form of in-house online ordering, here are a few that do it well:
- Upserve:Â This company has one of the highest-rated online ordering systems, getting high marks for its cost and usability. Upserve offers great reporting, breaking down online ordering into easily digestible charts to track trends and help with marketing campaigns in the future.
- Toast: Toast is extremely intuitive and built for the restaurant industry. Its online ordering system features full menu visibility and offers prompted modifiers to help customers walk through their options. You can also dispatch drivers to pre-set delivery zones.
- Square:Â The processing and POS giant now offers Caviar on its Square for Restaurants platform. This software offers flexibility for customers to choose the time of their pick-up. It also comes with real-time updates and GPS order tracking.
Third-Party Online Ordering Systems
These are apps specifically created to help restaurants implement online ordering. They can generally be downloaded from an app store or a company will specifically partner or integrate with them.
- Created For Restaurants:Â When you set out to create an app that is specifically for online ordering to be used by a variety of restaurants, the product is likely to have all of the features you need and be intuitive for your employees.
- Can Help Build Your Website:Â Apps like these can help give your website a professional look and can help drive repeat business through their own loyalty campaigns.
- Cost:Â Most of these third-party systems come with a monthly or yearly fee that is generally more expensive than the add-on price for an existing POS’s ordering software.
- Compatibility:Â While most of these apps do a good job integrating with existing POS software, you may find that your existing system doesn’t support the third-party system you’ve settled on.
And here are a few examples of third-party apps that could help serve your restaurant:
- GloriaFood:Â This is a free app that boasts no hidden fees. It also offers a bundle to help set up your website. It has a simple-to-use interface and can be up and running in a short amount of time while also offering a table reservation function.
- ChowNow: ChowNow is commission-free and syncs up nicely with social media sites like Facebook to help drive sales. Its dashboard also allows you to make quick menu changes on the fly.
- MenuDrive:Â This app comes with built-in loyalty to help attract and reward repeat customers. It can also help with marketing and promotions and it was specifically built to be a functional experience for mobile orders.
Marketplace Delivery Apps
These are well-known apps that are used by a large number of customers and rely on third-party drivers for pick-up and delivery.
- Visibility:Â These apps can literally put your restaurant on the map. You could potentially have thousands of eyeballs on your menu that you wouldn’t have otherwise due to these apps’ sheer number of users.
- Not Limited To One App: While is may put a strain on your kitchen, you can use pretty much as many companies as you’d like to maximize the number of customers you can reach. There are also additional apps like OrderOut that can combine all of these third-party apps into one location to simplify the process.
- Cost:Â These apps often charge a hefty fee for the use of their popular service, some as high as 30% of an order, which can virtually negate any profit your restaurant may have received.
- Discourages Loyalty:Â While these apps may get your name out there, they are also impersonal and may not do much to increase the chances of repeat business. You also can not track or chart customer information or ordering habits for future marketing.
While the chances are good that you’ve heard of at least a few of these third-party apps, here’s what some of the more popular ones can offer:
- UberEats:Â This app comes with a huge number of drivers which can virtually guarantee speedy delivery and it’s simple for restaurants and cafes of all types to utilize. However, UberEats does charge one of the largest commission fees in the industry.
- Postmates:Â Postmates claims to have the largest on-demand network in the industry and is extremely popular in large, urban areas. It also has a Postmates API if you or anyone in your restaurant is into coding and software development.
- GrubHub:Â GrubHub has a convenient re-order feature for users that can help keep your restaurant at the front of a customer’s mind. While it may not specifically benefit your business, GrubHub also offers loyalty perks to its customers, rewarding them for repeat business.
Is An Online Ordering System Right For You?
By now you’re probably well aware of the potential revenue boost that an online ordering system can add to your restaurant. That doesn’t necessarily mean that moving forward is a no-brainer, however. There are plenty of things to consider such as the added costs of more ingredients and labor, not to mention whether or not your kitchen can handle a significant uptick in orders without sacrificing your in-restaurant experience.
But if you’ve determined that this is the right move for your business, you have plenty of options. The nice thing is that the vast majority of these systems, whether in-house or through a third-party, are very easy to set up and utilize. With most, you could be ready to make your first online sale in a single business day. But you’ll still have to weigh what would be most beneficial to your own, personal restaurant. Do you want a system that helps get your name and menu out to a variety of new customers, or do you want to avoid high fees while rewarding and marketing to existing customers? Whatever you decide, hopefully, this helped make the big decision a little easier.
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