Why online ordering is vital (and how to do it well)
As the FOH & Operations consultant with Harbor Foodservice’s Restaurant Solutions I collaborate with restaurateurs from all types of culinary expressions & organizational dynamics across a diversity of communities. Even before Covid-19 I engaged regularly with our clients to tap into offsite dining channels as a growth opportunity.
Today it’s a bonafide necessity that is carrying many restaurateurs through incredibly challenging times.
While 3rd Part Delivery (3PD) is for many a “necessary evil”, true growth (and profit) potential is in direct takeout orders. Like anything else, there’s a way to do it, and methods to do it better. Phone-in orders are soon to be relics of the past and are costing you more than you can track.
The Phone-In Method
If you’re lucky the phone is always ringing, and this feels like success. Let’s pull the rug out and see what’s swept under & out of sight:
You’ll never know how much business you’ve missed out on. Most restaurants have one (MAYBE) two phone lines. After a couple call-ins and busy signals, most potential diners will move on to their 2nd or 3rd choice
Risk of mistakes & miscommunication is elevated. For those who get through, the transaction is conducted voice-to-voice with questionable call qualities and/or distractions on each side (calling from a car, loud children in the background, your restaurant, etc.) the information shared is potentially rushed or incomplete… Don’t get me started on navigating 86’d items or people attempting to order from an outdated menu.
Labor is expensive and in-house business (where offered) is priority. The person receiving the call-in order may not be the best trained for ordering or is attempting to fit the phone ordering process among other in-person duties. Increasing the potential for errors and lost opportunities such as upselling.
You could lose out three times on unclaimed orders. When/if a call-in order doesn’t come you’ve lost out on 1) payment, 2) product, and 3) labor.
With only a little effort and relatively low upfront costs, online ordering is attainable for almost all restaurants with or without a website and provides a far superior ordering experience for both you and your diner.
Potentially unlimited simultaneous orders. Additionally, most all online ordering methods provide restaurants with the option to communicate predetermined or live order readiness estimates.
Diners have access to the most current menu, menu options, and the luxury of time to craft their order. You can also set online ordering platforms to optimize upselling and product suggestions when a customer is scrolling through your menu. Even without this turned on; statistically when people order online, they upsell themselves 15-20%.
Future marketing opportunities. After someone has created an account, online ordering platforms capture and store contact information such as email & mobile phone numbers that can be used for future outreach.
The order is paid before it’s even sent to your kitchen. The worse thing that can happen if they don’t come pick it up is that you’ve fed people on your team.
Online ordering is easy to guide your guests to. When you have online ordering set up, you have a weblink you can easily share via text, email, on your phone’s answering message, or QR code. (click HERE learn more about QR codes)
Selecting the most appropriate option for your operation is the first best step. We’ve collaborated with dozens of clients to help determine the best fit for their needs and welcome the opportunity to serve this need with you as well. Generally speaking, your future online ordering platform will be expressed via the following two methods.
Through your POS system. Most semi-modern POS systems either have online ordering as a feature or integrate with a service provider. Depending on the options available through your POS system the features and functionality will vary. However, when integrated into your systems, orders will print directly to the kitchen.
This option is good for labor, flow, and data reconciliation. When all takeout orders are coming through your POS, you’re able to track inventory, run unified reports, and easily manage anything admin related.
Be cautious of varying credit card transaction fees. Some POS connected integrations charge up to 7% + .10/ transaction… this’ll add up fast.
The 3rd Party Option. These often provide more consistent support, additional features, and can interface with other ordering methods such as social media, Google, and 3PD providers. Below are a couple of vetted considerations.
ToGoTechnologies has a lot of desirable features that you might not get with a POS system chief among them is a seamless interface with most websites. ToGoTechnologies also integrates with a variety of POS systems, charges a flat rate with competitive processing fees, and offers advances throttling that alters the estimated readiness time when orders begin to pile up.
ChowNow is perhaps the most popular option on the ordering platform landscape. While currently only integrated with the Square POS, if you’re not currently using Square, you will be issued a tablet to accept and manage orders and printer for sale or lease.
On the additional features side of things, ChowNow provides marketing support with physical marketing collateral, and monthly email marketing that requires no effort on your part.
ChowNow will also provide direct ordering portals via your social media platforms and your Google business listing including Google Maps. They also have the option of commission free 3PD via Doordash.
If you’re interested in learning more about ChowNow, we’ve pre-negotiated a deal that will cut setup fees in half, double the physical marketing materials you receive, and have developed channels within the company to ensure support and service continuity for our clients.
For any questions about getting set up with online ordering you can reach out to the Solutions Team.
FOH | Operations Consultant
BOH | Culinary
Due to the variety and frequency of the clients we serve, one of the best services we can offer is to share the innovations, challenges, and solutions we encounter in the field to help knit our industry professionals… none of us needs to start from zero.