Improving digital customer engagement has become the top priority for restaurant operators. Consider this: For the first time in 10 years, such enhancement unseated improving efficiency as the top strategic goal among respondents to Hospitality Technology’s 2017 Restaurant Technology Study. Statistics indicate that providing diners with digital experiences and capabilities — including digital ordering — will become an increasingly important point of differentiation for restaurants.
“Consumers demand it,” says Cavin Green, vice president, business technology, Boston Pizza International (www.bostonpizza.com). “More than 30% of our pickup and delivery volume is driven by online orders, and it’s growing.”
Factor in Integration Needs
The three biggest advantages of digital ordering are easier order placement for customers, speed, and accuracy. To maximize these advantages, remote orders must be funneled through the POS system and to the kitchen in the same way as phone and counter orders, “with the POS system functioning as the central hub,” Green states. Additionally, the digital order acceptance solution must integrate with the KDS. Without such integration, food production efficiencies, order dispatch effectiveness, and speed of delivery will all be compromised.
Many digital order acceptance solutions, such as those from Future POS (www.futurepos.com) and Agilysys (www.agilysys.com), have “pre-integrated” KDS and POS components, preventing problems of this kind. Some digital order acceptance solutions, among them offerings from SoftTouch (www.softtouchpos.com) and SICOM (www.sicom.com), natively integrate with POS systems, eliminating mistakes that stem from re-keying orders along with additional labor expenditures. The Givex (www.givex.com) digital ordering solution synchronizes orders into its Vexilor POS system and tags them as having originated online before routing them to the KDS.
In cases where the POS and the KDS must be “manually” integrated, getting the job done can prove problematic without open APIs. Jason’s Deli (www.jasonsdeli.com), which receives approximately 40% of its takeout and delivery orders via digital channels, relies on robust APIs and related documentation to support the integration of its orderTalk (www.ordertalk.com) SaaS-based digital ordering platform with its POS system.
“As with any integration, the trick is keeping both systems in sync when something changes on one or both sides,” notes Amy Schuster, PMP, director of IT, Jason’s Deli. Toward this end, Schuster and her team work with orderTalk through each POS upgrade it performs, thereby ensuring that neither the business nor the guest experience are interrupted by changes in technology.
Both Garbanzo Fresh Mediterranean (www.eatgarbanzo.com) and Boston Pizza have integrated their digital ordering solutions with a loyalty program component. Garbanzo uses the Paytronix (www.paytronix.com) loyalty platform while Boston Pizza has a custom-built database and loyalty app that integrates with the ONOSYS solution (www.onosys.com) and also leverages some Paytronix functionality, including offers and rewards redemption, in conjunction with digital ordering.
“Failing to integrate a loyalty program with digital ordering is a big mistake,” James Park, Garbanzo’s CEO asserts. He says customers want to be able to apply loyalty points to takeout and delivery orders, and don’t want to log in to separate systems to redeem rewards or earn points for new orders.
Ensure a Consistent Experience
Operators and vendors agree that customers must have an identical omni-channel digital ordering experience, no matter the device they are using or whether placing an order via a website or an app.
Park notes that in configuring the chain’s digital order acceptance solution from Olo (www.olo.com), extra efforts were also made to promote ease of use and minimize confusion. Toward this end, in addition to organizing ingredients on the menu in a logical fashion that mirrors the sequence in which customers would add them when “building” entrees in-store, the Garbanzo website displays two separate menus, one for takeout orders and the other for catering orders.
Boston Pizza utilizes a device-agnostic mobile ordering platform. Jason’s Deli recently partnered with its vendor to integrate directly into their API via the brand’s new iPhone and Android apps. “This,” Schuster observes, “has allowed us to provide our guests with an omni-channel experience regardless of their choice of technology when ordering.”
Some vendors advocate creating a consistent order acceptance experience for staff that transcends the digital side. They advocate configuring all order acceptance and POS technology so that digital orders placed via websites, social media applications, mobile devices, and/or chatbots, as well as telephone, counter, tableside, and digital orders, look identical to kitchen staff, expeditors, and, if applicable, delivery drivers. Such consistency drives efficiency and cost savings, eliminates confusion and frustration, and speeds up order entry and handling.
Avoid Compromising Efficiencies
While digital ordering solutions spark increased order-taking efficiencies, they can lead to bottlenecks in other areas, particularly pickup, if technology isn’t leveraged preventively. Garbanzo Fresh Mediterranean’s digital order acceptance solution includes provisions for using predictive analytics and forecasts based on order histories to establish thresholds at which orders are cut off and throttled to a later time.
Jason’s Deli foregoes throttling pickup time slots in favor of what Schuster deems a “short lead time online” to give the kitchen adequate time to receive and prepare each order by the time the guest arrives at the deli. The chain utilizes a capacity management capability built into its digital order management technology to control the number of deliveries that can be scheduled during certain time frames, so that it can avoid “over-committing ourselves and under-delivering to guests,” Schuster observes.
“That said,” she asserts, it is critical that “managers have the discretion and ability to add deliveries if they feel they can accommodate requests without negatively impacting other orders.”