5 Keys to Next-Gen Online Ordering

The ability to order food online from a restaurant quickly evolved from an option, to an expectation, to a consumer demand, and restaurants are responding. Integrated digital ordering was named an important emerging technology by 68% of restaurants polled for HT’s “2016 Restaurant Technology Study.” by Many tech-savvy brands have already made headway in this space, and those that lag behind are feeling the pressure. HT’s research has found a correlation between restaurants that rate their overall technology profile as lagging, and restaurants that have prioritized R&D for digital ordering.  The findings suggest that integrated ordering is now a baseline for keeping pace with competition.

“A few years ago it was a novelty and now it’s like you are not keeping up with the Joneses if you don’t have it,” says Glen Holroyd, director of IT at Kona Grill (www.konagrill.com), based in Scottsdale, Ariz, with 38 locations throughout the United States.

Mobile websites bolster online ordering
Wingstop (www.wingstop.com), based in Dallas, Texas with 845 locations, started offering online ordering in 2009, and changed suppliers three times over the years. The most recent launch was with Olo (www.olo.com) offering an app and introducing a mobile website for orders. As a result, the chain was receiving 15% of its business through online ordering by the end of 2015.

“Before we had website ordering and an app, but the last release introduced the mobile web, which we feel is critically important, and even more important than the app. Our mobile website gets more orders than our app,” says Stacey Peterson, CIO at Wingstop. “Online ordering also carries about a 20 percent higher average guest check than in store.”

Vancouver Wash.-based Papa Murphy’s (www.papamurphys.com), with approximately 1,500 locations, is also seeing benefits from mobile ordering, finding “a very large percentage of orders” coming from its mobile website, according to Jayson Tipp, chief development officer and senior vice president of technology.

POS integration removes barriers to success
With the use of location-based technology, delivery options and social media integration playing more of a role in online ordering, operators are opting for more robust, integrated systems, foremost of which is integration with the POS.

Papa Murphy’s started testing online ordering in 2008, and through the years, learned one of the most important things was having it integrated with the POS. “You have to understand the limitations of your existing technology before implementing online ordering, and make sure you have the right partners in place who are aligned with your success,” Tipp, says.
The company recently partnered with Deloitte Digital (www.deloittedigital.com) to build an ecommerce platform using Hybris (www.hybris.com), now owned by SAP (www.sap.com), and integrated with its NCR Corp’s (www.ncr.com) POS. Customers can order online via a desktop or mobile website, and the technology also supports the customizable ordering process for
the chain.

“We have a high degree of customization for consumers in the order process and wanted Web ordering to provide the same experience as in the store,” Tipp says, explaining customers choose exactly what type of pizza they want from the dough to the sauce.

One of the challenges operators face is disparate POS systems, especially in a heavily franchised chain, which can make integration difficult. At Which Wich (www.whichwich.com), the chain had different hardware throughout its locations, so the first step was to standardize the hardware and software before entering the online ordering world, according to Jon Hartis, vice president of technology at Which Wich, based in Dallas, Texas with 845 locations.

“Standardizing the hardware removed many barriers others may experience because it’s not uncommon for restaurants to have multiple hardware and POS systems and then multiple versions within them,” Hartis notes. “With fragmented systems and POS providers it will be a long, uphill road.”

Which Wich is now running NCR’s POS system throughout the chain, along with Olo’s online ordering infrastructure, and also offers ordering via a white label app from Olo.

To circumvent the integration issue, some operators offer online ordering without the POS integration, and instead use a tablet in the store to manage orders. But this requires staff to enter the orders manually into the system and isn’t ideal, Holroyd says.

“There are different versions of online ordering, but we thought it was important to not only offer all of our menu items online, but also have it go straight from the Web into the POS,” he says, noting the chain launched online ordering in January using technology from Restaurant Revolution Technologies (www.rrtusa.com), which is integrated with NCR’s Aloha POS system. “Now online orders can come in without any effort from the staff, and it even lets them know when someone is going to pick the order up.”

Adding delivery to meet demand
In addition to placing an order online, many customers are looking for delivery options from their favorite restaurants — a trend sparking a number of third-party delivery services, including DoorDash (www.doordash.com) and Postmates (www.postmates.com). Some operators are hesitant because working with these companies requires the order to be placed at the partner’s website rather than the brand’s site.

“The discussion I’m hearing across the industry is the issue of who owns the consumer relationship,” Tipp says. “Do I want my customer going to [another website] to order? It complicates the relationship with the consumer in a number of ways regarding brand management.”
Which Wich set out to solve this issue over a year ago and is getting ready to launch a solution with Olo so customers can order online and utilize a third party delivery service while maintaining control of the customer experience.

“We started engaging delivery service providers directly and we integrated our Olo online ordering system with five of them,” Hartis says, explaining a customer goes to the Which Wich website to place the order and can select if they would like it delivered. The system reaches out to available delivery providers and matches the order with whoever comes back with the lowest delivery fee.

“Customers select the delivery and time and within seconds a delivery fee comes back to them,” he notes. “Also, placing the order through us will allow them to get rewarded with loyalty points, which they won’t get through a third party website.”

The option launched in early May with five delivery providers, but the company expects to be working with around 50 by the end of the year, Hartis says. In the next couple of months, the chain will complete their app so when customers choose delivery, they can see the courier driving turn by turn and can track the delivery process.

Location ups the service ante
What if a restaurant could use beacons to know when a consumer is walking in the door to pick up an online order, or offering curbside pickup using this technology? These are all possible options, according to Tipp.

“I’m also looking forward to the ability for people to store orders and reorder their favorites easily,” he says. “You can save favorites in Internet Explorer and Chrome and I think consumers expect that. The site should recognize they are there and even provide reminders specific to them.”

Online ordering can also provide a large amount of data that a chain can use to dig deeper into what a guests wants, and predictive analytics can be applied here to match what is being ordered with the inventory on hand, Hartis says.

Social offers app alternative
Many operators view social media as something to watch in this area as well — even more than apps, Peterson shares. The app space is crowded and consumers can’t have an app on their phone for every restaurant, but she is excited about social media possibilities. “Facebook has somewhere between 900 million to over 1 billion users, so you will see companies figuring out how they can capitalize on that,” she says.  

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