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From Analog to Digital: Solving Food Ordering Pain with E-commerce

The key is to create the right mix of technology and tradition.
digital ordering
By digitizing food ordering, operators can unlock the key to smarter operations, faster service, lower costs and transformed order management.
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Hotel and restaurant operators are fed up with food order management. Too often it’s a broken process that involves back-and-forth calls or emails, confusing spreadheets and clipboards, and limited visibility. With some businesses spending up to 16 hours per week on ordering alone, manual labor and outdated ordering systems are wasting precious resources and hurting the bottom line. After all, the restaurant industry survives on a 5% margin. It’s time to find a better way forward.

Luckily, food service is catching up to the age of e-commerce. By digitizing food ordering, operators can unlock the key to smarter operations, faster service, lower costs and transformed order management.

The Current State 

Over 80% of food ordering is placed on a smartphone – yet few of the restaurants, cafes, hotels – and the distributors they buy from – are leaning into a digital experience. 

In fact, most operators place orders via call, text, email and voicemail with a distributor’s salesperson and then track orders on spreadsheets. It’s painstakingly time-consuming when done at scale. Sometimes, it requires hiring a team of people who solely manage ordering — a painful cost in today’s inflationary market. However, it can also lead to erroneous orders and costly mistakes, which are quite common when the ordering system is manual and labor-intensive. 

Related STUDY: How Restaurants Can Increase Profits with Online Orders, In-House Food Delivery

Even worse, order mistakes are typically unknown until the time of delivery due to zero visibility into the order lifecycle. Manual ordering – or even antiquated desktop-only ordering systems – doesn’t enable real-time communication with sales reps, order confirmation and updates, shipment tracking, delivery ETAs, insight into your delivery driver’s profile, and more. This can lead to unanticipated order delays, late out-of-stock notices, and other costly disruptions. 

Furthermore, if a restaurant wants to develop a new recipe for their menu, they’re committing to a very difficult game of playing endless phone tag with sales representatives to source new ingredients. The manual food ordering process doesn’t allow operators to easily discover, explore or order new things.

It’s no wonder this broken process is creating frustration. Operators shop from dozens of different distributors, manually place large (and risky) orders, and receive little personalized customer service in return. They can’t easily access a list of previously ordered items, price changes, enriched product data, and other valuable insights. Most importantly, they can’t easily shop from their smartphone—where most operators place orders every day. 

There is a better way forward. By introducing restaurant and hotel food ordering to B2B e-commerce, operators can enter the digital age – and it’s a lot better here.

Revolutionizing Order Management

Procrastinating shoppers have Amazon. Hungry customers have Uber Eats. Now frustrated, busy operators can access food suppliers on e-commerce platforms, too – and the benefits are next level. 

Foodservice e-commerce platforms are digital tools that enable operators to place orders with their contracted suppliers via mobile apps in one place. Picture a digital hub, where operators can access all contracted distributor catalogs and browse available products, access enriched data, specify quantities, and complete the ordering process with one centralized checkout for the business’s multiple locations. 

Imagine personalized product and substitution recommendations, order history tracking, and automated ordering reminders for a completely transformed ordering experience. There’s so much transparency that order errors are reduced by over 50%.

That vision is a reality—and it drastically improves logistics, too. E-commerce platforms enable operators to monitor the real-time status of their orders, payments, and deliveries. Real-time communication is made easy, and disastrous disruptions are avoided. 

With distributors, orders, communication, and payments all in one place, labor requirements can be cut by 50 - 70%. This frees up operators and their teams for more strategic, human-centric work – like strengthening customer satisfaction, building loyalty, and, most importantly, driving revenue growth while reducing labor costs. With 38% of restaurants reporting not being profitable last year, this impact on the bottom line is critical.

Making the Switch

There are telltale signs your food ordering process is ready for digitization. Perhaps ordering can’t be done on the go, or from a smartphone. Maybe operators are fed up with long hours, incorrect orders, and poor communication. Whether it’s the need to cut costs, keep up with changing demand, or even reduce food waste, it’s probably time to ditch manual ordering. 

The key is to create the right mix of technology and tradition. Understand what aspects of the food ordering process make sense to digitize and what still requires human touch. With technology powering an easier, faster shopping experience, operators have more time to do what they do best: connect with people and grow their business. 

They can focus more on staff retention and developing their team to be rockstars in customer service. They’re able to engage with customers and resolve issues with empathy. Last but not least, operators can finally have the hours to think strategically and oversee changes that better support business goals. Technology in the front of the house is already standard – but by leveraging e-commerce in the back, operators are freed up to create and support incredible experiences for customers everyday. 

The good news is that getting started is easy and free. Find a free e-commerce platform solution that is user friendly and supports desktop and mobile usage. If your distributor already uses a platform like this, it’s best to leverage it. If not, seek out alternatives that allow ordering from distributors already on the platform as well as the opportunity to add new distributors. From there, it’s as easy as swiping, adding to cart, and paying. The right solution will centralize every bill, enable operators to pay them on time, and keep track of everything in one platform. 

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Future is Here, Today

Food order management doesn’t have to be frustrating. By utilizing e-commerce platforms to shop with distributors, restaurant and hotel operators can reduce the time, costs, and headaches associated with ordering while reaping significant benefits. It’s time to let operators do what they do best – run a business built on human connection – and let technology automate the mundane. Digitization brings the best of both worlds. 

About the Author

A serial entrepreneur, Mani, is co-founder and CEO of Cut+Dry, a digital platform for the entire foodservice industry. He started his career in Fintech, building payment systems at Citibank and Yahoo. This training laid the groundwork for Mani to conceive and design complex, scalable, transaction-based businesses with a payments element. Mani went on to co-found CAKE, a restaurant POS startup, which was acquired by Sysco. While at Sysco, Mani helped create a new technology organization, Sysco Labs, which he helped grow to a 400+ team.

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