Online Ordering: How to Streamline Your Restaurant Operations with Technology
Online ordering has been on the rise for years, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, it grew exponentially. According to Hospitality Technology's 25th annual Restaurant Technology Study, 84% of restaurants surveyed offer online ordering for pickup, and an additional 8% are adding it this year. Online ordering now accounts for as much as 40% of all restaurant sales.
Not only can online ordering help increase your reach and grow your business, but it can also help you streamline your restaurant operations. Ready to optimize your online ordering process? Keep reading for five easily actionable tips that you can put to work today:
1. Optimize Your Online Menu for Delivery and Takeout
There may be some cases where customers will use online ordering inside your restaurant, but the majority of people who order online are probably looking for delivery and takeout.
As such, it’s important to consider how your restaurant menu delivers (literally) in packaged form. For instance, your house specialty might be branzino, a fish that’s typically lightly seasoned and served whole. While it might be a showstopper for dine-in customers, it might not be as appetizing if it’s been sitting in a box for any period of time. Same goes for highly perishable or temperature-sensitive items like hot soup or ice cream.
You may want to consider omitting certain items from your online menu, charging extra for temperature-controlled packaging, or simply putting a note on your menu that certain items are available for dine-in orders only.
Do be discerning, but if you decide to remove certain items, don’t pare your menu down too much. Studies show that customers typically spend 18 percent more when placing orders online — so you want to be sure that your menu has plenty of options and upsell opportunities to choose from.
2. Maximize Integration!
Restaurants want to integrate. In fact, 71% say the ability to integrate with other systems is driving their POS purchase decisions, according to HT’s2 2023 POS Software Trends Report. One of the easiest ways to streamline your restaurant operations is to integrate online ordering with your point-of-sale. What does that mean? When a customer orders online, the order automatically gets added to your order entry system, so an employee doesn’t have to re-enter it. Not only can this reduce human error, but it speeds up the entire ordering process.
But the benefits of integration go beyond efficiency. When online orders are integrated into your everyday sales data, you’ll get a better idea of what’s selling. This can help you manage inventory and adapt your menu to customers’ evolving preferences. Plus, it can make reporting and daily sales settlements a lot easier!
3. Make It Easy to Order Online
If someone looks for your restaurant on Google, they’ll probably end up on your website.
Be sure to make it easy for customers to find your online menu and give them direct access to online ordering once they click onto your site.
If people can access your menu and order directly online, then you can maximize direct orders and minimize costly fees paid to third-party delivery companies. Third-party delivery companies might take 15 to 30 percent of each sale, which can add up over time.
Want to uplevel even more? Go beyond online ordering and your website and consider adding an online ordering app to your repertoire. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a tech whiz or shell out big bucks to create one — there are plenty of low-cost apps out there like BentoBox or Toast that can help you create a mobile ordering experience for customers.
4. Spread the Word
You might have the best online ordering system in the world, but it’s not going to increase your restaurant’s profits if people don’t know about it.
Be sure to spread the word! Here are just a few ways to do it:
- Blast your email list: Email marketing can be a powerful way to keep customers in the loop about your online menu, as well as upcoming food and drink specials and events.
- Create signage: A well-placed poster or flyers with a QR code leading directly to your online menu can increase awareness and potentially boost your online orders.
- Social media: The people most likely to order online are already online, so spread the word through social media. Create a series of posts alerting your customers to your online ordering platform, and make sure that your online ordering link is easily accessible in your profile.
5. Offer an Incentive
Sometimes, people need a little nudge to order. Sweeten the deal by offering an incentive for online orders! While the directions you could go are endless, here are just a few ideas:
- Create a loyalty program. A loyalty program is a program where customers get discounts or accumulated rewards for repeat business. If online orders can help customers accumulate rewards, it could increase repeat orders.
- Offer a discount, free menu item, or free delivery on customers’ first order.
- When customers order online, give them a $5 coupon to use on their next order within the next two weeks. Sometimes, a small incentive is all it takes to nab that repeat business!
Optimize Your Operations With Online Ordering Today!
There’s a reason why online ordering has become such a fundamental part of doing business for restaurants. Not only can it increase orders and potential profits, but it can also help streamline and increase efficiency in all aspects of your restaurant business, from inventory management to accounting. There are plenty of reasons to take the time to optimize and improve your online ordering system — put these tips into action today!
About the Author
Mark Plumlee is a copywriter who has helped restaurants and small businesses grow and define their brands.