Online Ordering and Your Restaurant: 9 Things to Consider

online_ordering_for_restaurantsOnline ordering is quickly becoming a must-have in your restaurant’s digital toolbox. Allowing customers to order directly from your restaurant’s website can greatly increase both your delivery and pickup revenue. What restaurateur wouldn’t want to see a nice boost in takeout business?

The National Restaurant Association notes that nearly a fifth of today’s customers say technology options are an important feature that factors into full-service restaurant choices. As well, 24% of 18-34 year old diners said they consider a restaurant’s tech options when making their dining plans.

Here are some key points to consider when developing your restaurant’s process.

1. Online Ordering for Restaurants : It Starts with a Call-to-Action

Any actions you want customers to take on your website need to be supported with calls-to-action. Add a prominent button or icon to your home page marked “Order Online Now” or something similar. When visitors enter your website, they should see these calls-to-action right away.

2. Add Social Media to the Mix

Integrate your online menu with your social media presence. Facebook has now made it easier than ever to upload and display your menu on their platform. They know the importance of online ordering for the restaurant industry and have taken steps to make it as smooth as possible. Consider using any number of online ordering applications that integrate with your Facebook page. Examples include OpenDiningChowNow, and GloriaFood.

3. Make Sure It’s Mobile-Friendly 

Keep in mind that 50% of mobile phone users now use mobile as their primary means of surfing the web. Be sure whichever system you’ve implemented as your online ordering solution looks good on any mobile device.

4. Leverage Existing Technology Partners

When deciding on the right online ordering software, try discussing the issue with your current POS provider. See if they have a list of online solutions that effectively integrate with your POS system. Your POS partner may in fact already offer their own online ordering solution. This could make your decision easier, but do the research anyway. The day may come when you decide to switch POS providers.

5. Build a Database and Get Creative

One benefit of online ordering is the ability to create a robust customer database. Capturing names, email addresses, phone numbers, and purchase histories will be vital for future marketing campaigns. Make sure somewhere during the process that you get permission from customers to send them future emails. This is a golden opportunity to build your email marketing list. These customers are definitely interested in your product, they’re already ordering it!

We’ve heard of restaurants using this information to send out notices on those low-traffic storm days. Those occasions serve as a good reason to send your database a quick email reminding them of your online ordering options.

6. Save Money by Reducing Errors

Besides the time saved from online ordering (customers are doing the bulk of the work), keep in mind the amount of money to be saved by reducing communication errors. When someone self-orders their meal, you’re eliminating the possibility of a miscommunication between customer and server.

Be sure you have an option to easily produce a full written copy of the customer’s order. Imagine having that ready the next time a customer comes in claiming their order is incomplete or incorrect.

7. Make Payment Easy

Whichever service provider you choose, it’s imperative that customers are not only able to order the food from your website, but can pay for it right away. Make it as simple as you can for payment to take place and be sure to have an option for storing their payment information. That makes it even more likely that customers will return for future ordering.

8. Ask Questions, Lots of Questions

Choosing the right provider and developing the right online process requires some reflection. Take some time to think about the options and functionality you want your ordering experience to include.

  • How flexible will it be for customer substitutions?
  • Are there fields for customers to note important allergy instructions?
  • Will there be a minimum purchase requirement? A maximum?
  • Is it going to be available in languages beyond English?
  • Are there options that facilitate upselling and add-ons?
  • Can customers include a tip for the delivery/take-out worker as part of their payment?
  • Can it remember the customers’ previous order(s)?
  • Is there an option to redeem gift cards?

9. Have a Plan for Website Outages

It’s never a good thing for your website to be offline, but if you’ve invested a lot of time and effort into driving online sales a downed website can cost you serious money.

– Have a plan in place so you know exactly who to call as soon as a problem is spotted. Make certain you have the correct support phone numbers and email addresses at the ready.

– Halt any planned emails or ad campaigns until the outage is corrected. Make sure to pause any emails that may be set to launch that day.

– Use your social media accounts to let customers know of website issues and alert them to alternate ways to contact you (phone, email).

– Finally, consider using a website monitoring service (there are free options out there) to alert you of website slowdowns and outages. Also, consider having your updates go to an email address provided by a service other than the one hosting your website. Perhaps have them sent to a gmail account, or to your mobile via text.

This post originally appeared on FoodTender.com’s Restaurant Strategy Blog.

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