How to Set up an Online Ordering System for Your Restaurant

Online food ordering exploded in 2020 because of the global pandemic.

Even last year, before the pandemic reached the United States, analysts were predicting the online food delivery industry to be worth $200 billion by 2025.

Customers stuck at home miss the food from their favorite restaurant or want to help support local businesses. And smartphones have made it easier than ever to place an order.

Those restaurants you can order online from had an easier time weathering the economic effects of COVID-19. Others have been scrambling to set up new systems to serve online customers.

Do you need help setting up an online ordering system for your restaurant? Don’t worry, it’s not too late! It’s been growing in popularity for years and chances are you would be adding it soon anyway.

Keep reading below to learn the various ways you can incorporate an online ordering system for restaurants, tips on selecting the best system for your needs, and how to change your marketing to reach a digital audience.

Set up Your Website as an Online Restaurant

The very first thing to do is to make sure your restaurant has a website. While a vast majority of restaurants have one, smaller operations in rural areas may have not needed one until now.

Did you hire a designer to make your website or did you use a service like WordPress or Wix? You’ll want to find out what options are available for adding online menus and ordering.

On a Wix page, for example, you can activate online ordering in minutes under the settings menu. You can also set pick-up options, delivery areas, payment policies, and more.

If you’re using WordPress for your website, chances are you’ll need to add a plug-in like WooCommerce to process transactions.

Either way, reach out to whoever helped set up your website and find out what’s possible. You’ll also want to request access to revise online menus in case something runs out or you want to add a hot item.

And, finally, always check to see what fees are being taken out by the website builder or plug-in for these new features.

For example, WooCommerce is free to use but it may cost you to upload a premium webpage template or to process payments.

Ask Customers to Use Online Delivery Platforms

Online delivery companies already exist, including DoorDash, GrubHub, UberEats, and Postmates. These four apps control 95% of the food delivery app marketplace.

Many restaurants have opted to partner with these companies to deliver food to customers. In April 2020, third-party enabled restaurant sales doubled year over year.

This is a viable option if your website needs work or you’re new to the delivery game.

Besides restaurant takeout, customers are using these apps to pick up groceries or make stops at convenience stores.

A disadvantage of using these apps is that they charge a commission ranging from 15-30%. They’ve also been criticized for not being transparent with the public about how much they take from restaurants.

Each restaurant negotiates its rate and only gets a lower percentage by signing exclusively with one app. They’re often asked to sign non-disclosure agreements where they can’t discuss the commission rate.

Hacking is another concern with using third-party apps. In 62% of quick-service restaurants (QSR), customers are concerned about fraud when using apps to order food.

To make matters worse, 64% of Americans have been victims of data theft. It’s a growing problem nationwide and having additional apps in use makes customers more vulnerable.

Several high-profile food app data breaches are worrying restaurants and customers. Cyber thieves will target a customer’s financial information, bank or credit card numbers, and even personal details about restaurant employees.

Use Restaurant Online Ordering System Apps

Your last option is using one vendor to build your online ordering system from the ground up with an app.

There are comprehensive services offering more than just setting you up for online orders. There are services out there, like Blink, that also provide you with your own branded ordering website and app, for a minimal subscription fee.

Besides advanced online ordering, they will also help you revamp your website, manage restaurant menus online, and set up geolocation technology to help more customers find you.

Furthermore, everything unique about your restaurant is branded across your new website, menus, and online order forms.

This is important because nearly three-quarters of customers want to order food from a branded website rather than a third-party app. They want to feel as if they’re communicating directly with the restaurant. Not a middleman.

One of the best parts of these apps is they don’t charge a commission for your orders. Instead, customers select an affordable monthly service fee and get to keep all of the profit they make.

Tips on Selecting the Best Online Ordering System

No matter what app you choose, the point of expanding your restaurant’s capabilities is to make money. Here are some tips on making a profit with online ordering:

  1. Carefully research all ordering systems to ensure the math is in your favor
  2. Select more than one online ordering app for better visibility across different audiences
  3. Negotiate everything you can if possible, from commissions to monthly fees
  4. When negotiating, keep your cool and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want
  5. Make whatever you select easy-to-use for your employees and give them proper training
  6. Start slow with online ordering and adapt as you go
  7. Choose your menu based on popularity, profitability, and packaging
  8. Pick good packaging so your food looks and tastes great when it arrives
  9. Promote your new online order servings online and offline
  10. Be involved in the delivery process so you know it’s being done right

Stay-at-home orders forced many restaurant owners to implement these changes in a short period. They had to add online ordering fast or risk losing their business.

If that’s the case, just take a deep breath and try to do as much as you can now. Adding your online ordering system may have been rushed in the beginning. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t take your time now to adjust it the right way.

In the long-term, this investment will help you connect with new customers and make more money.

Marketing for the Restaurant Business Online

Technology is changing rapidly to deal with issues that simply didn’t exist last year. Apps and restaurants added designated pick up areas and contactless options to deal with new customer expectations.

An older technology, the QR code, has made a comeback. Customers are now scanning QR codes to view menus on their smartphones. They don’t want to touch foreign surfaces.

QR codes were clunky a few years ago. To make them or scan them people had to download a special app. Today, most smartphone cameras are outfitted with a QR scanner. This makes the process quick and easy.

As more restaurant business migrates online, owners also need to change how they do marketing. The old ways won’t work the same in the digital era.

Is your restaurant using a third-party app like GrubHub or DoorDash? If so, they are a fantastic resource for listing and highlighting your restaurant to potential customers.

Social media campaigns are an effective way to entice customers to order from your restaurant. They can target customers using zip codes, targeting friends of friends, lookalike audiences, and posting special coupons.

Another great way to market to customers is through email. Not only can you keep them up-to-date on menu changes or what’s happening at your restaurant, but you can send coupons to customers for their birthdays or holidays.

Some restaurants have created digital loyalty programs to reward customers who order online. Why is this helpful? The average online customer visits 67% more often than anyone else.

Don’t forget about online menu sites. Your restaurant must have an updated menu and comprehensive information on those. These sites help get your brand name on top of the search results. Moreover, they feature the latest reviews for each menu item. Social proof is vital for driving orders. For example, if someone is searching for Culver’s Menu Prices,they will have results, including menu sites that feature reviews for each menu item.

The key here is to be creative with your marketing and think outside of the box when trying to attract new customers.

Ready to Offer Online Ordering?

Whether you’ve never had an online ordering system before or you have one that needs to be optimized, now is the best time to set your restaurant up for success.

Online ordering isn’t a fad that’s going away. Customers love the convenience of being able to get take-out on their smartphones. Restaurants wanting to stay competitive will have to offer this service.

Based on what we outlined above, make sure to do your research. Crunch the numbers and make sure a new system will help you turn a profit. More importantly, the system needs to be efficient and easy-to-use.

And the last step is to switch up the way you do marketing. No one’s going to know you added online ordering unless you advertise it. Digital customers are only going to see your updates on social media or apps.

The adjustment period may be difficult in the beginning but it’ll pay off big in the long-term.

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