Thinking of Offering Online Ordering? What Your Restaurant Needs to Know

1/10/17 7:00 AM Natalie Appleton

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That’s it. This is the year your restaurant is going to tackle—er, embrace—online ordering. Trouble is, you’re just not sure where to start. And when you begin to look into it, you get lost in the proverbial rabbit hole.

What kind of system?

Should we deliver?

What’s the ROI?

So many questions. So many decisions.

To help give you an expert introduction into all the things you should consider as you venture into online ordering, we spoke with Charlie Jeffers, CEO at TakeOut Technologies.

CONSIDERATION #1: WHAT’S THE RIGHT TYPE OF PROVIDER FOR YOU?

“One of the most important things is really identifying what it is you want to do,” says Jeffers.

When TakeOut Technologies first emerged on the online ordering scene, there were a mere handful of software providers catering to this service. Not so anymore. “There’s a lot of us out there now, and we all offer different levels of integration.”  

And other important options and features. A lot of important options and features.

So, here’s an overview of the different types of online ordering solutions and/or software vendors.  

1. Full integration vendor, like TakeOut Technologies

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Key features and differences:

  • System appears on your website and it looks like it’s your product
  • People order directly from you and their purchases go through your POS system
  • Full integration with your POS system

Advantages:

  • Customers order directly from you, so you’re not competing for customers as you might on a third-party site
  • No heavy commission on orders
  • Staff don’t have to take calls = multiple simultaneous orders
  • Staff don’t have to enter orders into POS systems = time savings & accuracy

“The order just comes in, goes automatically into your POS, prints the order, handles the payment, and it’s done,” says Jeffers. “You don’t have to even think about it.”

“Think about how much you might have to pay that person to manage all those orders coming in,” says Jeffers. “If you add it up over the year, maybe you’re paying $9,000 in labour. Or if you’re a multi-unit organization, maybe you’re paying $500,000. That’s big money.”

Disadvantages:

  • Customers have to already know of and love your food, whereas third-party sites bring new customers to you
  • Integration is no small task

“It’s not an easy thing, to handle integration,” says Jeffers. “We’re talking about all your menu items and modifiers. We’re mapping to every menu item with different timing depending on the day and time of day.” 

But the payoff is obvious, and Jeffers recommends starting out with a small menu. More on that in a minute.

A great fit for: Multi-unit restaurant organizations.

“The guys who want it to run profitably and are really busy and wouldn’t want to record the sales, they just want things to work smoothly—that’s where we come in,” says Jeffers.

2. Online ordering systems without full integration, like ChowNow

Key features and differences:

  • Customers order directly from your website or an app with your branding
  • Integration does not include POS 

Advantages:

  • Diners typically visit a restaurant’s website first, so you have a chance to convert yourself
  • No heavy commission on orders
  • Access to customer insight reporting and marketing support
  • Option to process orders automatically via a tablet
  • Option to access network of couriers

Disadvantages:

  • Staff have to manually place orders in POS
  • You’ll have to work with your POS partner to develop a process
  • Higher fees
  • Customers have to already know of you and go to your website 

A great fit for: A range of size and types of restaurant organizations

3. Portals with no integration, like UberSkipthedishes

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Key features and differences:

  • Customers are reeled into their sites, where your restaurant is presented as an option
  • They do almost everything but cook the food: Marketing, payment processing, and delivery

Advantages:

  • Diners in your area are exposed to your restaurant. These portals essentially act as a broker for customers
  • They do a lot of the heavy lifting, like marketing and delivery
  • You have the option to pay more for higher rankings among your competitors

Disadvantages:

  • The fees—a percentage of every order—can be high. Really high.

A great fit for: Small and large companies that don’t have the resources or desire to handle the necessary marketing or delivery functions.

CONSIDERATION #2: PREPARE TO LAUNCH

Keep it simple

Once you know what kind of online ordering restaurant you want to do, Jeffers recommends starting out simple.

Don’t start with everything on the menu. Start with a really simple menu until you learn what you’re doing. You want to see how it all works, you want to see how it affects your customers, and you don’t want to make it so complicated you never launch.”

Create a POS plan

This is also the time, if you’re not choosing a full integration vendor, to work out how you’re going to handle POS.

“If you’re not going to do integration, understand that you’re going to have to work with your POS partner, unless you’ve got someone trained on staff,” says Jeffers. “Either way, you’re going to have to get that help, and you’re going to have to pay for it.” 

Get pictures

It’s easy now to take high quality photos, and we all know they go a long way toward helping customers visualize and go for your unique dishes

Advertise

Now that you’re about to launch this amazing new online ordering service, make sure you’ve created ways to tell your customer about it.

Don’t discount

“What do your customers want today?” asks Jeffers. “They want simple and convenient. And they’ll pay for it. You don’t need to discounts.”

Don’t think you’re done

“Just because you’ve built the menu, the work’s not done. You still need the integration and that takes time and effort.”

Remember when you do online ordering, you’ll have more parties to interface with, from marketing to credit cards and more, and you and your staff will need upfront and ongoing training to make things run smoothly.  

“The payoff is enormous, but don’t underestimate the work that goes into it.”  

CONSIDERATION #3: To deliver or not to deliver

Depending on which type of online ordering solution you choose, you may have to consider whether or not you want to offer delivery, and if so, which method and what region.  

With a full integration model, if you want to offer delivery, it’s another option the customer clicks during the order process. If you have your own drivers or you’ve got your own vendor, that’s another phase in the path to purchase for you to handle. If you’re using a vendor like GrubHub, they handle the delivery and your customers are changed a nominal fee.  

“There are a lot of things you can do to make it seamless,” says Jeffers.

4. AND A WHOLE BUNCH OF OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

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Fees

Depending on the system you choose, some of the fees you may have to incur include:

  • Integration fee
  • Set up fee, per restaurant
  • Monthly fee, which may be an up front amount, flat fees or a percentage of orders
  • Transaction fees and delivery fees, depending on credit card options
  • Support fees

Contracts

Will your provider let you do month-to-month, or do you have to sign a one to four-year agreement?

Loyalty programs

How agile is the vendor in facilitating loyalty programs using codes, discounts, etc. to keep your guests coming back and give you valuable customer insight?

The ROI

Once you can do the math on some of the above, you’re in a better position to determine your ROI, but keep this in mind too:

“An online order is religiously 40 or 50 per cent higher than if somebody walks into the store,” says Jeffers.

Here’s why:

  • People have more time to peruse the menu, and often get a little ‘click happy’
  • Orders go straight to the kitchen and you take advantage of labour savings (phone calls over the phone generally take 10 minutes; 10 orders a night equals labour savings of 1.5 hours.)

“You can redistribute that labour, or not. You decide.”

Now that you’ve got a profitable way to get rid of dine-and-dashers, why not get rid of handwritten schedules? Introducing Ameego, the online restaurant scheduling software that creates the perfect schedule—and labour savings—in minutes.  Click below to get a demo!

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Topics: Improving Restaurant Profit