In an era of instant gratification, consumers expect to order anything they want online and have it delivered quickly and affordably. The restaurant industry is no exception, and a growing number of restaurants are turning to online ordering to reach and capture a larger clientele.
Consider the rise of online ordering:
- Digital ordering and delivery has increased 300% faster than dine-in traffic since 2014.
- Sixty-three percent of consumers say it’s more convenient to get delivery than dining out.
- Seventy percent of consumers say they’d rather order directly from a restaurant, preferring that their money goes directly to the restaurant and not a third party.
The appetite for restaurant online ordering is clearly well-established. But how do you implement a plan to drive traffic to your website and incentivize customers to use your online ordering platform?
We spoke to Thomas Nguyen, co-founder of the Peli Peli Restaurant Group, and Amber Jamal Eckerlund, director of marketing at Alliance Hospitality Group, about how they’ve increased online ordering for their businesses through their own platforms.
1. Offer online ordering on your own platform
Why? Eliminate commission fees and be in charge of your marketing and promotions to drive sales
This should come as no surprise: Restaurants that sign up with delivery companies such as GrubHub, Postmates, and Uber Eats are paying as much as 35% in commission for every order they receive.
Establishing an in-house ordering system on your website ensures that you keep more money for food orders since you’re no longer giving a chunk of your profit to a middleman.
Customers of AHG’s Coral Tree Café can order from its website, powered by ChowNow
Offering an online ordering platform on your website also ensures that you keep your most loyal customers, says AHG’s Eckerlund. “If a restaurant does not offer this service, current customers who are interested in the convenience of online ordering and delivery may resort to third party apps, where they are exposed to other competing restaurants,” she adds.
That also means restaurants are in charge of when to run promotions and how much to offer in order to drive sales. “Restaurants are able to keep their customers and market to them through their own promotions,” says Eckerlund.
AHG offers $5 off the first delivery and has run other promotions to encourage more online orders in the past, such as unlimited free deliveries for a month.
Pro tip: Start by calculating how much you’re potentially losing each month by using third-party platforms and speak to your existing restaurant management software vendor about what online ordering systems are able to integrate with your current restaurant POS setup.
2. Launch a branded mobile app
Why? Keep customers connected to you with self-driven promotions and increase brand value
Having a branded mobile app provides an easy and effective way for customers to place orders and encourages repeat sales, as Eckerlund has found. “If an app is downloaded on a smartphone’s home screen, their restaurants are more top-of-mind when consumers are looking to order food,” says Eckerlund.
Customers of AHG’s Coral Tree Cafe can also order from its very own branded app
According to a survey by the NPD, a restaurant’s app or website ends up making up 70% of digital orders, and the remaining come through third-party apps or other types of apps. Similarly, research from ChowNow—which is the platform AHG uses for creating its apps—has found that customers who download a restaurant’s app order nearly three times more.
Branded mobile apps also serve to establish and strengthen the reputation of their Coral Tree Café and Comoncy restaurants, says Eckerlund. “It levels them up in the playing field in consumers’ eyes and gives them a competitive edge against restaurants that don’t offer their own apps,” she adds.
Pro tip: Creating and launching an app may not be as expensive as you think. Restaurants with a more limited budget can spend as little as $499 for an app setup and $99 a year for Apple’s app developer fee, in addition to an existing online ordering contract for $99 a month.
“This isn’t a huge cost given the price of other app developments,” says Eckerlund, “and this could potentially help midsize restaurants leverage their brand and create customer loyalty.”
3. Deploy platform and in-store marketing and promotions creatively
Why? Engage customers who are already on your turf and more likely to make repeated orders
Provide an incentive for customers to regularly use your online ordering platform by experimenting with various limited-time offers on your website.
For example, South African restaurant Peli Peli Kitchen has introduced discounts for all orders after 4 p.m. to help “develop the habit of ordering dinner and picking it up on the way home,” says co-founder Thomas Ngyuen.
He found that many of his consumers prefer not having to cook dinner and would rather pick up. “By ordering online and setting up a time for pick up, customers don’t have to wait,” he says
Introducing the “ASAP” feature increased online ordering sales for Peli Peli Kitchen
The restaurant also offers an “ASAP” feature on its online ordering platform which aims to prepare orders in under five minutes and ensures that food will be ready by the time of pickup. Since implementing the feature, Peli Peli has seen an 8 to 10% increase in sales in the following 6 months.
In-store promotion can also be an effective way to remind customers to try out your service the next time they think about online ordering. At Peli Peli Kitchen, a poster advertising its online ordering is the first thing every customer sees when they walk through the doors. Additionally, every table has a tent advertising the benefits of its online ordering platform and providing a link to it.
Pro tip: Just like Peli Peli, AHG targets customers that are most likely to order from its restaurants. You can do so similarly by placing “free delivery” stickers in your to-go bags, as well as displaying signage at cash registers. Since implementing these methods, AHG has seen a 35% increase in its online ordering sales.
How to increase online ordering: Start by offering online ordering on your platform
Transitioning to an internal online ordering platform will require a learning curve. However, the initial challenge is a bump in the road when compared to the long term consequences of not investing in online order: losing thousands of dollars each month, relinquishing control of all marketing and promotions, and the high likelihood of losing your customers to competitors on third-party platforms.
Moving online ordering to your own platform is the first step to increasing sales. Only then are you able to effectively launch an integrated branded app and implement promotions and marketing the way you want to.
For a start you can check out our “Top Rated Restaurant POS Systems with Online Ordering”. Follow up by calling one of our advisors at (844) 687-6771 for a free consultation to find the best online ordering software for your restaurant.