Ready to implement an online ordering system for your restaurant?
Great – but not just any ordering system will do.
“Your restaurant’s online ordering system should go beyond just ordering in order to foster a lasting and meaningful relationship with your customers,” says Smooth Commerce’s Sr. Director of Marketing, Roberto Sarjoo. “This means integrated loyalty and engagement tools and a pleasant omni-channel experience through a thoughtful digital path to check-out.”
Make sure you have the best online ordering system for your foodservice establishment. Keep reading this guide to choosing the best online ordering system for tips on what to look for, what the must-have features are, and to understand the importance of online ordering systems for your business.
What are Online Ordering Systems?
An online ordering system lets you accept and execute orders that come in through an app or a web browser. On the restaurant’s end, there is a dashboard or admin function, allowing you to push these orders through, getting them out the door.
Of course, not all ordering systems are created equal.
Look for systems with added benefits that maximize your investment.
For example, Smooth Commerce’s online ordering system for restaurants combines ordering, customer marketing, and loyalty. Furthermore, with personalized customer engagement, the platform puts the brand back in control of the customer’s experience.
Why does your Restaurant Need an Online Ordering System?
Even in a pre-pandemic world, takeout and delivery were both growing in popularity. According to a 2019 survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association, off-premise orders made up nearly 60% of transactions.
Of course, lockdowns during the pandemic led to an increased appetite for convenience, contactless experiences, and delivery and takeout. According to a 2021 survey from Media Technology Monitor, 42% of respondents in Canada placed orders using apps such as Skip The Dishes, DoorDash, and Uber Eats. Additionally, 64% of respondents to a National Restaurant Association survey said that they preferred to order directly from a restaurant versus a third party.
An online ordering system is needed in order to compete in a challenging market. 53% of consumers say that takeout and delivery are essential to the way they live, according to a National Restaurant Association survey. Customers expect a seamless experience that provides them with benefits, like a loyalty program.
Understanding the importance of an online ordering system, you can see how choosing the best system for your business is a decision that requires thought and research.
Keep on reading to learn about what to consider when implementing a system, what features to seek out in an online ordering system, and what questions you should be asking yourself when doing your research.
10 Things to Consider When Choosing an Online Ordering System for Your Restaurant
1. Consider Budgeting and Cost
One of the most essential things to consider when purchasing an online ordering system for your business is the cost to your restaurant. Knowing that you need to be able to pay salaries and rent (among other things), keep your budget top of mind.
Moreover, you will want to make sure you are receiving good ROI for your purchase. Does your online ordering system allow you to prompt users with an upsell? Do they have a loyalty program integration?
Keep in mind that the cost of your online ordering system is going to be a long-term investment for you. If you are not willing or able to keep up with the costs of your online ordering system, then it may not be the right fit for your business.
2. How Easy is the System to Use for You and Your Employees?
While learning curves are always to be expected, you don’t want to spend valuable time and effort with training or troubleshooting.
It is important for online ordering systems to be easy to use for staff in order to improve efficiency and reduce errors. This can help ensure that orders are processed accurately and quickly, leading to better customer satisfaction.
Easy-to-use systems can also reduce the amount of time and training needed for staff to learn how to use the system, which can save time and resources for the business. Additionally, well-designed online ordering systems can help staff provide better customer service by allowing them to quickly access information about orders and customer preferences.
An effective online ordering system should be intuitive and simple to pick up without compromising on the robustness of the system or the tools.
3. Does it let you be Agile and Make Changes On The Fly?
In the fast-paced restaurant business, your capacity and menu might change at a moment’s notice. Your online ordering system should allow you to receive new order alerts, accept, delay, or reject orders and update order status without any hassle.
A busy day can mean that product availability changes can occur, and your menu will need to be updated. You should be able to easily enable or disable menu items to reflect the availability.
As the pandemic showed us, operational hours may need a fast adjustment. Make sure that the system you are considering allows you to adjust store hours but also lets you effortlessly make operational changes like issuing credits or refunds.
During the height of the pandemic, Maker Pizza combated the challenges brought about by COVID-19 by tightening up its menu to ensure efficiency in service and operations. They reduced their menu from 17 items to eight favourites.
The Smooth Commerce Merchant Portal allowed Maker Pizza to manage these menu changes with ease and had them reflected on their mobile app in real-time so customer orders were limited to the newly available offerings.
“We’ve found the Merchant Portal to be a very powerful tool, giving us the flexibility to respond to an evolving situation and make any necessary updates quickly. Backed by a diligent customer support team at Smooth, our app played a significant role in our ability to efficiently inform and serve our customers throughout the pandemic,” Shlomo Buchler, owner of Maker Pizza.
With their reduced menu, they were able to streamline their order preparation and supply chain, keep up with order demands, and adhere to their COVID-19 protocols.
4. Does The Online Ordering System Integrate with Your Existing POS?
Once an order comes in, your business will need to process the payment, get the order into your point-of-sale, and staff need to prepare the order and deliver it if needed. Ensuring that your ordering system integrates with your existing POS and any other third-party operational partners you may have, makes for a smooth customer experience.
With proper integration, you can inject orders directly into the POS system, improving operational and financial reporting efficiency.
You also give customers the flexibility to pay with their preferred payment methods, gift cards, and digital wallets, and you can offer delivery directly from your own branded mobile app or website as if it was your own.
5. Access to Your Customer Data
Online ordering systems should provide restaurants with access to data that can be valuable for understanding customer behavior and preferences.
With the right platform in place, you should be able to access an analytics dashboard with the ability to sort and compare transactions and user data by time period, location, user profile, and more, deriving key insights to help you better understand your customers and inform decisions.
This data can be used to improve the customer experience and drive business growth. For example, restaurants can use data on customer purchase history to create targeted marketing campaigns through a segmentation feature that helps you sort your customer audience by basket size, transaction frequency, or customer satisfaction. For instance, a segmented list of lapsed customers provides you with an opportunity to win them back with a special offer via email.
Or you can use data on popular menu items to make informed decisions about inventory management. Access to data can also help businesses identify trends and patterns in customer behavior, which can be useful for making decisions about things like menu planning and pricing.
6. Budgeting and expenses
Choose an online ordering system that helps you track your expenses in real-time. Being able to monitor your costs can be a huge aid for making informed business decisions.
As you track sales and the profitability of different menu items, you will know what menu items do best or who your regulars are, and what they’re ordering. This can help inform cost-efficient changes in your menu including removing labour-heavy dishes that don’t perform well. Or, if you know how well a particular seasonal dish sells, you can better equip yourself by ordering enough ingredients, so you don’t run out. An online ordering system should provide you with this valuable data.
7. Customer service
Look for an online ordering system that enables you to keep abreast of customer service issues and empowers you to ensure satisfaction by responding to customer ratings and reviews with the ability to issue credits, refunds, and loyalty points.
On the opposite end, it may also be important to you to get more info on what the ordering system’s service support looks like. There’s nothing worse than a tech issue or bug that needs fixing and not being able to get in touch with IT.
8. Can an online ordering system help you increase basket size?
According to a survey conducted by Technomic, one in four consumers say they spend more on off-premise orders. When ordering online, customers are more likely to impulsively add on extra items, especially when it’s a seamless process. Through an online ordering system, customers can be prompted with upselling opportunities; making it enticing and easy for the customer to upgrade their order and increase their overall basket size.
“Additionally, structuring your menu offerings with combos and bundles is a proven way to increase your average order value. Offering that fries and a pop with burger order produces value for both customer and merchant,” shares Smooth Commerce’s, Roberto Sarjoo.
Smooth Commerce found in a study that their online ordering platform which comes with Suggestive Upsell has helped customers increase their Average Basket Size by 13%. When customers purchase a bestseller, they are shown items that are frequently purchased together, allowing a business to get a chance at increasing the ticket value for that order, and pushing the average order value higher.
9. Opportunity for loyalty programs
In its first six months, McDonald’s US loyalty program enrolled 30 million members. More than two-thirds of these members were actively earning rewards. Similarly, Taco Bell said that their Taco Lover’s Pass subscribers are three times more likely to visit Taco Bell monthly. Customers are hungry for loyalty programs that serve up exclusive offers or deals.
Loyalty programs are designed to reward customers for their repeat business and encourage them to continue using a particular product or service. In order for these programs to be effective, they should be easy for customers to understand and experience. This means that the rules and rewards of the program should be clearly explained and easy to access, and the process for redeeming rewards should be straightforward. Additionally, the rewards offered through the loyalty program should be valuable and relevant to the customers. By having access to a loyalty program and making the loyalty program easy to understand and experience, restaurants can help ensure that customers are more likely to participate and continue to engage with the program.
10. Reach and branding
As we saw through the pandemic, delivery and takeout offer an entirely new revenue stream for restaurants. Being able to maximize your customer base and reach a new audience is key to survival for a restaurant. While your restaurant seating may be full, you can expand virtually via online ordering systems. By offering the ability to place orders online, restaurants can make it easy for customers to access their products and services, even if they are not able to visit the in person. This can help restaurants expand their customer base and reach a wider audience. Additionally, online ordering can make it easier for customers to find and learn about your restaurant, as they can easily access information and browse menus online.
A sleek and well-designed online ordering system that is easy for customers to place orders and restaurants can help increase their visibility and attract new customers.
Selecting An Online Ordering System
Online ordering has become increasingly popular for restaurants in recent years. Many customers now expect to be able to place orders online, and offering this option can help restaurants attract and retain customers.
Online ordering can also make it easier for customers to access information about the restaurant, such as the menu and prices, which can help them make informed decisions about their orders. Additionally, online ordering can help restaurants streamline their operations and reduce the workload for staff by automating the ordering and payment process.
Overall, offering online ordering is a key part of operating a successful restaurant in today’s digital world.
About Smooth Commerce
Smooth Commerce is a digital ordering, customer marketing and loyalty platform for restaurants. We take ordering to the next level with personalized customer engagement, making your digital storefront the cornerstone of your brand. By solving more restaurant pain points in one digital platform than anyone else, we put you back in control of the customer’s experience with your brand to promote profitable sales growth.
If you would like to learn more or talk to a representative from Smooth Commerce about how our platform can help you meet your loyalty goals, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.