Restaurant sales are a fickle thing, and takeout sales, maybe even moreso. They're subject to all manner of factors—competition, the economy, seasonality, even the weather—so order volume can be difficult to predict, especially with public health concerns on the mind.
Fortunately, boosting your online orders doesn’t necessarily require costly advertising or tons of new digital infrastructure. All it takes is some smart investments of your time and money to leverage the resources and brand equity your restaurant probably already has.
And those investments may just be imperative: An L.E.K. Consulting study found that "[r]estaurants’ delivery sales are projected to grow at more than three times the rate of on-premises revenue through 2023.” That adds up to a whopping 22 percent compound annual growth rate through 2023. And if that’s not enough to convince you to add online ordering, consider the fact that according to a 2019 US Foods survey, “the average person has two food delivery apps and uses them three times a month.”
There’s huge potential to cash in on online sales, but to optimize your business for virtual orders, owners need to rethink their online approach. Fortunately, with these digital tweaks, you can increase your online order volume and totals.
1. Create a takeout menu
At first glance the idea of crafting an entirely different menu for online might sound counterproductive. The truth is, however, that a simplified online menu will make online orders more efficient. Nix complicated dishes that don’t travel well and streamline your menu with tried and tested favorites. Make things easier on yourself by using a free tool (like this one!) with a variety of templates to choose from.
Your takeout menu can also feature more utility-driven items than your dine-in offering. Don't be afraid to get creative! Consider DIY mealkits, take-and-bake versions of your bestsellers, or even group meals that allow busy families to order a meal that satisfies everyone with minimal fuss and planning.
2. Add a delivery option
Whether it's partnering with a third-party provider or hiring your own delivery drivers, offering delivery makes purchasing your food one step easier and more enticing. When your customers can’t come to you, bring your food to them.
The most cost-effective way to stand-up a delivery operation for your restaurant will likely be to utilize either a third-party delivery app or pre-existing white-label delivery management software. Our pals at Eat.News have created an entire how-to guide for optimizing delivery to help you quickly parse options and select a service. Check it out.
3. Offer curbside pick-up
Never underestimate the sales power of efficiency and ease of access. Providing a clear curbside pick up option not only makes online ordering easier, it paves the way for diners to become repeat online customers.
Pro-tip: GPS app-based platforms like Swipe.by are purpose-built to take your restaurant's curbside service to the next-level, with tracking to alert your front-of-house staff when your customer is arriving, and even what car they're in.
4. Boost your mobile presence
You can’t make online sales until your customers know the option is available. To get the message out there, optimize your mobile presence. From your website to your social media accounts, support announcements of your online ordering platform by including easy links to the actual order pages.
5. Turn customers into promoters
Thanks to the advent of social media, you can now turn your loyal customers into free promoters. Encourage diners to share photos of their online orders on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with a hashtag or tagging your business. Or create a promotion that chooses a winner from one of the photos posted.
6. Add an online customer loyalty program
Drive-thru coffee shops have been doing it for years, offering a punch card to customers that allows them a free cup of joe after so many purchases. Why not add a similar program to your online ordering system. Give customers a perk that will incentivize them to continue ordering online.
7. Make online ordering easy
Nothing kills an online order like a wonky landing page or a complete purchase button that’s slow. Invest in good software to ensure easy sales conversion, and don’t forget to train your staff on how to handle online orders. If picking up, make sure customers can easily locate where to get their food to make the transaction as smooth as possible.
With these foolproof steps, you can begin to grow your online order volume. But keep in mind, assessing and improving along the way comes with the territory. Be prepared to adjust your techniques and stay up to date with technological changes to capitalize on online order sales.