Today, having an online presence is crucial for any business's success, even restaurants. Developing an enticing menu, creating an inviting ambiance, and providing top-notch customer service may be the core of your business, but having the ability to offer online ordering can help you reach new people and provide an additional revenue stream for your restaurant.
The growth of the US restaurant delivery market tripled between 2015 and 2020, and COVID-19 saw those numbers keep growing. More people are dining at home, and online ordering is an opportunity for you to continue to serve this growing audience.
Here’s why you might want to add online ordering to your restaurant’s website and how you can get it up and running.
Pros of Online Ordering (and Which Restaurants Benefit Most)
Changing dining behaviors and tech enhancements have many restaurants turning to online ordering to stay ahead of the competition and keep up with consumer needs. Here are a few key benefits of adding online ordering to your restaurant’s website (and who it’s most beneficial for).
Improved Efficiency and Order Accuracy
Online ordering can streamline the ordering process for restaurants and improve overall order accuracy. With an online ordering system, customers can enter their orders directly into the system, reducing the likelihood of errors that come with taking orders over the phone or in-person.
Plus, online orders can be automatically sent to the kitchen, eliminating the need for servers to deliver handwritten tickets — a time-consuming process that can lead to mistakes. This improved efficiency can result in faster order processing times and happier customers.
Increased Sales and Revenue
There’s also the convenience aspect for customers. Being able to order from their computer or mobile device means one less phone call or potentially even one less trip from their home. Maybe it means they order from you more frequently, or that they order a larger amount when they are able to leisurely browse the menu. All of this means more money for your business.
Online ordering platforms often provide restaurants with marketing tools that can be used to promote specials, deals, and new menu items too.
Enhanced Customer Experience
Online ordering can greatly improve the overall customer experience for restaurants. With the ability to customize their orders and pay online, customers have more control over the ordering process, which can result in higher satisfaction.
Online ordering can also be used to provide customers with a more personalized experience, such as the ability to save their favorite menu items for future orders and receive customized recommendations based on their order history.
Who It’s Great For
While online ordering can benefit most types of restaurants, certain types are particularly well-suited for this service. Quick-service restaurants like pizzerias, delis, and sandwich shops can greatly benefit from online ordering, as customers often prefer to order and pay quickly and easily.
How Does a Restaurant Online Ordering System Work?
So how does online ordering really work? It's simpler than you might think.
Customers can place their orders through a restaurant's website or mobile app, or third-party platforms like Grubhub and UberEats. Once the order is placed, a restaurant receives the order in real-time and can acknowledge receipt of the order. The staff then use the system to track and manage the entire process, from order placement to delivery.
Payment processing is another key feature of any online ordering system. Customers have the convenience of choosing from different payment options, such as debit/credit cards, mobile payments, or cash on delivery if preferred. Payments are processed through a secure payment gateway, and the customer's payment details are kept confidential.
Once the restaurant staff acknowledges receipt of the order, staff starts preparing it for either delivery or pickup. Online ordering systems automatically generate order numbers, and the staff can refer to that number when preparing and dispatching the order.
Customers can choose from different delivery options, including curbside pickup, delivery to their door, or delivery to a designated pickup location.
8 Steps to Set Up Online Ordering for Your Restaurant
Now that you know the benefits of providing an online ordering option and what happens behind the scenes, we’ll break down how you can get online ordering working for your restaurant in no time.
1. Choose a Website Builder
The first step in setting up online ordering for your business is to choose the website builder that’s right for you (WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, for example), and if you already have a website, enabling the e-commerce features you need to be successful.
Some website builders offer e-commerce features built-in, while others need plugins that you can add. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, so it's important to choose the one that best fits your business.
You can also integrate your online ordering with food delivery marketplaces like Doordash or UberEats, so you won't have to rely on team members to deliver the food orders for you (or make customers come in to pick up their orders).
2. Get Your Website Looking Sharp
First impressions count, and the design of your online ordering system is the first thing that customers see when they visit your website.
Make sure that it is visually appealing, easy to navigate, and reflects your brand’s identity. Chances are, this is something you’ve already done in order to attract customers to your restaurant, but it’s important to make sure everything is as clean and as easy to navigate as possible before you add your order form.
3. Add Your Order Form
The order form is the second essential component of your online ordering system. The setup process can differ depending on the platform you’re using.
Figure out if you’re going to have a separate page for the order form or if you’d like to embed it on your homepage. Consider using apps or plugins that can help automate the process and save time.
For instance, if you’re using Shopify for your e-commerce website, you could install a plugin such as Shopify’s own “Order Printer” or the “Order Printer Templates” plugin developed by BOLD to make the printing and formatting of receipts more efficient.
Not sure which plugins and other tech solutions might help you enhance your online ordering capabilities? Here are some suggestions:
Heartland Restaurant (which offers POS and payment processing)
TapMango (makes online ordering easier while also serving as a comprehensive customer loyalty program)
Truffle (an all-in-one system with POS, online ordering, and cloud kitchen features)
This is just a brief listing of your options, but you can check out more online ordering solutions and read real reviews on our website.
4. Connect a Payment Platform
Your online ordering system needs to be connected to a secure payment platform to ensure that customers can easily complete their purchases. Choose a platform that has built-in security features, making sure that your customers are less likely to be at risk of identity theft and fraud.
Some popular payment platforms include PayPal, Toast, Stripe, Square, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, among others. Opt for a reliable platform that satisfies your basic requirements and adheres to your budget. Each of these has different operating terms and payment processing fees, which generally come in at about 4% per transaction (but again, it varies based on your sales volume and other factors).
5. Test and Test Again
Before launching your online ordering system, it's important to test it thoroughly. This includes testing the form itself, product links, and payment options. Remember, there’s no such thing as too much testing.
Make sure everything works smoothly and that customers don't encounter any issues. It's also a good idea to have a team member go through the end-to-end experience to make sure things are working as they should.
6. Add the Form to Your Navigation Menu
Depending on the platform you use, this step may vary. For example, if you use WordPress, you can use a plugin like WPForms.
Once you have created your form, you'll want to add it to your navigation menu. This way, customers can easily find it when they visit your website. Place it in a prominent position, such as next to your menu or contact information. You may even want a button on the home page itself to call more attention to the option.
7. Start Linking and Promoting
Once the form is in your navigation menu, you need to start linking it to your products. When customers click on a product, they should be directed to the form where they can place their order. Make sure to provide clear product descriptions, pricing, and images. This will help customers make the best choice for them. You can also add options for customization, such as adding, removing, or substituting ingredients.
For convenient online ordering when people dine in, add QR codes to your menus, signage, or other promotional materials. These codes can be scanned by customers, which will take them directly to the online ordering form, saving them time.
Once your online ordering system is up and running, it's time to promote it. Let your customers know that they can now place orders online. You can do this through social media, email marketing, and signage in your business. Offering special promotions or discounts for online orders can also encourage customers to try it out.
8. Track Your Orders and Customer Feedback
Keep track of your orders and customer feedback. Most online ordering systems provide analytics and reports that allow you to see your sales, average order value, and customer feedback. You can use this data to optimize your menu items, prices, and marketing campaigns.
Make an effort to listen to your customers' feedback and make changes to improve your menu, user experience, and service. Always provide the best service to your customers and keep track of their feedback to continually improve your online ordering system.
Setting up online ordering for your restaurant doesn't have to be stressful and overwhelming. Start by following these steps and you'll have it up and running in no time.
Need Someone to Talk Through Your Options?
Not sure where to get started? Back of House can help. We can connect you with some of the best restaurant management and online ordering systems for your business and walk you through your options in a free restaurant tech consult. Book a call today, and you can leave with recommendations to address your biggest business questions and challenges.