Consumers emerging from the recession are demonstrating significant levels of pent-up demand for dining out. As a result, there will be opportunities in 2012 for restaurant operators to leverage food and beverage trends and emerging technologies. And one technology taking off is online ordering.
Approximately 60% of Americans view restaurant menus online, up from 31% a few years ago. Significant numbers of consumers, especially those 45 years-old and younger, reported that they would use smart phones and mobile apps more to view menus and order meals if available.
Operators agree that online ordering systems agree can have multiple benefits:
- Increase transactions, boost average checks and improve customer service
- Give customers the ability to customize their order
- Allows for added consumer touch points
- Capture and learn customer data (visit frequency and ordering behavior)
- Improved labor efficiencies and higher employee productivity
- Better order volume and accuracy
- Ability to be competitive
There are many companies out there that currently provide assistance with online ordering systems. When looking into companies who provide such services, there are a couple of things they should be equipped to handle including POS integration, mobile ordering (IPhone and Android Apps), automatic upsells, delivery area mapping, multiple location support and call center solutions, just to name a few.
Some of the top rated companies who provide online ordering systems are Menu 360, Menu Drive, MealClick, Resercom, and Zuppler.com. However, deploying an online ordering program will not improve your bottom line unless you provide an incentive for customers to try it.
When incentivizing customers you need to provide clear information on why they should place an order online. Offer a discount for online orders or a gift certificate that can be used at a later date. This will help to get the word out. However, you must invest in a multiple point marketing campaign to achieve this. This includes the following:
Traditional Advertising Media
- Direct mail and email campaigns
- Print ads in newspapers, magazines and dining guides
- TV and radio
- Placed on carry out packaging, menus, sales receipts and guest checks
- Table tents, posters, paper napkins
- On your “on hold” phone message
Update your website to inform visitors how to use the online ordering system and provide a direct link to your online ordering page.
Social Media Marketing
Permit customers to input their food orders on through your Facebook page rather than having to connect to the website. Make posts reminding your customers that this option is available.
Internet advertising is a particularly effective media for advertising online ordering, especially when the ad or listing includes a direct link to your online ordering page.
Develop a mobile app which customers can download that provides access to your online ordering page.
As technology gets more advanced and cheaper to implement, many smaller operators should seriously consider an online ordering system. If you’re not giving your customers this easy way to order, you’ll lose business to those who are.