The ability to order food online is growing in demand among consumers. According to a Deloitte report titled, “The Restaurant of the Future,” 40 percent of restaurant customers prefer ordering online—and dining establishments are jumping on board to reap the benefits.
“For merchants, the two most important things are saving time and saving money,” explained Chris Dikes, NCR’s product manager for the API platform and NCR Console. “Online ordering does that for them. It enables you to process more orders and frees up your line in-store. So when it’s working well, it’s a big win for merchants.” Giving your customers the option to order ahead online can boost your restaurant’s bottom line in a number of ways.
Increased Check Size
According to Deloitte, customer spending increases 20 percent when ordering via technology. Their research found that online ordering grew check averages for quick-service restaurants by 26 percent and fast casuals by 13 percent. Dikes said online ordering has the added bonus of receiving payments upfront, lowering the risk of making food for which you don’t get paid.
Improved Order Accuracy
Online ordering also helps ensure your guests get exactly what they want. Instead of relaying their orders verbally by a game of telephone, customers select exactly what they want, indicate any special instructions and have a chance to review and confirm what gets sent to the kitchen. Steve Zagor, dean of business and management programs at The Institute of Culinary Education, said that while online ordering does provide an added level of accuracy for a restaurant, “That’s not to say that someone won’t pick up their order and get something incorrect. Human error is always a possibility.”
Picture this: a customer places a carryout order on your website. In your restaurant, a receipt prints and the ticket is added to your kitchen’s queue. The meal is prepared, bagged and ready for pickup—and since the customer has already paid online, she can simply run in, grab her order and go. “It creates a much more efficient experience. That’s why I use [online ordering] myself,” said Zagor. “You don’t have to wait in line; it’s a much simpler process. Ordering, pick-up and check resolution are all under one big roof and so it’s relatively simple.”
Minimize Customer Pain Points
According to Zagor, the two most painful times in the dining experience are waiting for your food and paying the check—both of which play less of a role in consumers’ minds when they order online.When a guest orders ahead, the wait is less noticeable because it is spent driving to your restaurant’s location, helping minimize the impact of those difficult moments for the consumer.
“The other pain point is that people don’t like to pay,” he said. “Paying online is relatively painless because they’re not physically transferring anything. But when you’re paying a person, there’s a moment where you realize what’s going on.”
Reallocated Labor Costs
In an industry rough on profit margins, cutting costs is key for restaurants. Online orders can help you increase revenue without needing to hire more staff. “With online ordering, you don’t have to have people taking those orders. Anything you can take out of a person’s hand and cut hours of labor is a big plus,” said Zagor.
Better Customer Data
Online ordering also gives you more restaurant data to work with so you can make better business decisions. You can track customer preferences and analyze trends for different food items and dayparts, which will help when creating your menu, changing prices, or creating custom marketing communications based on a diner’s preferences.
When it comes to branding, Zagor said online ordering can provide a competitive edge because “it discreetly puts that restaurant’s technology into the guest’s mind as a futuristic business.”
Dikes echoed: “There are people out there making their choices based on whether they can order online or not. By not offering online ordering, you’re losing customers. By offering online ordering, you’re gaining customers, and you’re increasing your margins.” But adding an order-ahead option isn’t just about meeting consumer demand—it’s about growing your business, Dikes continued. “Restaurant owners, for so long, have always been told it’s all about location, location, location. If you’re in a bad location, it’s too bad. But online ordering allows merchants to put on their entrepreneurial hat again. It’s now about driving business. It’s another way to break down the wall of your restaurant to get people to come to you, or for you to be able to deliver food to them.”
This post was provided in collaboration with NCR Silver.