Ten years ago, having online ordering put you miles ahead of your competition. Today, that alone is not enough. So many restaurants have joined the online ordering revolution over the past decade, you need to truly maximize the potential of your online ordering system to stay ahead of the pack. Most online ordering systems today offer additional features and administrative tools for restaurants to do just that.
Collect Guest Feedback
Feedback is the cornerstone to success with any restaurant. If your customers aren’t happy, chances are that neither is your business (or it soon won’t be). Feedback is a great way to gauge overall customer happiness and, at the same time, it allows you to see your restaurant’s strengths and weaknesses at a more granular level. It allows you to take note of when you’re doing everything right, and it also gives you the opportunity to fix things in areas that could be improved. Feedback also gives you the chance to start a dialogue with customers in case they have ideas regarding where improvements could be made with service, food, and so forth.
There’s nothing better than getting a nice discount on your meal, and coupons can be used in a diverse set of scenarios. For starters, they’re great for encouraging customers to start ordering online. By the same token, they’re a fantastic way to get repeat business from those who already order with you online. Coupons can be used as a “thank you” for a customer’s business as well as an apology if a mistake was made with a previous order or experience. Send a coupon code to a new online customer to get them to come back that second time or to a longtime customer as a thanks for their repeat business. Or send one to a customer who has provided negative feedback to try to make it up to them and keep their business.
Make Delivery an Option
For some customers, delivery is the pièce de résistance of any restaurant online ordering experience. They are looking for an end-to-end ordering experience, allowing them to make their choices, place their order, and get their food without ever having to leave home. Some customers loathe the thought of sitting in traffic, standing in lines, or having to pack up the kids just to go pick up their meal. The delivery option allows them to avoid these inconveniences, all for a nominal fee. Too many restaurants currently offer online ordering for pickup only and are missing out on a large piece of the online market. Consider adding delivery employees or working with a delivery service to offer this option to your customers.
Allow Payment via Credit Card
Enabling your customers to pay online via credit card is a beautiful thing. Everything is paid for up front, when the order is submitted, so there’s no fussing with cards when customers get their food. Prepaid orders make everything much simpler. You arrive at the restaurant (or the delivery guy shows up at your door). You take the food and give them a high five. Done deal. Let’s go eat.
Provide Advance Ordering
Being able to place food orders in advance is a big deal to some customers. Consider the big corporation down the street that regularly places orders for their weekly meetings. They typically like these orders placed in advance, saving time on the actual day of the meeting. For catering companies, advance orders are the nature of the business. Even for non-business orders, it’s a big deal. Some people like to plan ahead; they like advance ordering because it doesn’t force them to time their online order just right. If a customer already knows what they want, they may wish to place their order in advance for a particular pick-up time rather than have to remember to do it 30 minutes before lunchtime.
Publish to Social Media
You may love or hate social media, but one thing’s for certain — your customers are out there using it! Publishing your menu and online ordering experience to a social media outlet, such as Facebook, can put your restaurant in front of thousands of new potential customers. Millions of people use social media, so it’s a great channel for marketing your business; not only that, but by leveraging a technology that your customers use, you’ll develop and strengthen customer loyalty to your restaurant. Some online ordering systems even have a way to publish your menu and/or allow ordering directly through Facebook.
Enable Social/Viral Sharing for Customers
An extension of the social media argument is to take advantage of social and viral sharing. Since so many people interact — and have friends and family — on social media, it makes sense to use those connections to further market your restaurant. You can set up links that provide incentives to both parties: the friend or family member gets a discount on their order by using the link, and the original customer gets bonus rewards for spreading the word. Social and viral sharing is a great marketing channel for everyone involved; your customers get great discounts, and you gain new customers!
Market via Email
Email is now an old technology but certainly not a dead one. Quite the contrary, email (and email marketing) is very much alive. One of the best ways to build loyalty with your customers is to keep them abreast of upcoming events, notify them of new deals, and maybe even throw in an occasional coupon or two. Email marketing allows you to do all of this without putting any pressure on the customer, and typically with minimal effort on your end. If you collect email addresses from your online customers, you can quickly grow your email list for this purpose.
If you want the chance to increase each individual sale via online ordering (who wouldn’t?), cross-sells might be a good way to go. “Cross-sell” is the fancy term for those links or popups that come up after you make your selection that say something like, “Hey, y’know what’d go great with this grilled cheese sandwich?” and offer to add a drink to your order with just a click. This is also known as “suggestive selling.” This is convenient for customers and helps add to sales across the board. Just be careful; having too many cross-sells set up can make your online ordering system a little too chatty, which can be a major turn-off for customers. For instance, popping up with a suggestion every time a customer adds an item to their cart is too much. However, every 3 or 4 items is a reasonable amount. Features like this contribute heavily to the increased average of online checks over call-in checks.
Optimize Your Menu
Your menu is probably the most visible piece of your online ordering system. This is where customers will decide between ordering from your restaurant or finding food elsewhere. It’s important to keep your menu organized in a way that makes it easy for customers to find what they are looking for. Most importantly, your menu should be appealing to your customers. You can do this through detailed descriptions of your dishes as well as food images. If your menu items don’t have any images or descriptions, it will be hard to get customers interested in any item they haven’t already tried and loved.
Online ordering is a great tool for enhancing your restaurant’s presence and ease of access to customers. However, it’s important to take advantage of all the options available to you in order to get the most out of your online ordering system. Make use of the tools at your fingertips and you’ll really take your restaurant’s visibility, sales, and customer loyalty to the next level.