Restaurant owners are constantly looking for ways to streamline their operations for customer convenience and attract new diners and to attract new ones. In the digital age, online ordering systems are often an expectation in restaurants.
Restaurant online ordering systems can take several different forms. It is critical that owners and managers are aware of online ordering systems and how they can benefit venues.
We have assembled a comprehensive guide to online ordering systems in restaurants and other hospitality venues. You will be equipped with the information you need to understand these solutions and how to put them into practice in your restaurant.
What is an online ordering system?
Online food ordering systems use digital menus and the Internet to allow customers to place and pay for orders in restaurants. They are often used to facilitate takeaway or delivery orders. However, they can also be implemented inside a restaurant for contactless table ordering.
Takeaway or delivery
Online ordering systems are widely used in hospitality for takeaway or delivery orders. In the past, customers would ring restaurants to place these kinds of orders. Now, they can use apps or web browsers to do so.
The digital world has added so much convenience to our lives that actually making a phone call is considered too burdensome for some. In fact, research has found that 49% of Generation Z find speaking on the phone anxiety-inducing.
The message to restaurant owners is clear. Online ordering systems are effectively mandatory if you want to maximise your business.
Online table ordering
You can implement an online ordering system in your restaurant, too. An increasingly popular feature in many restaurants is the use of digital menus – often accessed via a QR code – which allow customers to order and pay without rising from their seats.
Though these systems were in place in many restaurants prior to 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic increased the utility of these systems. Contactless ordering became an important part of stopping the spread of the disease and allowing hospitality venues to begin operating again safely.
With the pandemic's darkest days in the rear-view mirror, online table ordering is still in place in many restaurants. These systems can help to free up time for your front-of-house staff and may even cut down overhead if you are able to reduce shifts as a result.
In addition, digital menus can be updated far more efficiently than their physical counterparts, allowing you to seamlessly transition to a seasonal menu or provide real-time dish availability. You can even integrate your digital menu into your inventory management systems for maximum efficiency.
Types of online ordering systems
Online ordering systems come in many shapes and sizes. Here are some of the major options for implementing online ordering systems in your venue.
Table management system integrations
Table management systems help your venue navigate everything from reservations to payment. In many cases, they can help you implement online ordering, too. Undergoing this process in-house with solutions like ResDiary presents many advantages compared to utilising third-party systems.
No matter how you want to approach online ordering in your venue, ResDiary features can help you take advantage of this channel. ResDiary's Stripe integration allows for contactless ordering and payment.
ResDiary also allows you to easily customise and build your perfect online menu for takeaway and delivery orders. You can even allow your customers to place pre-orders, helping them to skip the queue and enjoy a next-level dining experience.
Unlike other online ordering systems, integrations with management systems like ResDiary allow you to control every facet of your online orders in one place. It is an ultra-convenient way to implement an online ordering system in your venue.
Popular food delivery apps
When you think of an online food ordering system, chances are this is the form that initially comes to mind. Some of the most popular food delivery apps in the world include:
- Delivery Hero (118 million monthly users)
- Just Eat/Menulog (90 million monthly users)
- Uber Eats (85 million monthly users)
- Zomato (48 million monthly users)
- Swiggy (45.5 million monthly users)
- DoorDash (32 million monthly users)
With such staggering user bases, it is naturally very tempting to feature your restaurant on these third-party apps. They allow customers to easily place and pay for online orders, while also taking care of the delivery.
There is also a bonus promotion offered by these apps. These apps will display nearby restaurants to customers as they scroll through the app, increasing the visibility of your venue and the chance of orders being placed.
However, there is a catch. These apps are notorious for charging hefty commissions – up to 30% in some instances. So while there are plenty of benefits offered by these services, you will need to weigh them against these significant fees.
Proprietary restaurant apps and websites
Don't want to see the likes of Uber Eats taking big commissions from your restaurant? Why not create your own?
While getting these services off the ground can be a pain, once successfully implemented they can be an excellent way to enjoy all the benefits of an online ordering platform without losing out on commission.
If you already have a website live, integrating an online ordering system into it can be relatively simple. Building a full-blown app for your restaurant is a different kettle of fish.
Unless you or someone in your team has experience in this space, you will likely want to outsource this task. Whilst this can be a costly process, an experienced hand in this area will ensure your customers have a great experience each and every time they use your online ordering system.
Online table ordering apps and websites
While online ordering is typically associated with takeaway and delivery, it is now in place in many restaurants for table service, too. Digital menus are often made available to customers via QR codes, and customers are able to order and pay from their mobile devices.
Though the pandemic is now back of mind for many, online table-ordering apps and websites can be an appealing proposition for customers concerned about the spread of COVID-19 and other contagious diseases.
Additionally, many customers simply find this system more convenient than traditional table service. It goes without saying that it can also make operations much simpler for your venue.
While online table-ordering apps and websites can be a great addition to your restaurant, utilising them exclusively can carry downsides. Shocking as it may seem, there are still members of society who do not own smartphones. This is particularly problematic as only offering online table ordering may exclude less wealthy individuals.
Customers may also own smartphones, but be unable to access them at a given time. This might be because their phone is out of charge, or if they have left it in their car. As a result, relying solely on online table ordering systems may frustrate your diners.
Third-party vs in-house online ordering systems
A key decision hospitality businesses have to make with regard to online ordering systems is the choice between using third-party solutions or creating their own in-house option. There are pros and cons to weigh up when making this key decision.
Some advantages of third-party online ordering systems include:
- Payment and delivery: Third-party online ordering systems take care of payment processing and delivery for your business. This can save money and headaches on your end.
- Promotion opportunities: Apps like Just Eat/Menulog and Uber Eats boast sizable user bases. Having your restaurant featured on these apps represents a strong marketing opportunity for your venue.
- Easy access: Since so many customers already have these applications installed on their devices, featuring your venue on these services saves you the trouble of building and promoting your own website or app.
Conversely, the advantages of in-house online ordering systems are:
- Greater brand control: Utilising third-party apps can tie your restaurant's image and reputation to an external business, sometimes with negative consequences. For example, if a customer has a negative experience with a food delivery driver, it may reflect badly on your venue through no fault of your own. With an in-house system, you can manage every element of the process.
- Customise the customer experience: An in-house system offers far greater control of the customer experience when they place an online order with your venue. For example, ResDiary's promotions allow you to create digital menus with advanced customisation features. This places the satisfaction of your customers in your hands.
- No commission: With third-party solutions charging large commissions on your orders, using an in-house solution can allow you to save significantly. This puts your customer's money directly into your business' coffers, with no intermediary taking their cut.
While building an in-house online ordering and delivery system can take some legwork, the results are often well worth it. You can find out more in our complete guide to starting an in-house restaurant delivery system.
Benefits of online ordering systems
The benefits of implementing online ordering systems in your restaurant are manyfold. Here are several potential benefits for you to consider when weighing up their worth to your restaurant.
Attract new customers
The importance of online ordering for attracting new customers cannot be overstated. Ordering food online is an increasingly popular option for many who might not consider physically dining in your venue.
While it remains true that cooking at home is often much cheaper than ordering food online, the impact of inflation on grocery prices has diminished this argument for many. The time saved by ordering online can seem to be a worthy trade-off.
Featuring your restaurant on popular food delivery apps such as Uber Eats can also have significant promotional benefits for your restaurant. These are just some of the ways online ordering systems can open up your venue to a wider base of customers.
Online ordering systems are not just about appealing to young people who don't like speaking on the phone. They can also provide opportunities to individuals living with particular conditions that make ordering via an app or website preferable.
While many members of Generation Z dislike phone calls, don't forget about the hundreds of millions of people around the world living with anxiety disorders. For many of these individuals, online ordering presents a far more attractive option when compared to phone calls or speaking to a member of your waitstaff.
Customers may live with speech or other disabilities that also inhibit their ability to verbally communicate over the phone or in person.
Being an accessible business is all about providing options to your customers. Online ordering systems are an essential way you can give your customers a chance to enjoy your hospitality regardless of conditions they live with.
Many customers are less willing to customise their orders during an in-person sales interaction for fear of miscommunication or appearing like a difficult customer. Online ordering means that with a few swipes and taps, your customers can personalise their order to their heart's content.
Upsells are exceptionally valuable in hospitality, so why not give your diners every chance to place them?
Whether for delivery, takeaway or in-house, online ordering systems can improve your restaurant operations.
Online orders can be placed without any input from your staff. This means less time spent worrying about answering phone calls and more time preparing orders and caring for your seated customers.
For in-house online ordering, your efficiency gains can be even more pronounced. Without the need to have waitstaff going from table to table taking orders, or handling payments, they will have more time to focus on other tasks.
You might even have the opportunity to lower the number of staff on each shift, allowing you to save money on labour costs.
Data can be tremendously valuable in your restaurant's marketing efforts. Online ordering systems present a variety of methods you can use to collect more data.
For example, you can use online ordering systems to build a database of customer emails. Then, you can conduct effective email marketing campaigns. This presents a powerful avenue to keep your venue top-of-mind for your customers.
Digital ordering systems also make it easy to track information and trends with regard to popular dishes or combinations. This can impact your operations in myriad ways. For instance, if a particular beverage is often ordered alongside a particular meal, it may be a strong candidate for upselling.
Things to consider when implementing an online ordering system
There are many facets to the world of online ordering systems. It is important that you carefully consider how you will approach online ordering in your venue before rushing into any hasty decisions.
As such, be sure to ask the following questions before you begin the process of integrating online ordering into your restaurant.
Which online ordering system will you use?
There are plenty of options to consider when deciding on the form of your online ordering system. You should carefully weigh the pros and cons of each choice before deciding on the right one for your business.
Take the time to have a meeting with key members of staff, and consider all the potential implications of each option.
How much time and money will it cost to set up?
As a restaurant owner, you already have plenty to worry about. Your online ordering solution should either be relatively simple to implement or something that can be delegated or outsourced.
Be sure to consider the amount of time and money you will spend on implementing your system when deciding if it is worth it. This is especially true if you are creating your own online ordering system such as an online ordering website or app.
Is it a profitable way to sell food and beverages?
As with any new innovation in your restaurant, you should ensure that your online ordering system will offer appropriate benefits to your restaurant. Your restaurant is a business, so profitability should always be at the forefront of your decision-making.
For example, you may find the commission taken by popular food delivery apps eats away at too much of your profit margin. If so, you will need to find an alternative online ordering process to enact.
How much control will you have?
If you are implementing a ready-made online ordering system in your restaurant, consider how much control you will have over the final product. The ability to customise your solution in a way that reflects your restaurant and its brand is crucial.
For example, ResDiary allows you to customise your online menu and create separate menus such as a set or vegan menu. You can even add dietary markets and cooking modifiers. This ensures your online offering is not a cookie-cutter template, but a true reflection of your restaurant.
Will your customers find it useful?
A great online ordering system needs an easy-to-use interface and plenty of functionality for your customers. It should be easy for your customers to find and use to order online.
You should consider other factors in this area as well. For example, are many items on your menu unsuitable or unavailable for online ordering? If so, it is worth reconsidering whether an online ordering system is an appropriate offering for your restaurant.
Implement online ordering in your restaurant with ResDiary
ResDiary offers online ordering software to help propel your venue into a new era of success. ResDiary's point of sale (POS) Stripe integration allows for contactless orders to be placed and paid for. This enables you to implement in-restaurant online ordering with minimal effort.
You can also customise and build online menus through ResDiary's promotions. You can also set up automated personalised emails with links to menus and booking confirmations.
ResDiary even allows you to implement online pre-orders, meaning customers can order and pay without needing to wait – perfect for large party bookings.
Book a demo today and discover all the ways the ResDiary restaurant reservation system can transform your venue.