Online Ordering: 9 Point Checklist

Posted by Tim on December 19, 2013

January 1 is rapidly approaching. There is no better time to go over a list of things that will help you maximize the benefit of your NetWaiter online ordering system. 

1. One Click Access from your Homepage.  Attention spans on websites are measured in nanoseconds.  Don’t make your customer look – have at least one link clearly visible, at the top of your homepage.  Have at least one more button, shown consistently in the same place, on every page of your website.

2. Don’t Post a Link to Any Portal Listing.  Portals bring in the occasional new customer who might not have found your restaurant otherwise.  The costs, however, can be up to four times, or more, than NetWaiter.  Let portals send you new customers, not the other way around.  Remember, almost half of customers visiting a portal site (47.1%) said they clicked over to the restaurant’s own website to order their food once they found a restaurant they liked.  Capturing those customers is critical to save money.

3. Menu Priority.  Your online menu needs to be well crafted, just like your table menu.  The most profitable dishes, or those most popular with your customers, should have prominent positioning towards the top of each category.

4. Updated Menus.  Keep your online menu updated.  It only takes a second through your NetWaiter Management Console.  This is a big one: 68% of people are not likely to visit a restaurant, café, or bar after encountering incorrect online information about the business.

5. Don’t Forget About… Appetizers, desserts, and drinks are categories most frequently overlooked in takeout orders.  Make sure the hierarchy of your up-selling categories gives preference to these types of items. 

6. Market, Market, Market.  Use the database from your NetWaiter Management Console to promote off-hours business, special offers, and other incentives to make sure your favorite customers are well informed and come back often.

7. Seeing is Believing.  Photos sell product.  Are you making maximum use of photos on your NetWaiter site?  Click here for some tips and to learn more about the impact of photos with online ordering. 

8. Encourage New Customers.  Do you have an incentive for a first-time online customer?  The long-term value of an online customer is huge (considerably more than a phone-in customer), and the best part is – you can track it.  Consider offering an ongoing discount for first-time online customers (maybe 15% off, or more).

9. Take Advantage of Online Payments.  68% of customers pay online with NetWaiter, and the figure is even higher for delivery orders.  This saves time for both you and your customers.  In addition, the funds are deposited directly into your bank account. 

 

Attention Restaurant Marketing Budgets: Online Ordering Is A No-Brainer

Posted by Tim on September 30, 2013

One of the things we like to do at NetWaiter is provide restaurants as much information as possible about the benefits of adding online ordering to your business plan.  A version of the following article recently appeared in Restaurant Hospitality Magazine.

A 30% boost in your takeout business within a matter of weeks.  What restaurant owner would not want that?

Those are the kinds of success stories we hear over and over from restaurateurs who have made online ordering part of their marketing plan.

Every day, restaurant owners are confronted with the costs of doing business.  The fixed expenses and staples are no brainers – rent, utilities, payroll for a great staff, the cost of quality food, etc.  The more difficult expenditures are discretionary ones like marketing. Where can a restaurant spend to get the best ROI?  Owners are bombarded with choices daily.

When asked, many successful restaurant owners have a similar response: “Online ordering has been one of our most profitable investments.  NetWaiter should be at the top of every restaurant’s to-do list if they don’t already have it.”

Companies such as NetWaiter offer a fully branded online ordering service through a restaurant’s website (a NetWaiter site can be customized with the look and brand the restaurant).  Customers order in seconds from an online menu.  They can make special requests, indicate future delivery or pickup times, and even make payments (NetWaiter electronically deposits the money to the restaurant immediately).  Custom delivery zones can be set by the restaurant (if they offer delivery), or customers can come in and pick up their order.  

The benefit to customers is convenience. They can order from anywhere (desktop, iPad, Smartphone, etc.). Imagine a mother getting off work. While still in the parking lot, she can order dinner from a restaurant and pick it up on her way home.  There is also the control given to the customer. Since they placed the order, there is less chance of error.  Customers who use online ordering typically use it again and again, quickly becoming regular customers.

Customized online ordering is a game changer for restaurants.  Using a restaurant portal that promotes online ordering for a variety of restaurants is very expensive (10-20%+).  Online ordering via a custom ordering site, such as NetWaiter, creates more business and is significantly more cost effective.  In addition, restaurants get a great tool that builds loyalty and extends and strengthens their brand.  Some NetWaiter clients even have ROIs in excess of 7,800% (the average is closer to 2,000%).

Where can a restaurant get a better ROI with their marketing dollar than online ordering?  There are many marketing options available, but none can come close to the ROI of a custom online ordering site.

When they first came out, daily deals like Groupon swept across the industry.  Smart restaurateurs, however, realized them for what they were—a trap.  An article in The New York Times more than two years ago addressed the pitfalls of these services:  "The consumers were being told: You will never pay full price again.  The merchants were hearing: You are going to get new customers who will stick around and pay full price.  Disappointment was inevitable."

Years ago, a newspaper advertisement might have been a restaurant’s ‘go-to’ way to bring in business.  Readership has dropped significantly, though, and even when newspapers were widely read, buying an ad didn’t provide a very good ROI.  It’s very hard to measure the success of such an advertisement unless you offer a redeemable discount.  Those discounts, however, significantly impact the ROI of the advertisement. 

Even more modern and effective marketing and advertising opportunities, such as email, loyalty programs, text marketing, social media marketing, etc. (which are all certainly worthwhile to deploy) would have a hard time beating the ROI of online ordering.

According to a study and paper done by The School for Hospitality Leadership at Cornell University, one of the things that draws customers to online ordering is convenience.  Once they experience it, they use it again and again.  Plus, because NetWaiter is integrated with Facebook, it allows people to share their ordering experience with their friends.  The more people ordering online, the more people learn about the restaurant’s online ordering site.

 

The Bottom Line – Why would you not offer online ordering?  There is no replacement for a well-run online ordering system such as NetWaiter, which gives customers the control and convenience of ordering takeout and delivery online.  Other marketing opportunities can’t come close to the ROI an online ordering site can produce.  Just as our clients say – online ordering should be at the top of the list for every restaurant.

Too Big a Slice (of the Restaurant Pie)

Posted by Tim on August 9, 2013

Recent articles in respected business publications reveal that restaurants are seriously questioning the business sense of portal sites that offer online ordering.  An article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek relates how Pedro Munoz, owner of Luz, a Latin American restaurant in Brooklyn, NY, has decided to drop his portal service with Seamless.

 

The good news is that Munoz has been sending out information with his takeout and delivery orders, directing customers to use his custom online ordering site – powered by NetWaiter.

In the articles, Munoz cites the factors that make portals an untenable situation for his restaurant, and others:

High fees.  Munoz paid Seamless a 14% commission on all orders, plus additional charges for advertising and credit-card transactions.  Considering that some restaurants don't realize a high profit margin on some dishes, this doesn’t leave much profit.

Turnaround time for payment.  Munoz and other restaurant owners had to wait up to 30 days for payments that were processed through Seamless to reach his account.  He says that Seamless was holding as much as $20,000 at some points.

Similar complaints have been made by other restaurants against other online portals.  “It’s awesome if you’re a customer.  It’s great,” Munoz told Bloomberg. “But in all aspects, it’s killing the restaurants.  It’s a model that cannot be sustained.”

The True Cost of Portals

Posted by Tim on August 30, 2011

Many restaurants have a philosophy about using multi-restaurant online ordering portals - they grit their teeth and do it. 

Most of the time restaurants allow themselves to be listed on portal sites to get any exposure they may bring.  According to a Cornell Hospitality Report, though, “nearly half of the consumers on multiple-restaurant sites (47.1%) said they clicked over to the restaurant’s own website to order their food” once they found a restaurant they liked. That’s good news for restaurants using NetWaiter – it can, not only save the restaurant a lot of money, but also allow the restaurant to interact with their customers directly, rather than be ‘commoditized’ on a restaurant portal.

The bottom line – portals can charge some outrageous fees.  According to a recent piece in Gourmet Marketing, a well-known portal site they investigated "keeps their contract terms behind close(d) doors, and the rates vary by restaurant. This incredible lack of transparency shortchange(s) restaurants… It gives restaurant owners little room to compare in competitive markets, especially as many times restaurant owners are bound by a non-disclosure agreement.”

The article notes that fees can range from 11% to as high as 20%.  In addition, restaurants don’t directly receive money from incoming orders – they have to wait for the portal to send them a check (minus their fees).  Not only that, as one restaurant owner admits, portal sites also use a restaurant’s customer list against you.  "I never see a report of who ordered through the portal," he said.  "I'm sure they are using my customer information to market themselves to other restaurants."

The message to restaurant owners is simple - if you use portal sites to help promote your restaurant, you should be very aggressive about converting those customers to your own online ordering site.  Rather than pay huge fees to a portal, customers that order directly from your site will allow you to extend your brand identity to them, receive payments directly, and capture your own customer information.

To capture those 47.1% of visitors that would rather order directly from your website, you need to make sure your ‘Order Online’ link is prominently displayed on your homepage.  Additionally, you should inform guests that have already used a portal to order from your restaurant that you have your own online ordering system, guaranteed to be up-to-date with the latest offers and menu information.  Including a flyer with each portal order or offering a first-time discount for using your system are good ways to make sure their next order will be “NetWaitered” from your restaurant.

The True Cost of Portals

Posted by Tim on August 29, 2011

 Many restaurants have a philosophy about using multi-restaurant online ordering portals - they grit their teeth and do it. 

Most of the time restaurants allow themselves to be listed on portal sites to get any exposure they may bring.  According to a Cornell Hospitality Report, though, “nearly half of the consumers on multiple-restaurant sites (47.1%) said they clicked over to the restaurant’s own website to order their food” once they found a restaurant they liked.  That’s good news for restaurants using NetWaiter – it can, not only save the restaurant a lot of money, but also allow the restaurant to interact with their customers directly, rather than be ‘commoditized’ on a restaurant portal.

The bottom line – portals can charge some outrageous fees.  According to a recent piece in Gourmet Marketing, a well-known portal site they investigated "keeps their contract terms behind close(d) doors, and the rates vary by restaurant. This incredible lack of transparency shortchange(s) restaurants… It gives restaurant owners little room to compare in competitive markets, especially as many times restaurant owners are bound by a non-disclosure agreement.”

The article notes that fees can range from 11% to as high as 20%.  In addition, restaurants don’t directly receive money from incoming orders – they have to wait for the portal to send them a check (minus their fees).  Not only that, as one restaurant owner admits, portal sites also use a restaurant’s customer list against you.  "I never see a report of who ordered through the portal," he said.  "I'm sure they are using my customer information to market themselves to other restaurants."

The message to restaurant owners is simple - if you use portal sites to help promote your restaurant, you should be very aggressive about converting those customers to your own online ordering site.  Rather than pay huge fees to a portal, customers that order directly from your site will allow you to extend your brand identity to them, receive payments directly, and capture your own customer information.

To capture those 47.1% of visitors that would rather order directly from your website, you need to make sure your ‘Order Online’ link is prominently displayed on your homepage.  Additionally, you should inform guests that have already used a portal to order from your restaurant that you have your own online ordering system, guaranteed to be up-to-date with the latest offers and menu information.  Including a flyer with each portal order or offering a first-time discount for using your system are goodways to make sure their next order will be “NetWaiter-ed” from your restaurant.

Are Online Portals a Good Idea for Your Restaurant?

Posted by Tim on November 18, 2010


Portal FrustrationsThere are two major types of online ordering providers: Portal-Based Sites and Site-Based Systems.

As many know, portals group a number of restaurants on one website for diners to search and find restaurants based on a variety of criteria.  It’s typically free for a restaurant to get listed and restaurants simply pay a percentage of each order.  At first glance, Portal-Based Sites appear to be a good deal - they’re inexpensive to join and restaurants don’t pay anything unless they get business.

But, let’s look further. Most portals show the same exact listing for every restaurant, offering no individuality or branding capabilities.  In addition, a restaurant’s ability to control their information and menu is often minimal.  This leads to errors and customers can receive false information.  Furthermore, if a restaurant links their own website to their portal listing, they are powerless to stop would-be customers from ordering at a different restaurant.  If a customer did click from a restaurant’s website and completed their order, the restaurant ends up paying the portal fee (which could be as high as 15%-25%) - for an order that originated from their own site!

Many restaurant owners are simply dissatisfied with the results and headaches of being listed on a portal.  They joined a portal (or many portals) because they saw it as a riskless opportunity and didn’t realize the downfalls until later.  Errors, customer complaints, and not receiving proper payment from the portal are plenty of reasons to be upset.

Restaurants with the most successful online ordering businesses use a Site-Based System (like NetWaiter) with integrated marketing functionality.  Successful restaurant owners using their own custom site realize they can reap huge rewards if they promote the service to customers.  For example, a restaurant that recently started with NetWaiter immediately began pushing their site to customers using Twitter, Facebook, store signage, and messages on their receipts.  Within six months, their NetWaiter site helped them to almost double their takeout business.  Orders roll in every day.

The functionality and benefits empower restaurants to take ‘an ownership’ in their online ordering business.  The ability to provide customers a seamless and branded ordering process is also very valuable.  Best of all, because the fees are substantially less than a portal, restaurant owners recognize the savings and know that promoting their own online site will not cost them an ‘arm and a leg’ or drive sales to other restaurants.

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