Recent global events have underscored the importance of offering take-out and delivery for restaurants – but paying the steep fees of third-party delivery systems can be cost prohibitive. This article will dive into preparing your restaurant for take-out and delivery, choosing the right online ordering platform for your business, and the benefits of offering online delivery to your customers.

Why start delivery now?

You likely already know why delivery is important in today’s landscape. For several years, younger generations have insisted upon the convenience of online ordering. Offering online ordering and delivery is starting to impact a restaurants’ ability to compete and survive. Even fast food chains, with traditionally cheaper menus, have hopped on the bandwagon and partnered with third-party delivery services to offer delivery.

The current global landscape as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the difference between restaurants who were already equipped to handle takeout and delivery, and those weren’t. Even as economies begin to reopen and restrictions are lifted, restaurant owners are rightly concerned that customers may be more reluctant to visit a sit-down restaurant for a while – and that’s the best case scenario, considering many experts predict multiple waves of COVID-19 and resulting shutdowns before a treatment or vaccine is widely-available.

To prepare your restaurant to weather the storm, you’ll need to make sure you’re equipped for takeout and delivery. Even if you’ve already partnered with a third-party service, you may consider switching to another service that can help reduce the overall fees for your business.

Preparing for delivery

If you’re new to online ordering, there are five main steps you should take. First, you’ll need to choose a delivery service, then you’ll need to make updates to your restaurant to streamline the online ordering process, next you’ll need to train your staff, then you’ll need to optimize your menu and lastly you’ll need to communicate the change to your current and potential customers.

Choosing a delivery service

There are three main ways of launching online ordering – and each comes with its own pros and cons. We’ll cover them in this section.

Modify your own website.

It is possible to modify your own website to allow customers to order takeout and delivery from your restaurant. This means you get to keep all of the revenue – but it also means you take on all of the work.

To create your own ordering system on your website, you’ll need to build your own interactive online menu and integrate payments. You’ll also need to organize delivery which will likely mean hiring new employees and taking on additional insurance costs.

To make this process easier, you can purchase an online ordering platform that can integrate into your site. With this type of system, your restaurant will notify you as soon as a new order is placed. However, someone within the restaurant will still need to update the menu and adjust delivery and pickup wait times.

Third-party online ordering services

Third-party online ordering services are among the most popular. This includes services like DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats. These services allow customers to browse and order from different restaurants on their phones or desktops. Another benefit to third-party online ordering is that they also offer independent contractors to deliver food from your restaurant so you don’t have to worry about hiring, training, or insuring that labor.

A downside to third-party online ordering services is that they don’t integrate with your point-of-sale service. They require a staff member to manually enter the order for the kitchen. This can result in errors. It is also another platform you have to keep updated with any menu changes, hours changes, and more.

Another downside to third-party online ordering services is the fees. For reference, GrubHub charges 13.5% of the order cost plus credit card processing fees and UberEats costs 30% and also charges more for your menu items to your customer. Your customers get convenience and your restaurant can get increased exposure by being listed on the third-party platform, the fees can quickly eat into your restaurant’s profit.

Third-party online ordering system that does integrate with your POS.

A third-party online ordering system that integrates with your point of sale system is typically the best of both worlds.

These work as a system that is well-integrated and streamlined, but can cut the cost that you’d pay with a third-party delivery system. It also prevents your employees from making mistakes by manually entering third-party orders into your point-of-sale system.

There are different systems that fall into this category. One example of this system is Promotable Media. Promotable Media integrates directly with your website and your point-of-sale system, but also gives your restaurant access to courier services to deliver your orders.

An additional add-on for Promotable Media is that it gives you demographic insights into your customers as well as their contact information so that you can follow-up with reminders and promotions about your restaurant.

Updating your restaurant

There are some considerations you’ll need to make for your entire restaurant to make online ordering successful. For example, you’ll need to think about your restaurant’s overall flow. You’ll want to train your staff to manage this flow by making sure they know to check-in with customers and be able to monitor the status of their orders.

You may also want to consider creating a designated takeout area. Ideally, this waiting area would be away from the main flow of traffic from the sit-down section of your restaurant. This will help prevent flow disruption and will also help your restaurant avoid bottlenecks.

Consider adding signs to direct your customers. You may want to consider putting up clear, visable signage to help your customers and delivery drivers find the right waiting area or line. However, be cautious about doing this if it takes away from your overall design and aesthetic.

Training your staff

Not only will you need to train your staff on the new system and also make sure they know to help customers or delivery drivers with online orders, you’ll also have other tasks to assign. You’ll want to make sure they are coordinating with delivery drivers and communicating with the kitchen on order items.

Optimizing your menu

Not all food is built for delivery. Especially in this current pandemic situation, when customers can’t come in and get to know (and love) your in-house menu, it is critical that every item they receive at home is perfect. Something like a fajita, which should arrive sizzling, or a baked Alaska, which should arrive flaming, may be obvious to modify or remove from an online ordering menu – but there are other considerations, too.

The first thing to consider is whether or not something will travel well. For example, some Mexican restaurants do not serve corn tortilla tacos for delivery because they don’t hold heat well enough. Instead of completely removing an item, you might also consider how to package and prepare it so that it can travel better. When making those modifications, you’ll also want to consider the cost of the additional packaging and determine whether or not it is worth the cost.  

You might also look at how popular menu items are. Obviously, you’ll want to keep your most popular menu items, if possible, but it may be better to eliminate those items that are not ordered as often – such as kids’ meals – in order to simplify the online ordering process for your customers and the fulfillment process for your employees.

Another consideration might be removing menu items that are most difficult to prepare or that tend to slow down the kitchen. When working with online delivery, you are on a timetable. When orders arrive late, it can cost you money and business. Streamlining the menu items that you offer can go a long way in helping make sure all of your online orders arrive on time.

You’ll also want to optimize your online menu for upselling. Give guests the chance to add a side, or a dessert, or a drink with ease. This is one of the biggest benefits of online ordering for a restaurant – the opportunity to increase total order size.

A trend coming out of the current pandemic is offering family meals. This may also be something to consider. Instead of putting together an online order with 4 separate entrees and sides, you can instead prep 4 identical meals. This saves your kitchen time, decreases the complexity, and if you price it right – your customers feel like they’re benefitting from a deal as well.

Spreading the word

Since your restaurant is new to online ordering, you’ll want to make sure you get the word out that this is something you are now doing. Even if you’ve previously delivered through a major third-party website or app, like Grubhub, and are now switching to a customized platform on your own website, you’ll want to make sure that your loyal customers know. It is possible that someone who has visited your restaurant in the past may think that they cannot order from you because you did not offer this service previously.

Some of the best ways to communicate your new online ordering and delivery options to your customers include social media and email. You might also consider offering a promotion in order to encourage users to try your online ordering service.

You should also consider paid social media advertisements. This is an excellent way to reach customers in your area. You have an opportunity to be very specific with paid social advertisements. For example, you could choose to only advertise around lunch and dinner times, to increase interest in your restaurant at the times when ordering is most likely.

Benefits of offering delivery for your restaurant

We’ve covered why delivery is important in today’s current landscape. But why should you make the investment now for the long-term? What is the benefit for your restaurant moving forward? 

One of the main benefits of offering online ordering and delivery is the ability to attract new customers and increase customer loyalty. There is an entire demographic that prefers ordering online and sticks to restaurants that meet those needs for the most part. Additionally, the customers you already serve may be more likely to frequent your business if they can also order online and have it delivered. For example, if someone who works in an office near your

restaurant visits often for lunch, they may be more likely to consider ordering food for their family for dinner if they can get it delivered to their home.

Wrapping Up

If you’ve been reluctant to launch online ordering and delivery because of the steep fees charged by third-party delivery services, you should know that there are alternatives that can save your restaurant time and money. You should also now have a grip on considerations you’ll need to make and the steps you’ll need to take in order to get your restaurant prepared for online ordering and delivery success.