Never let a menu get in the way of a meal.
That’s the message to keep in mind as you start to create an online ordering system for your restaurant. Takeaway orders are a potentially lucrative additional revenue stream, but you’ve got to acknowledge the differences between catering for the patrons seated inside and those on the move.
The takeaway crowd are on their own. They don’t have a well-informed waiter to guide them through the many options of a full menu, to suggest accompaniments and starters, or to highlight the specials and possible variations.
All the answers to any questions a takeaway customer might pose have to be contained within your online ordering system, and they must be easy to find.
Takeaway success is as much about communication as it is about cooking. With that in mind, here’s how to create an online ordering system for your restaurant:
An Online Delicacy
Online ordering is not a live conversation. You must provide your customer with a clean, customizable, and intuitive experience, while simultaneously delivering each order to your kitchen and front-of-house staff in an easy to understand and actionable manner, without either side ever coming into contact.
The solution to both sides of the equation is simplicity.
While your online presence can be near limitless in size, your customer should proceed through it in simple, logical steps. The same applies to the restaurant end of things, where the staff should receive item-by-item information that can be quickly passed to each relevant station.
These caveats should not infringe on your ambition, though. You can still create an online ordering system for the restaurant that captures all the flavors and excitement of your food.
Creating an Online Ordering System
If you follow some of the suggestions below you can strike a balance between the creativity of your food and practicality of takeaway dining.
- Stay on Brand
While the practical interface and functionality of your online ordering system is the real key to pleasing customers, don’t forget to give some attention to your restaurant brand. You don’t want your superior food to appear as just another listing on a third-party delivery site, so think about the images you post and the text you use to describe your food. Once you have your online menu looking the way you want it, then seek to integrate with third-party delivery platforms to increase your website’s reach.
- Secure Your System
The on-demand nature of the digital age rests entirely on the security of online transactions. Whenever you ask your customers to provide payment information or personal details such as their address or phone number always reassure them that their privacy is protected. Make sure you use end-to-end encryption and the latest authentication technology and that you clearly state these protections are in place.
- Segment Your Menu
Never assume your customer knows what they want, or how to find it online. It is best to divide your digital menu into familiar categories, first by course and then by food, so that your customer can proceed in a logical manner. Each division should have its own page, which then becomes more and more focused.
As an aside, try to avoid using search functions within your site. Unless they’re highly sensitive such features can lead customers to unexpected and unwelcome results. It’s best to leave them to navigate the menu a step at a time.
- Standardize Variations
Due to the number of orders potentially flowing through your systems—not to mention the in-house diners your kitchen is also serving—it isn’t practical to communicate in real time with your takeaway customers. As such, you have to standardize your menu variations so that there’s no potentially dangerous misunderstandings. You should use a drop-down menu of predetermined variations for each dish to limit confusion and streamline the link to your kitchen.
Avoid using a broad comment box if possible, as not all requests can be granted and you’ve little opportunity to speak with your online customers to clarify matters. Instead, you could suggest a customer call in person if they want to make alterations listed online.
- Be Visual – On Both Sides
Smartphones thrive on convenience but that pocket-sized power limits the amount of screen space for a dense menu. Respect your customer’s eyes and simplify your menu with images and color-coded categories where possible.
The same applies to the kitchen staff waiting back at the restaurant. The simpler the messaging they receive for each order the easier it is for them to balance their internal and external audiences.
- Integrate Your Online and In-House Systems
No matter where your orders originate, they all end up in the kitchen. When you create an online ordering system for your restaurant make sure you integrate it with the internal system your staff are using to serve in-person diners. Your staff should be able to balance the flow of both sources to ease congestion in your kitchen and to provide realistic estimates of waiting times for both sets of customers.
- Listen to Your Customers
Customer feedback can be crucial to growing your business, and it comes in two main forms. The first is the direct comments you get from your customers as they use your online system. Encourage feedback by offering rewards for completed surveys and providing space for people to leave comments.
The second is more revealing. It is the sales data that accompanies each transaction. You should be able to integrate your website with your central accounting or POS system and track the frequency, substance, and value of online sales. You can use this information to see how differently people order online and in-person, to measure the value of each method, and track the popularity of specific dishes.
Learning from these kinds of insights can change the way you run your restaurant.
Keep It Simple Online
In order to reap the benefit of the data science outlined above you have to keep people flowing through your online system. That means keeping things simple and logical and making sure your customers can find what they want every time.
As you create your online presence just remember your customer is alone and your customer is hungry, make things easy for them.
When you select a talech POS solution you get expert guidance on how to build and maintain your online presence. We can help you create your own branded website, integrate orders with your internal business, and give your customers touch-screen access to your entire menu. Our partnership with It’s a Checkmate even allows you to seamless integrate orders for third-party platforms like Uber Eats, Grubhub, and Seamless. Sign up for a free demo and see how you can reach a whole new customer base!
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