Off-premise orders now officially account for the majority of sales generated in restaurants, with the overall percentage of off-premise orders expected to expand in 2020, according to Technomic. The growing number of online orders and orders made via third party delivery apps presents a new challenge for restaurant owners: How do you drive repeat visits when you can’t engage with the majority of your guests in person?
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Off-Premise Sales Have Outpaced On-Premise
A new report from the NPD Group reveals that restaurant online orders, which are defined by meals or snacks ordered via mobile app, internet, or text message, have grown by 23% over the past four years. In addition, 51% of guests have placed orders using a restaurant’s website or app within the last year.
This new pool of regulars – your off-premise regulars – may have never set foot in your restaurant, and they may never still. Unable to wow your customers with an exceptional in-person experience that includes personalized recommendations from knowledgeable waitstaff, immersive decor, and delicious, fresh drinks and dishes, what can you be doing to keep these off-premise guests ordering again and again? It starts by gaining a better understanding of consumer preferences, specifically what your target customer is looking for in a dining experience (whether that’s on-premise or off-premise).
The shift away from on-premise ordering was stimulated by a need for hyper-convenience. The on-demand lifestyle we’ve all grown accustomed to has had a significant impact on what today’s restaurant guests are looking for in a dining experience. Motivated by simplicity, speed, and convenience, off-premise restaurant guests are looking for ordering experiences that allow them to order exactly what they want, when they want it, with minimal barriers to entry.
Allocating budget and resources toward offering off-premise dining options – whether that’s via online ordering or a third-party delivery app – is a smart business decision that satisfies consumer preference for on-demand dining experiences.
Besides wanting control over tracking the entire order, the option to order in advance, and to ensure compatibility with their mobile payment provider, consumers still also desire a connection with your restaurant.
Repeat Guests and Off-Premise Sales: An Unlikely Pair
Restaurateurs are masters in the art of delivering delight through genuine hospitality, which, until now, has relied heavily on the opportunity to connect face-to-face with guests and build lasting relationships. Now, you have to find ways to add a human touch to the digital ordering experiences you offer guests, and by doing this, you’ll improve guest loyalty.
More loyal guests lead to more repeat business and, in turn, repeat guests spend more: According to McKinsey & Company, repeat online customers spend more than double the amount on online orders, on average $55.50, compared to new customers, who spend an average of $24.50.
A little over 1/5th of restaurant-goers say that ordering food for carryout or delivery is more a part of their routine than it was just two years ago. Just imagine how large that pool of guests will be in 5-10 years.
But how are you supposed to build connections and present that warm hand-off that guarantees a future visit without ever seeing or physically interacting with off-premise guests?
How to Increase Off-Premise Sales By Personalizing the Digital Ordering Experience
Here are five, creative ways to add a human touch to your digital ordering channels to increase repeat, off-premise sales.
1. Attach a note to off-premise orders
The use of a personal note provides recipients with a greater feeling of loyalty towards your restaurant. Joanne Chang’s Flour Bakery and Cafe often includes a handwritten “have a great day” on each order. A note from someone in the kitchen or general manager could share the manager’s favorite quote or fun fact of the day.
2. Add Emojis to your restaurant's receipts
In effect, adding an emoji to your receipt presents an individualized touch, reminding customers that there’s a human involved in the interaction. In Seattle, Kigo Kitchen, experimented with emojis and shared, “Emojis are a hit, the personal connection really resonated with our customers.” An emoji can also be used to bring your restaurant brand to life and add a friendly tone to any online order.
3. Encourage and promote social sharing
Encouraging customers to post their meals on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and other forms of social media can be a great way for restaurants to leverage online ordering as a marketing tool of its own. Including a “share your story” message with a reward tie-in provides a mode for your customer to continue engaging with your restaurant. This offering presents the opportunity to gain an introduction to each customer’s network in the process of a single order.
Grubhub explains that, with ordering takeout and browsing social media enmeshed in the American lifestyle, linking these two everyday habits together makes perfect sense. You could even go so far as to include colored or textured craft or construction paper with each meal to provide a backdrop for your customer’s photo.
4. Customize your restaurant's website
The layout of your online ordering page should allow a level of customization that promotes your restaurant to stand out. When restaurants work with Toast to set up their online ordering pages, they have the power to customize their site to best reflect the brand and speak to customers directly. Including a simple message that indicates the chef is preparing a customer’s meal instead of a generic message saying, “order placed,” reminds customers that there are real people working behind the scenes
5. Tell your story
Adding a collectible postcard or small momento to each order can provide consumers with inside access to your world and further build a sense of commitment to your brand. In the words of Mamaleh's Delicatessen owner, Rachel Miller Munzer, “Online ordering presents an opportunity and responsibility to uphold a standard of interaction to keep customers engaged.”
Remember, even if you don’t see your customers in-person, you’re still an active participant in the hospitality industry. Your guests expect you to deliver high-quality service, and they still hope that you’re striving to make a connection.