The COVID-19 pandemic activated a massive shift in the restaurant industry, and shot takeout and delivery from a nice-to-have to an essential part of any restaurant business. For many restaurants, this has been a sizeable change, and it’s taken a lot of adjustments to all the different elements that go into running a restaurant.
The restaurant industry is on the road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, but takeout and delivery are not going anywhere. And for many restaurants, there is still room for improvement with building and promoting your online presence.
Once you’ve figured out your online ordering menu, and figured out the process of actually getting these additional orders from the kitchen to your customers, the next thing you might need to adjust is your marketing plan. How do you make sure your guests know about your online ordering offerings, and how do you entice them to order again and again? With an online ordering marketing plan that’s optimized for customer experience as well as for your own long-term, sustainable success.
Here are some ways you can promote your online ordering program to both increase orders and build strong customer relationships, to keep guests coming back again and again.
Restaurant Website Checklist
This template will help you update and optimize your website, so guests can easily find and order from you.
How to Increase Online Ordering Sales
Place online ordering front and center (everywhere)
Optimize your website
Your restaurant's website should include an abundance of photos and descriptions of your food, and it should include your menu. But especially right now, the most important element to feature is how and when your guests can order for take-out and delivery.
Add a link to your online ordering menu to your restaurant website. You can even greet guests with an immediate pop-up, letting customers know right off the bat that you’re open for to-go and delivery, and sharing your hours and availability.
Then, you can use photos to help you upsell profitable items and provide context to your menu. Writing great descriptions is also crucial — not every customer will know what a gyro or bento box is, so it’s helpful to explain what your menu items are made of.
Add in-store messaging
With guests now being back in restaurants, it’s a great idea to mix online and in-store messaging. Promote your online ordering on signage, including window displays, posters, and neighborhood flyers to help remind customers that there are multiple ways to enjoy your delicious food.
Put yourself in the mindset of someone walking by your restaurant: what will make them want to order takeout from you later that day? Post daily specials, and connect with your passers-by.
Add custom messaging on receipts
Whether you’re printing receipts or offering them to customers digitally, receipts are a relationship-building opportunity. Customize the words on your receipts to include a callout for your online ordering program (this is also a great way to get guests off of third-party platforms, and instead have them order directly from you). It’s a free and easy way to distribute the message to your customers. You can also personalize your receipts to include the name of the customer.
You can also share who made the meal: Which chef is on duty tonight? Look for an opportunity to add a line like: “Prepared with love by Chef Rick.”
Even adding something like a simple emoji to the receipt can subtly remind customers that there’s a human involved in the interaction, bring your restaurant brand to life and add a friendly tone to any online order. Seattle’s Kigo Kitchen experimented with emojis and shared, “Emojis are a hit, the personal connection really resonated with our customers.”
A handwritten “Thank You” on a takeout or delivery bag can go a long way toward building loyalty, especially now. Add a personal note from someone in the kitchen, a manager’s quote, or fun fact of the day. Boston’s Banyan Bar has been keeping it simple and sincere: adding in handwritten “Thank You” notes to every online order bag.
Record a custom on-hold phone message
Replace the default on-hold music or answering service messaging for a recording that communicates something more personal and useful. Again: Communicate hours, special offers, how to order.
Here's a sample script you might consider for hold messages:
Thank you for calling! We appreciate your order today more than we can express in a hold message. Thank you so much for your patience. And by the way, you can also get immediate service by visiting [Your Restaurant].com to order online.
Here's a sample script you can use for a voicemail message:
Hi, you’ve reached [your business]. We can’t take your call right now, but we’re so grateful you’ve called. Our hours today are ___. You can order by calling back or order online at our website, [Your Restaurant].com. Thank you and stay healthy!
Offering takeout and delivery through online ordering can help increase revenue and build customer relationships. Think about your online ordering not only as an opportunity to fill orders, but also as an opportunity to deliver stellar food and customer experiences to build long-term loyalty.
Increase your online presence
Update your Google My Business info
Your potential customers are probably already sick of cooking. They will search on Google for take-out and delivery options. The question is whether they’ll be able to find your restaurant, and be able to find out how to order from you — so let them know you are very much in business and accepting online orders.
If you haven’t already, claim your listing on Google My Business. Then, edit your listing to add your online ordering system — you can also share your online ordering site through the Posts feature of Google My Business.
Promote via Facebook and Twitter
Take advantage of the immediacy of social media. Block 16 in Omaha does this well, and updates their Facebook page daily with specials, updates, and notes of appreciation to their customers:
Promote on Instagram and Instagram Stories
Instagram has become the platform of choice for many restaurants, as it’s inherently visual and also has the option to post stories that last 24 hours, as well as evergreen feed posts that stay on your page. Social media offers a great chance to pull back the curtain and build relationships with your customers.
For example, share what food your cooks are preparing, chat with one or two of your staff members or have them record a video of themselves thanking your customers, or on Instagram Stories, consider doing a tour of the pantry or a daily check-in of what you’re cooking that day.
Again, show your personality and your passion for food: Your customers will love to see your team and hear from you. Doing so creates an emotional connection with your audience and builds loyalty that’ll help you come back post-pandemic.
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Create your own unique hashtag
It’s good practice to add popular hashtags to your own social media posts so that diners searching for food options can find you — hashtags like #food, #restaurants, #[city]restaurant, and #[city]restaurants. But it’s also a great marketing idea to create a unique hashtag for your business that encapsulates your restaurant’s vibe and food.
For example, Trina’s Starlite Lounge often uses the hashtag #TSLFamily when sharing images of their staff.
Make it an uncommon hashtag you can use more or less exclusively, and share/post it liberally on your own accounts, and encourage your customers to adopt it.
Encourage your customers to share on social media
Each customer interaction is an opportunity to tap into every guest’s followers and amplify your audience reach. That’s why encouraging your fans and customers to post their meals on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, or any other forms of social media can be a great way for restaurants to generate even more online orders.
But it doesn’t happen on its own: You need to ask them to share, both overtly and subtly. Some ideas:
Include a “share your meal” message on your takeout or delivery receipts.
Offer customized receipts, thank-you notes, and messages that feel personal to the individual (more on that below).
Ask them to tell their friends about their experience with your restaurant and include your restaurant’s hashtag.
Think about take-out food presentation — even though it’s harder to do than in your dining room, make sure your food still looks great on arrival at your guest’s dinner table.
Add a collectible postcard or small memento to each order to delight customers and encourage them to post a photo on their social channels. 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.”
Offer online ordering discounts and promotions
Offer special items through online ordering, and incorporate discounts
You can use email marketing or social media to offer special online ordering discounts. You could offer special take-home boxes, 10% off for specific days of the week, or incorporate other discounts and promotions.
Use your online ordering app or the online ordering program integrated in your POS system to set up these special promotions.
If you choose to offer discounts or promotions, consider how you word them. Studies show that messaging is crucial when it comes to discounts or promotions. Rather than saying “Save $5 when you order online,” try “Get $5 off when you order online.” “Saving” is indicative of an inevitable loss, whereas “Get” implies obtaining value.
Now that you've added incentives to your tactics plan, leverage email and social media to promote your offerings. Don’t just show off the food: Turn the camera around and talk to your audience directly. What are you offering? Why is it important for your community to support one another now? Speak from your own point of view. Share your experience.
Learn how guest marketing tools can help you get your customers coming back.
Online Ordering is the Future
Online ordering is only growing in popularity – so take advantage of it in any way that you can. For more information on how online ordering can help grow your restaurant, check out this post.