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Restaurant Order Taking Apps: 5 Ways to Improve Your Operations

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Tessa ZuluagaAuthor

Before we get into it, let me ask you a few questions.

  • How much time do your servers spend rushing back and forth between customers and the POS system?

  • How much time do your expediters spend trying to flag down servers when food is ready?

  • How much time do employees spend keying in online orders from the various tablets?

Imagine if restaurant management could do something to save all that time, all those hours, and spend them instead doing what you love most: delivering delectable food and memorable guest experiences.

That's the magic of a restaurant order taking app. 

Let's dive into five lesser-known ways that restaurant order taking apps improve both fast-casual and full-service restaurant operations.

And, to help you evaluate these apps along the way, you can download the POS comparison guide and check out the Toast cloud-based POS vs. competitors compare guide.

1. Orders are sent immediately to the kitchen display system.

The typical workflow of server food ordering is this: server takes the order, jots down the order on a notepad or memorizes it, rushes to the POS system to key it in (sometimes waiting for fellow servers to get out of the way to do so), and then keeps an eye out for the order to be ready by the food runner station. This process can sometimes be time-consuming, depending on how long the server has to wait to place the order.

With a restaurant order-taking app, all that rushing and elbowing can be eradicated, resulting in happier staff and faster restaurant operations. The order-taking app, which is often as easy to use as a mobile app, allows servers to tap in an order via a handheld tablet at the table, eliminating the need to rush to the POS station.

After the server taps "send" on the handheld device, the order automatically populates onto the kitchen display system in the back of house immediately so they can fulfill it. No more nudging staff members out of the way to enter your order at the point of sale before you forget it! Plus, way fewer steps are taken to get the order in, which means orders can come out sooner resulting in happier guests!

2. Servers get text messages and notifications when orders are ready.

What happens when an order is ready to be delivered to the customer?

Depending on how your restaurant operations are set up, you may have an expediter who's in charge of flagging down servers when they need help running food to customers. Calls of "Order up!" may fill the back of house, or bells may ring incessantly. Servers may spend their time hovering near customers to make sure their needs are taken care of and standing by the kitchen, fingers tapping on the order window while waiting for the dish to be prepared.

No longer! Servers can now be freed to spend time on server-side work and making sure the guest experience is exquisite. Restaurant order taking apps can send servers notifications - the exclamation mark seen below - when dishes are ready at the kitchen pass.

Plus, servers can also receive text messages when orders are ready to be delivered to customers. It's a lesser-known – and lesser-used – feature, because who wants waiters and waitresses on their cell phones during a shift?

However, if a server is using a Fitbit or smartwatch, this text message could drastically improve efficiency: the server's watch vibrates whenever an order is ready, and they can see which order it is with a flick of the wrist!

3. Restaurant order taking apps remember call-in orders.

This is for the fast-casual restaurant that receives many call-in orders for delivery and takeout.

How many times have you entered the same address and phone number over and over? How many times have you wished you could just say "Same as last time?" to save a customer from going on a tangent about their normal order of half pineapple, half pepperoni, with a side of garlic knots?

The answer is here: restaurant order taking apps remember call-in orders, so you can spend less time on the phone and optimize the food delivery process for customers.

Here's how it works: The customer calls in, and a popup shows on the restaurant order taking app.

If it's the first time the customer is calling, the restaurant order taking app prompts you to add important information such as name, address, etc. It remembers the phone number but gives you the option to change it in case the customer wants you to contact a different number when the order is ready.

If it's the second, third, – or billionth – time the customer is calling, the restaurant order taking app will show when they ordered last, what menu items they ordered, how much they last spent, and even where the order was delivered. You can click "Order again" easily. Or you can verify the address and go to the next screen to key in the new order as they're telling it to you. This saves so much time on the phone and gives a cooler customer experience, because while they’re being asked, "Same a last time?" they’ll think, "Awesome, I'm a regular."

4. Online orders send immediately to the kitchen display system.

Thanks to modern restaurant technology, servers aren't the only ones taking orders; your customers are too, on the online ordering system.

Customers can place orders for delivery or takeout through a restaurant's website. With a branded online ordering system that's integrated with your kitchen display system, you can free up employees from keying in online orders from various tablets into the POS.

Still want to use services like GrubHub and DoorDash? We don't blame you. Services like Chowly and Checkmate still allow those orders to sync in real-time with your POS system.

Here's how it works: The customer places an order on the online ordering site.

Once placed, the order instantly shows on the kitchen display system. It even has the functionality to be marked as "delivery" vs. "dine-in" in case it needs to go to a different station or a different order window.

5. Customers get order notifications.

Finally, the restaurant order taking app takes the order process full circle. Customers can get text notifications just like servers can when their takeout or delivery order is ready.

If the order was placed for delivery service, it will then go be assigned to a driver and given an estimated time of arrival. With a delivery system that's integrated with the POS, managers can sort orders by those unassigned to a driver, en route to customers, and delivered, ensuring a seamless process. This ability to track order status can help increase customer satisfaction, as it keeps the customer in the loop along the entire process.

What are your creative restaurant order taking app ideas?

Here are just a few ways restaurant order taking apps can help improve operations for full service and fast-casual restaurant businesses in today’s technical world. What are your creative tips and tricks? Do you allow servers to receive text message notifications, or do you have another creative way of sharing the news that an order is ready with servers?

With all of this technology impacting the restaurant industry, it's crucial to stay in the know when it comes to modern trends. Check out this article to learn how modern tech is impacting restaurants and helping them streamline their operations while increasing their bottom line.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.

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