7 Advantages of an In-House Online Ordering System for Restaurants

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These days, online ordering is a lifeline for restaurants, and it's hard to deny the benefits of using an in-house online ordering system.

Even before COVID-19 struck, guests were already moving in droves toward online ordering. According to survey results from the National Restaurant Association, 60% of all restaurant and foodservice sales were takeout, drive-through, and delivery back in October 2019.

In the spring of 2020, mandates in most states forcing restaurants to only offer off-premise dining led to dine-in revenue declining by 68% across the country. 

But today, over a year into the pandemic, many restaurants have wholeheartedly embraced online ordering — and they know it's here to stay, even when on-premise dining is back to normal levels. Over the course of this year, even in the face of huge hurdles, restaurant owners and workers adapted. They pivoted toward delivery and curbside pick-up, adjusted their menus and service style, and did everything they could to keep their businesses afloat while keeping their employees safe. 

After a challenging year, restaurant relief is in sight. President Biden signed the latest $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill (the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021,” or ARPA) into law in March of 2021. The bill includes a $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund intended to support small and medium-sized food and beverage businesses. 

This is a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel for independent restaurants. Still, we foresee that many restaurants will retain their newly acquired focus on delivery and take-out well into the future. 

Restaurants opting to use an in-house online ordering software through their point of sale system see many advantages compared to those exclusively using third-party delivery aggregator apps. These perks include the ability to collect insights on individual customers, the ability to create a customizable user experience and interface, and, most importantly, the ability to keep all the profit from delivery meals, with no 15-30% commissions paid to a third party. 

Online ordering is here to stay. Here are seven benefits of setting up an online food delivery system, and why it makes sense to set up your own online ordering system — especially one that's integrated with your point of sale.

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Advantage #1: Online Ordering Systems Drive More Revenue

There’s a reason why guests love ordering online or through apps. Without feeling pressure to wrap up their order, customers are more inclined to explore all of their menu options, and they even end up spending more than they would when ordering over the phone or in person. 

These days, guests have more opportunity to linger over a menu for minutes or even hours while they plan and anticipate on their own time. With no line behind them, the pressure for your guests to make speedy orders is gone, and they'll be more inclined to get that extra menu item.

Advantage #2: Hospitality Can Extend to the Guest’s Home

Restaurateurs might feel that online ordering takes away from the person-to-person interaction between their staff and guests, but there are ways to imbue your online orders with your restaurant’s particular brand of hospitality. 

While customers won't be speaking with employees over the phone, or visiting your restaurant in person, you can add personalized thank you messages and customize your receipts to make sure your brand shines through on all delivery or takeout orders. 

Especially now, these little touches show your guests that you appreciate their business, and that you’ll want to see them back in the dining room when things are a little more normal again.

Advantage #3: Online Ordering Systems Make Orders More Accurate 

Misunderstandings can happen in any restaurant, whether an order is being taken over the phone or in person. Honest mistakes can lead to wasted food, and even more importantly, frustrated customers who might not come back.

One of the benefits of online ordering for restaurants is that the customer has greater control. When the customer has control, they feel greater clarity and understanding about their actions. Since everything’s in writing, there's no real chance for mix-ups. For guests with allergies or dietary restrictions, this is especially important. Many online ordering systems have simple, clear checkboxes to indicate allergies, making it easy for kitchen staff to adjust ingredients based on the guest’s selection. 

Not only does this result in a better experience for the customer, but a better operational result for the restaurant. With fewer mistakes, there are likely to be fewer comped items to make up for the misunderstanding. This saves your restaurant money and stress.

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Advantage #4: In-House Online Ordering Systems are Customizable 

With your own online ordering platform, you can make instant, real-time changes to your menu and design. In other words, you'll have greater control over your brand. When customers place their orders, they will be looking at the website you created rather than looking at a third-party app.

Throw in some photos of your food and anything else you think will make your brand more appealing, and easily adjust menu offerings and wait times for accurate expectations and prices.

“Toast lets us customize a background image and upload pictures of the items on our menu. I always say that customers don’t just buy because of taste, they buy with their eyes,” said Daniel Ganem, Co-Founder & Executive Chef at Zuuk Meditteranean Kitchen.

Another perk of in-house online ordering systems is the ability to remove an item from the menu. If you run out of a necessary ingredient, you can remove the item from the menu completely and avoid disappointing a customer after the fact. 

“We had a reduction in commissions last year which saved us almost $25,000. Moving the traffic away from third-party apps and focusing on that seamless experience with Toast is the way to go,” shared Shandor Collins of Trapper's Sushi.
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Advantage #5: With In-House Online Ordering Systems, You Keep the Profits

Unlike an online ordering aggregator app like UberEats or Grubhub, hosting an online ordering system that’s integrated with your restaurant's point of sale means you keep all the revenue from every transaction. No more losing large profit percentages to the middleman. Instead, paying a flat fee for this functionality allows you to plan for that expense entirely. The more you sell, the more profit you earn.

“We had a reduction in commissions last year which saved us almost $25,000. Moving the traffic away from third-party apps and focusing on that seamless experience with Toast is the way to go,” shared Shandor Collins of Trapper's Sushi.

Advantage #6: In-House Online Ordering Systems Can Coexist with Third-Party Apps

Offering restaurant online ordering through an external source has clear benefits. In cities and highly saturated markets, third-party delivery apps are a great way to expose your business to new customers. Unfortunately, you'll continue to pay that customer acquisition cost on every order that they place through that site, even after that first-time order, because of commission fees.

To encourage guests who find you through an aggregator to order from your site next time, add a promotion to your print receipts or menus offering a 10% discount on their next online order through your own online system. This will save both you and your customer's money on future orders. It's a win-win scenario, and you can still work with third-party websites to get your name out to new customers.

Advantage #7: You Can Collect Crucial Customer Data

In a business where knowing what your customers want is an enormous advantage, in-house online ordering is a great way to get that insight. Unlike third-party online ordering vendors, in-house food ordering systems allow you to record customer information and order patterns for every transaction. Without this data, you can't tell who your regular online customers are, what they're ordering the most, and when they order from your restaurant. Collecting customer data allows you to create a more customized guest experience online, and to market to them more effectively.

One way you can maximize this data is through intentional marketing. Using a restaurant CRM platform, you can capture precious bits of information in order to better connect with your online customers. With customer data such as order history, dietary preferences, and birthdays, you can do email marketing geared toward building a rapport with new customers. With the right restaurant marketing tool, restaurants can track metrics and statistics in order to keep customers engaged with useful, relevant marketing tactics. 

Online Food Ordering Systems are Here to Stay

These days, online ordering is the safest way that your guests can experience your food and hospitality. Make sure you’re getting the most out of every order. Be sure that your online ordering system sets you up to make first-time customers into regulars — especially once the COVID-19 crisis is over. 

To help you evaluate online ordering tools, check out the Toast vs competitors compare guide.

To learn more about optimizing off premise dining, check out the Toast video course on online ordering & delivery.

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