Everyone has their preferred way to order food from their favorite restaurants. Whether it’s online ordering, calling in, or mobile ordering, old habits are hard to break. As we move into an era of instant gratification, online ordering is taking the restaurant industry by storm. Delivery sites are great- for the consumer, but service charges can range anywhere from 12% - 30% per order. Instead of losing money from third party websites, it can save a lot of headaches if you manage your own online ordering platform.
Online ordering can improve your restaurant’s operations, getting staff off the phones and instead freeing them up to work with customers in the store. You’ll need to implement a plan to educate and incentivize customers to actually use your online ordering program.
Moving customers away from their preferred ordering habits may be a challenge, but driving your restaurant’s online ordering can be easier than you think.
Here are a few ways you can promote your online ordering program to increase usage and alleviate call time for takeout cashiers.
1. Have an Attractive Website
About a year ago, my friend Kendal published the blog How Online Ordering Can Increase Check Size by 23%. One of the biggest takeaways from this blog is that you have to have an online ordering website that is “easy on the eyes.”
This means that your website should include an abundance of photos and descriptions. Photos help to upsell products and provide a context to your menu. Using descriptions is extremely important for restaurants that have an international or extremely detailed menu. Not every customer will know what a Gyro or Bento Box is, so it’s helpful to explain what your menu items include.
2. Printed Promotion
In-store messaging is a staple for promoting anything in your restaurant. Window displays, table tents, posters, and flyers help remind customers to try ordering online next time they order.
The most important part of posters and window displays is the placement. When putting up these promotional materials for your online ordering site, you need to think about the pattern of how customers enter your restaurant. Think about what the first thing customers will see when they walk up to your business. What do they see when they first step inside? A poster can only be effective for those who see it.
If you expect your guests to dine in, remember that table tents are the oldest trick in the book for a reason. These can be an effective way to brand and promote your online ordering program. Print standalone brochures to sit atop countertops and tables where customers can do a bit of light reading.
You can also include online ordering flyers or coupons in takeout bags, targeting customers who are already likely to order from your restaurant. Incentivize these customers to order online next time by explaining that they’ll get faster service, guaranteed order accuracy, and - even better - a discount (see #3)!
Look into buying stamps, stickers, takeout menus, or pre-made takeout packing with your website and online ordering information on it. If you have to distribute these anyway, you might as well get some free promotion out of them!
3. Replace Your Phone Number
It’s usually customary to include your phone number on things like takeout menus, pizza boxes, and website pages. But have you considered replacing your phone number with your website URL?
No one likes taking phone calls during rush hours, so why not decrease the availability of your phone number? This helps lower phone traffic and drive more customers to your website.
4. Custom Messaging on Receipts
Whether you’re printing receipts or offering them to customers digitally, receipts are always an advertising opportunity. Customize the verbiage on your receipts to include a callout for your online ordering program. It’s a free and easy way to distribute the message to your customers.
5. Promo Codes
What’s a better incentive to order online than a discounted meal? Incentivize your guests to try your online ordering program by offering them a discount for their first online order. A one-time discount of just 10% could be enough to drive customers to your website rather than clogging up your phone lines.
Use your online ordering app or the online ordering program integrated in your POS system to set up the promotional codes.
Pro Tip: Studies show that messaging is crucial when it comes to discounts. 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.
6. Social Media
Your customers may not be able to order by tweeting a [pizza] emoji but you can certainly take advantage of the immediacy of social media. Use your Facebook and Twitter profiles to make it easy for customers to order online. Facebook even offers a “Shop Now” button that sits right at the top of your profile. MAK Restaurant and Zuuk Mediterranean Kitchen do this on their social media networks.
Now that you've added promo codes to your tactics plan, try posting on Instagram or Facebook with a special discount for those who order online within the week. After the week is over, you can remove the post and turn off the promo code.
7. Custom On-Hold Phone Message
If somehow a customer tracked down your phone number from an age-old phone book, you can use your phone messages to promote online ordering! When your restaurant is loud and busy, it can be hard to take phone orders. You’re not only busy with a thousand other tasks, but you’re also prone to making more mistakes by trying to decipher garbled voices through the phone. If a customer is on hold, try replacing the hold music for a prompt that advertises online ordering.
Here's a sample script you can use for hold messages:
Get immediate service without the annoying elevator music. Visit [Your Restaurant] .com to order online and skip the line.
Timing is everything. What better time to promote the efficiency of your online ordering program than when a customer is waiting on the phone? This way, instead of losing a customer due to a long wait over the phone, you'll direct them to where they can find faster service, making it easier on both you and your guests. In addition to changing the hold message, you can also change your voicemail message to promote online ordering. If you can’t get to the phone in time, customers won’t be discouraged from ordering food.
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 you can skip the line and order online at our website, websitehere.com
Is an online ordering program right for my restaurant?
I spoke with a restaurant owner last week who’s using Toast's online ordering system. He talked enthusiastically about how directing customers to order online has decreased his phone calls by nearly 50%. Previously, the burger joint had to dedicate a cashier and POS terminal just for phone orders during the lunch rush. It was dramatically impacting the in-store experience. His story inspired me to write this post about maximizing the impact of your online ordering system.
Regardless of what restaurant online ordering program you’re using, a well promoted program has the potential to have a major impact on your business.