Online ordering has changed the restaurant experience immensely over the course of only a few short years. What used to be a night spent out at a restaurant with friends has morphed into something completely different. Thanks to technology, convenience and the rise of third-party delivery services, online ordering is quickly growing into a booming industry and altering how restaurants operate on a fundamental level.
Ten years ago, while some restaurants may have had an online menu available on their website, it was much more likely that if you wanted takeout you would have to order it by phone. Those phone orders would be manually processed in the restaurant’s point of sale system, sent to the kitchen and, BOOM, you were off to the races. Today, the ordering experience is much more streamlined and people largely don’t have to interact with another human being until the very end of the process when their food arrives at the front door.
Online Ordering on the Rise
According to research data from the National Restaurant Association (NRA), more than a third of restaurants, 37%, offer online ordering to their customers, while slightly less than a third of restaurants accept mobile payments. As a result, the online ordering and delivery spaces have exploded in recent years. L.E.K. Consulting suggested that restaurant delivery would grow at three times the rate of on-premise sales through 2023, with Millennials leading the charge by ordering their food online. For them, time means everything and ordering food online and having it delivered straight to their house takes less time than going out, possibly waiting for a table, waiting on orders, and waiting for the check.
“[Restaurants] are still trying to grapple with the fact that there’s some outside force that’s coming, but I think we are way beyond that stage,” says It’s A Checkmate founder and CEO Vishal Agarwal. “This is a reality; 20, 30, 40 percent sometimes of a restaurant’s business is coming through delivery.”
Customers are always pushing for more convenience and are willing to pay an additional price to have their food delivered. According to Technomic, customers order delivery about two and a half times each month and spend close to $83 total. If those customers end up spending a little bit more money or if there’s even a small boost in the number of orders placed by those customers each month, it could make a huge difference for a restaurant’s bottom line. The never-ending quest for those dollars is what prompts third-party deliverers and restaurants to incorporate this lucrative avenue stream any way they can.
So, what does this mean for restaurant owners? Well, if they can take advantage of the opportunity that online and mobile ordering offer, delivery orders can easily generate a large amount of a restaurant’s sales revenue. However, that means having a point of sale system that works seamlessly with whatever online ordering platform the restaurant is using, making sure menu items are fit for travel (that includes making changes to the menu to reduce the number of foods that don’t travel well), and still providing an ease of use that customers enjoy and feel safe using.
The Changing Role of Restaurant Technology
Whether we like it or not, technology has fundamentally changed the food ordering process. As a result, businesses are doing their best to experiment, figure out what works and ditch everything slowing down the process.
“There are a ton of different groups that are trying out ghost kitchens, virtual concepts, pop-ups and big commissaries, like Kitchen United,” Sterling Douglass, founder of Chowly, explained. “You have these little pods and shipping containers and locker systems. There’s probably 8 million different branded online ordering apps and websites that they can add on. Now there are tons of texting services you can order through and other social media channels. Everything is just being thrown around right now, and I think what the industry is trying to do is ask, ‘What are the urgent ones and what are the ones we need to get on now?’”
One of those issues is how to best integrate all of the third-party delivery options into a streamlined approach that doesn’t bog down kitchen staff. Online ordering systems like Chowly and It’s a Checkmate are capable of pulling in orders from major food delivery services like Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash, and Postmates, and seamlessly funnel those orders into POS systems like Brink, converting them all into a single format that prints from a single printer. This eliminates the tangle of wires and tablets that restaurants encounter when they work with multiple delivery services and relieves a lot of the headaches associated with lost and incorrect orders. As a result, these POS integration platforms help restaurants keep pace with a variety of orders in real-time, streamline what is being sent back to the kitchen and, ultimately, maintain order accuracy.
Trust Issues Still Impact Industry
Despite the rise of the third-party platforms taking on some of a restaurant’s delivery duties, there is still one large hurdle that will likely need to be cleared sooner rather than later, and that’s trust. According to Technomic data, close to three-fourths of delivery customers said they would rather order directly from the restaurant than through a third-party app. Additionally, Technomic says more than 40% of delivery customers trust restaurant employees more than those working for a third-party delivery service.
As online ordering solutions continue to evolve and expand, industry leaders like Chowly’s Sterling Douglass and It’s A Checkmate’s Vishal Agarwal are confident customers will become more comfortable with the process and see the value that third-party services provide.