Online ordering and food delivery service have been growing 300 percent faster than dine-in traffic since 2014. Millennials and Generation Z are driving this trend, as their need for variety and convenience continues to influence the restaurant industry.
There are a growing number of options for restaurant owners who want to take advantage of food delivery options. Whether you partner with a company like Grubhub or DoorDash, or you invest in Point of Sale (POS) software that offers Online Ordering (OLO) to your Facebook followers, it’s essential to enter this process with specific internal systems already in place.
Follow these best practices to get the most out of food delivery, keeping your customers happy while you improve your restaurant’s bottom line.
Choose the Right Food Delivery Service
Choosing a platform for online ordering and delivery may sound simple – but this first step takes a great deal of time and attention. Before you sign up, make sure you research the pros and cons of every service you’re considering. Most third-party applications offer prohibitively high fees, especially for small and mid-sized restaurants. Use the data from your POS to crunch the numbers before you decide which margins will actually be profitable to your business. Once you know which services are within reach, you can conduct some casual market research to find out which option will have the most significant impact on your marketing efforts. The popularity of these services go from coast to coast: New Yorkers usually go for Grubhub or Seamless, while Californians tend to prefer DoorDash and Postmates.
Update Your Menu
Before uploading your menu to a third-party site, make sure you review it carefully. Are all the prices accurate? Do you want to offer a discount to guests who order certain dishes online? Will you include all the same items online as in-store? If any of your offerings will travel poorly, you might consider removing them from the OLO menu. Pay close attention to your beverage menu during this process, especially if you serve alcohol; depending on your area, it may be illegal for drivers to transport beer or cocktails from your restaurant to the guest’s home. You may also consider beefing up your item descriptions if you’re showcasing them on a website with fewer images than your printed menu. Whatever changes you make, be sure to make them across all platforms – on your website, social media, and any third-party services you employ.
Train Your Staff
As always, it’s important that your employees be ready for your restaurant to grow. If you’re hiring your own delivery drivers, make sure they all have proper insurance and that their cars are in working order. But your work doesn’t end there. It’s also vital that you take the time to train your hosts to handle phone calls from OLO guests. Make sure they know how to pull up orders quickly, make changes, answer questions on the fly, and communicate with the kitchen about any updates from the guest. This process should be quick and easy, and it should not prevent your staff from providing excellent service to in-store diners. Set aside time to train your hosts and kitchen staff well in advance of accepting your first online order.
Be Mindful of Your Capacity
Capacity refers to a few things in this context: the size of your takeout containers, the speed at which your chefs can cook, and the number of orders each driver can fit in their car. It’s okay to start small. Buy 100 takeout containers, and test them out before investing in 3,000 containers from the same brand. Offer delivery for limited hours for a week or two, to make sure your kitchen staff can handle the extra load – and hire more cooks if necessary. Incentivize guests with a coupon if they send you private feedback about their ordering experience, so you can make improvements before scaling up.
Track Your Progress
Once you start working with a food delivery service, use your POS to keep careful track of every order. Which items are the most profitable, and which ones don’t get ordered at all? Do you consistently get complaints about leaky soup containers, or one delivery driver who’s always late? Use your data to make changes over time to keep your customers happy. It’s important to review this information as a whole, instead of jumping to fix every small issue. With limited data, you never know what’s a real problem and what’s a symptom of a customer who had a bad day. If one person tells you their pita was missing, you can chalk it up to human error and move on. On the other hand, if five people tell you their salad dressing spilled, it may be time to invest in better containers.
In this age of guests’ obsession with social media, review sites, and researching menus online, almost any online ordering service is bound to improve your bottom line. Implement these best practices to make the most of whichever service you choose.