As restaurant owners and food service providers continue to seek ways to improve customer service, digital ordering is rising to the top. In 2014, restaurants reported that online and mobile ordering comprised more than 30% of all operations tests, and in the same year, Domino’s Pizza and Papa John’s generated more than 45% of their sales from online orders (Source: Chain Store Age). Today’s restaurant owners can follow those which have helped led the way.
1. Plan specifications of systems.
What is needed before implementation is upfront, proactive decision-making. Therefore, planning based on expectations that have been discussed and established by decision makers sets up a system to succeed from the beginning. Planning includes determining which type of platform will best suit a company’s needs, and seeking a known entity that is reputable in the field. As with most decision making, there are pros and cons to choosing a pre-established platform like GrubHub, developing a unique system, or creating a hybrid of both. Systems providing the greatest flexibility will enable owners to communicate their unique value proposition, reflect the restaurant’s look and feel, and form seamless integration with other systems already in place. Chain Store Age recommends addressing the following questions when considering how digital ordering will impact the business and its customers:
How should labor strategies shift within the restaurant?
Should the restaurant offer delivery?
How can we increase check size?
How can we improve guest loyalty?
2. Take security seriously.
As with any technology, security is a critical factor in implementation. Security issues can sometimes make or break a project before the project has had a chance to fully integrate into existing operations. National Restaurant News recommends that restaurants verify vendors’ compliance certifications and that they use state-of-the-art facilities for processing orders. Further, NRN states, “Partnering with a vendor that takes security seriously will demonstrate your commitment to protecting your customer’s information—and your brand’s reputation.”
3. Clarify ownership of customer data.
In the course of implementing digital ordering, data will pour in from various channels. With this data comes knowledge of customer behavior and preferences, plus general demographic information. Some third-party tech vendors may frame their services on the condition that they retain ownership of data. However, the data originates from your customers, and it is best practice to establish exclusive ownership of this data and your customer relationships from the beginning. Allowing others the right to use your customers’ data could result in a negative experience for customers. It is worth the time and effort to work with a company that can honor this condition.
4. Be end-ward thinking.
Consider and test the end-to-end customer experience as well as the end-to-end store experience. In light of success restaurants are experiencing with this technology, Smart Brief points out the importance of being prepared, noting not to “get caught flat-footed when/if your digital ordering program grows to 25% of your sales.”
Thinking about the end from the beginning may also lead an owner to plan for varying degrees of implementation. If a store experiences high volume sales during busy time periods, owners may want to consider establishing load limits so staff (e.g., kitchen) is not overwhelmed with incoming orders.
5. Ensure all systems work.
Another essential component closely tied to this end-ward thinking process is service teams and customers. Training teams, including kitchen and wait staff, managers, and IT will empower everyone to fulfill their roles with confidence. In addition, by communicating to customers about the exciting new service designed for their convenience, and assisting them with using it, owners can also build their brand. Smart Brief suggests that staff should “sell” key benefits in-house and on social media channels to have a “faster, more accurate, more personal service by ordering through the app.”