Having an online presence for your restaurant is more important than ever. If this is your first time working with online ordering, delivery, or takeout options, there are a few things you need to know about pivoting your business model in the coronavirus pandemic.
How to setup online ordering for your restaurant
A native online ordering system that's built into your website gives you more control over the menu without extra fees. You'll be in charge of handling delivery logistics if you choose to only use a native solution, but it's perfect for takeout or curbside pick-up, which is becoming increasingly common during social distancing.
Alternatively, you can sign up for third-party online ordering services through a number of different apps. The upside to this is that you’ll have instant access to the app's network of delivery drivers and get your restaurant's name in front of customers who browse these apps daily. However, be mindful that the fees and other commission costs can easily reach up to 30% per order.
Cut costs by simplifying your online ordering menu
Scale your online ordering menu down to the most popular items (and the ones that travel best for delivery and takeout) to ease the burden on your staff and your wallet.
Get creative with your online ordering page
Another perk of hosting your own online ordering is that you can add and edit the menu yourself. Every penny counts right now, so think outside the box in regards to what you can sell on your page.
Here are a few online ordering menu ideas to get you started:
If you don't have digital gift cards, allow the customer to decide between having their card mailed to them or held at the restaurant for when you reopen.
Offering large meals for four or more people benefits you and your customers; they get food to last for a couple of days without having to go back out again and again, while you make a bit more money on a larger sale. Think pans of take-and-bake lasagna with a large salad and loaf of garlic bread.
Add your restaurant's t-shirts, mugs, stickers, and any other merchandise to your online ordering page. If you don't have merchandise available, look to companies like Sticker Mule, Threadless, or TeeSpring to get started.
Sell your inventory
Many restaurants are offering hard-to-find grocery staples like toilet paper, flour, and hand soap either at-cost or free with purchase to drive larger orders. Unload your wine cellar at a discount to keep product moving.
Best examples of restaurants finding success with online ordering during COVID-19
Three Magnets Brewing Co., Olympia, WA
Brewery owner Nate Reilly has mobilized his staff to accommodate curb-side takeout and strategic delivery of beer and meals. He is coming up with a meal delivery subscription service too that he hopes will buoy his business beyond takeout. "I knew the shut down would be longer than originally projected, and we needed a new business model," he says.
"I called Upserve and we had our online ordering up and ready on day one of the dining ban," Reilly said. "It was helpful to get ahead of the game like that. Other delivery services want 30% off the top which is garbage. If you want to do online ordering yourself, Upserve is one of the better tools. We had a few other POS systems in our restaurants before and Upserve is way better."
For Reilly, it's all about being nimble, adaptable and finding new ways to bring in customers. "We've lost about 75% of our business, but we still have 25% with curb-side," Reilly said. "If we can do this meal delivery service, we can eventually get 50% back with way less labor. We're really tired, but we're in this for the long haul."
La Catrina, Boston, MA
During normal times, a native online ordering page brings in business from commuters who can open their phones, order, and swing by the restaurant on the way home. "During this outbreak, it's been even more helpful because we don't need to have any contact. They place the order, pay online, we get the bag ready for them, and they take it and leave. And of course, there's no fee, which makes it even better in this situation because we cannot afford all those high commissions that some other apps charge," says owner Ana Celia.
Celia is also using her online ordering page to give back to the community. To thank the staff at a nearby medical center, Celia put a spin on their usual "Buy One, Get One 50% Off" Monday special and added a "Donate 1, Give 2 Burritos" item to their online ordering menu. "We wanted to do something for the medical center, but due to the situation that is tough for our business. So we wanted to find a way to do our part and give our customers the opportunity to help us," Celia says.
Tilia, Minneapolis, MN
James Beard finalist Tilia did not do much takeout previously, with the exception of one or two customers who might call ahead for pick up. "Last Friday at 5:30 we were receiving tickets nonstop," said Corrine Dickey, manager at Tilia.
Working with sister restaurant, St. Genevieve, they've combined favorites from each restaurant to a smaller, more manageable menu that rotates daily, including one or two family-style meals. "It's a huge change obviously because we did no takeout before this. Now on a busy night, we're doing 70 orders. We're starting to make plans for when we reopen but will have to let fewer people in. So takeout will be a big part of our operation going forward."
Curious how to set up your online ordering website or start taking orders for delivery and takeout? Join Upserve, 7Shifts, and Donald Burns "The Restaurant Coach" for a live webinar on April 21 at 2pm ET.