Service and experience have always been a primary focus for restaurants, as they strive to create a unique experience for their customers. This includes the ambience, service and food that restaurants design to leave customers with a lasting and positive feeling that makes them want to return. Just as restaurants curate their customers’ dine-in experiences, it is equally important to consider the experience for those ordering takeout and delivery as well. According to research by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company, increasing customer retention rates by 5%, increases profits by 25% to 95%. Providing a positive and efficient experience to customers within the takeout and delivery interaction only helps to strengthen retention value and increase revenue.
How People Are Receiving Information and Goods
It is estimated that 69% of the entire US population orders their goods through channels of e-commerce. Google receives 63,000 search inquiries per second every day, and these numbers are growing every year. Clearly, consumers are using the internet to purchase their goods and gather their information. Many businesses create e-commerce markets while preserving their unique culture and brand, and the restaurant business is no exception to this. Creating an efficient online ordering experience for your customers is not only recommended, it’s becoming a necessity. It’s estimated that by 2020 if a restaurant does not provide an effective online delivery and takeout solution, it could lose 70% of its customers. Like most good and successful endeavors, it’s about how you do it that makes the biggest difference.
Optimizing the Online Ordering Experience
There are three main areas to focus on when developing an exceptional online ordering experience for your customers:
As we mentioned in our series How to Ensure your Website is Maximizing Online Ordering, customers should able to find what they are looking for within the first 15 seconds of visiting the site. Not only that, but based on the dependency of Google Searches, being able to search for your restaurant and find it immediately within a search prompt is vital.
- Is my online ordering easy to access on my website, mobile website, social media platforms and search listings? You’ll want to make sure you’re reaching customers in all the right places at the right time when they want to place an order online
- Is my online ordering consistent across all these channels? Inconsistency can create confusion, which could turn away customers from your digital door
- Is my menu and branding consistent and accurate as well? Set the right expectations for your customers about what they’re ordering and who they’re ordering from
Ease of Use
The customer experience should be easy to navigate and use within seconds. If the online ordering button on your website is hard to find, hidden within multiple pages, or clumped together with multiple online ordering options, this creates nothing but frustration for the customer. Have one single “Order Online” button, make it easy to find and make sure it matches your website aesthetic. A consistent and up-to-date online menu is also key to the experience.
- Is my online ordering button easy to find? Make sure hungry diners can find what they’re looking for quickly
- Is it easy for me to use? Clunky navigation can be the most frustrating online experience
- Is my menu consistent and up to date? Is the verbiage clear, yet descriptive? And don’t forget to update any pricing changes online when you’re changing your in-house menu
- How many online ordering options do I have on my website? If it’s more than one, it’s too many
Automation in the online ordering sector is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the heart and soul of your restaurant. Customers want the convenience of finding you online, and the ease of use it takes to order, not because they want just any food, it’s because they want your food. They have sought it out for a reason. They want your brand, your story, your flavors and the experience your restaurant creates through that. A customer should feel as though they experience what is currently happening inside of a restaurant as they add items into their cart. Brand preservation is key and should be a priority when developing your online ordering experience. Branded online ordering solutions like ChowNow offer the results of automation, while preserving those elements of a restaurant that attracted the customer in the first place.
- Is my brand preserved throughout the online ordering experience for my customers? Carefully consider the language on your online ordering menu and specials you make available for takeout and delivery
- Do I feel like customers see my brand, regardless of which channel they order from? If not, what solutions should I invest in to take advantage of the automated online ordering process, while preserving my restaurant brand? Inconsistency can create confusion, which could turn away customers from your digital door
- Is my menu and branding consistent and accurate as well? Consistency across all ordering channels will contribute to a positive and revenue-boosting customer experience
Don’t Forget the In-Store Experience
Just because a customer has placed a takeout order online doesn’t mean that their in-store pick-up experience should suffer. A restaurant should have clear and consistent procedures to ensure these customers are treated in an efficient and positive manner.
- Is there a designated pick-up area?
- Do customers understand where to go once they enter the store?
- Has the staff been trained in case customers have questions about their order?
- Who’s in charge if something is missing from the order?
- Has the to-go packaging been vetted to ensure maximum enjoyment once the customer starts to eat their food?
These are all questions that will contribute to a seamless pick-up experience for the customer.
To provide some more insight, let’s take a look at a real-life example of a restaurant that recognized their pick-up experience was subpar for their online ordering customers and decided to implement change.
This burger joint located in Colorado is quite small and gets very busy especially during lunch hours, so they rolled out online ordering to help with the long lines. What actually happened, though, was the online ordering customers would arrive at the restaurant and wait in the same line as in-store customers due to a lack of direction. This created frustration with these customers who ordered online as many of them likely did so to save time and skip the line.
The restaurant acknowledged that they needed a solution and made two major changes:
- A designated pick-up area with an easy-to-read sign directed online customers to that pick-up area instead of the regular line
- Fun and engaging marketing flyers were put inside every customer’s takeout bag with clear and concise instructions on how to retrieve their online order
These simple changes have proven to directly impact this restaurant’s takeout revenue. Their online takeout revenue increased by 22% the month after they implemented these new processes.
Taking the learnings from this Colorado restaurant, it is important to look at it from a customer’s point of view when implementing your own online food ordering system. First, ensure that a brand-new customer will be able to identify easily where to go to pick up their food once they get to the restaurant by having a designated pick-up location along with a fun visible sign directing customers to that chosen area. If that isn’t consistent with your brand or aesthetic, ensure that your staff is properly trained and knows where to direct online ordering customers.
Make sure you have one staff member that owns the online ordering pick-up experience. This is the person that ensures orders are fulfilled and service remains top notch: it could be a hostess, bartender or other selected restaurant staff.
Ensure that the packaging preserves your food and creates an experience as close to dine-in as possible. Check out US Foods® comprehensive line of packaging options to explore some of the best options on the market.
Lastly, have fun and make sure to weave your brand throughout the experience with branded packaging, fun marketing messages in every to-go bag, email marketing to your customers or takeout and in-dining promotions. The options are only limited by your imagination, and the ChowNow Restaurant Success Team is always available to consult and discuss opportunities for growth.
As you continue to monitor and optimize the online ordering experience for your customers, keep in mind the ultimate goal: to provide your great food and experience every step of the way. This creates consistency from inside the store to the digital platform and will have a great impact on the strengthening of your brand, loyal customer base and revenue.
About ChowNow: ChowNow powers an online food ordering system as part of CHECK® Business Tools. ChowNow allows customers to place orders directly from a restaurant's website, Facebook page, Instagram profile and custom-built mobile apps – commission-free. Learn more about ChowNow by visiting online ordering in CHECK® Business Tools.