Today, the restaurant industry depends on the Internet as never before. Because of the coronavirus, even the biggest fans of dining out and shopping at farmers' markets have to self-distance and shift to no-contact online food ordering. The COVID-19 pandemic will be gone soon, but people’s habit of ordering everything online will stay. Online food ordering systems had been trending before the quarantine and from now on they may become a go-to solution for everyone.
Let’s look at different customer touchpoints your restaurant can have on the Internet: your website, socials, customer review platforms, online reservation and food ordering platforms, etc. You should use several communication channels and learn how to do it effectively to get a constant flow of online orders and track them in your POS system.
Your website should serve people who know and love your brand
How do people look for restaurants online? If they think about a restaurant they already know, they just google the restaurant’s name. If they want to try something new, they would search either by location (‘restaurant near me’ or ‘restaurant in a particular city’) or by the type of cuisine/food they want. In the first case, ideally, they should get to your website. In the second case, they would inevitably get to some third-party resource, like, an online navigation service or a review platform.
We suggest that you shouldn’t invest in a blog on your website striving to compete with huge content projects or aggregators in search. It would be a waste of your time and money. You should tap into restaurant SEO, however, most probably, your website would rank high on search results for your brand name ONLY. It means you should create your website with the existing customers in mind. You can consider your website to be good if it meets three key requirements:
Its design reflects your brand’s identity and the vibe of your location.
Its content gives complete and up-to-date information.
Its features allow customers to make orders and reservations online.
Whether you hire a developer to build your website from scratch or use an out-of-the-box solution, like Poster Shop, the main function of your website is to collect orders. Ideally, every person visiting your website should learn that that’s the easiest and the fastest way for them to check your up-to-date online restaurant menus and prices, and place an order or reserve a table. You can reach this level only if you integrate your website with your restaurant POS system.
Socials can be a channel for getting online food orders
You might think about your Facebook or Instagram page as a way to build an emotional connection with your customers and create a community around your brand. How about social ordering? You can turn your business accounts on social media into a constant source of online orders.
Facebook’s own feature allows users in the U.S. to order food from local restaurants using its app because Facebook works with some restaurant chains directly and partners with several food delivery companies. The Order Food option is available for users in the Explore menu in the Facebook app where people can browse local restaurants and click Start Order when they find what they want. For restaurants operating in other countries, there are a lot of alternative software solutions for online ordering that integrate with Facebook. If you use one of them, you can add the Order Food tab to your restaurant’s business page. Some of the apps would even allow you to customize the main call to action of the page (the blue button) and make it point to your online restaurant ordering system.
You already know that Instagram is one of the best platforms for showcasing your food. You can also sell it there. For this, you can use the basic features of the platform. Add your menu in your Instagram Highlights and set up a reliable ordering workflow. Then, link to your online ordering platform from your Instagram profile BIO. In this case, you’ll be adding calls to action encouraging followers to use the link in your profile or to call you in each post. At the start, make sure you communicate how everything works to your followers and collect feedback to make ordering through Instagram even more comfortable for them. After you build a following of 10 000 or more you’ll be able to add “See More” buttons to your Instagram Stories. Alternatively, you can use Instagram bots for taking orders and some third-party apps that’ll make your food images shoppable.
Google’s services and search results are a source of online orders
Most of the online navigation tools like AppleMaps, Waze, TomTom, Google Maps and more are great for leading customers straight to your doors. An account on Google My Business has already become a must-have for restaurants. To show up on top of recommendations on Google Maps for search queries mentioning type and proximity, you should optimize your profile description on Google My Business for those queries and collect more good reviews on the platform than your competitors.
Getting online food orders from those navigation services is as simple as adding a link to your website and mentioning your delivery or takeaway services with a call to action. Now restaurants operating in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and India can take advantage of The Ordering.app. It is part of Google and helps to create a customized site for handling food delivery orders. Restaurant owners working with the authorized third-party providers can also turn on features for taking online orders through Google Search, Google Maps, or Google Assistant.
Pages on the review platforms can help you build a reputation
OpenTable, Yelp, Urbanspoon, and Tripadvisor - you should expect that at least one of those apps, if not all, are installed on your customer’s smartphone. People love review platforms and default to them to search for restaurants. You should be there! You might doubt this because of the possibility of getting negative reviews and ratings. The reality is that the absence of any ratings is turning customers off of a restaurant even more than negative reviews.
3d-party food ordering and delivery apps can expose your business to new customers
You don’t own the information about people who order food from you through aggregators’ websites. Technically those people are their customers, not yours. However, you still get a chance to empress them with the food delivered from your place and get them in your doors next time. If you want delivery apps users to start placing their online food orders with you directly, you can add promotions in your food packages. A 10% discount on the next online order through your own online system can be a good incentive for them to choose your website over the third-party apps and restaurant online ordering systems.
Accurate data is the key to success
When you strive to spread your online presence and get a constant flow of online food orders, the hardest part is in keeping your menu correct and up to date across all sites and apps where people usually search for dining options. Accuracy is essential to avoid the frustration that customers get with incorrect information in online directories. You definitely should have an employee responsible for updating the information and prices and can consider using services, like SinglePlatform, MomentFeed, or their analogies to simplify this task.
One of the benefits of online ordering is in collecting invaluable data about your customers’ dining habits and preferences. Make sure your in-house online food ordering system properly records customer information and order patterns. If you collect and analyze this data correctly, it’ll tell you who your regular online customers are, what they're ordering and when. Knowing this, you’ll be able to create a more customized guest experience both online and offline and to market your restaurant more effectively.