Online For Everyone
Choose the Online Ordering Option that Serves Your Business
Online systems are a part of most areas of business these days, and the restaurant sector is no exception. For operators who haven’t yet tried online ordering, however, the barrier to entry may feel stronger than any pull from the culture at large, or even from customers or competitors. One side of this barrier comes from not knowing how helpful online ordering can be to an establishment, as compared to business as usual. The other side comes from the daunting variety of online ordering systems out there, all with their own specialties, strengths, and weaknesses. To get onboard with online ordering, you need to know, with confidence, that it’s worth doing, and that you can do it right. Use our guide to assure yourself that online ordering is good for your business, learn the general path to get started, and sort out the specifics of what online ordering option is best for you.
THE CASE FOR ONLINE ORDERING
Online ordering has a lot to offer. It caters to a different range of customers than offline methods, expanding your customer base and increasing profit. It also helps you understand your customers, by saving and studying their orders with a suite of intuitive tools. Together, this lets you serve more people, better — every operator’s dream.
Reaching New Diners
Online ordering helps you reach new diners in a number of ways. It’s there when shy customers or unwieldy group meals make phone ordering a barrier to food. It lets you build an online storefront, to show what you’ve got to people who might miss your physical location. It even helps traditionally eat-in restaurants take a low-risk shot at carryout and delivery. In addition to these qualitative benefits, data shows that online ordering has a real, measurable, positive impact on the businesses that adopt it. So however you use online ordering to reach customers, know that from a bottom-line perspective, you’re on the right path.
When Phones Fail
The classic way to manage carryout and delivery is by phone. While this works well for some people and situations, it consistently fails others — costing you sales. Young people aren’t used to phone calls, and may resist calling a restaurant they’d be happy to order from through a website or app. Shy people of any age will be more likely to place an order if they don’t have to talk to a stranger to do so. Leaving phone-hesitant folks aside, there are common ordering situations where online options still beat phone calls. Online excels at group meals, allowing office-mates or family members to add and edit items in an order at their leisure, without making more work for the person organizing the meal (who just has to hit “submit” when everyone says “done”). Online options also save customers time by saving favorite orders, turning a medium-length phone order of “the usual” into the click of a button. The speed of this process makes it easy for patrons to work you into their routine, and come back to you for their perfect meal, day after day.
Your Online Storefront
Adding online ordering creates a marketing opportunity — the chance to build an online storefront that can reach people miles away from your patch of street. Construction starts with the words you use to sell your food: your catchy business name, trendy food or drink items, and mouth-watering descriptions. Next, add visual appeal by uploading logos and designs to your online ordering site. These can come from design files for your signs or menus, or from photos of your actual storefront. To top things off, add pictures of your menu items, starting with your most iconic offering. All of this branding work, easily borrowed from your physical location, makes for an eye-catching online menu to draw in those searching the digital space, rather than driving or walking around.
Same Shop, New Crowd
Conventional wisdom says some restaurant types just don’t work for carryout and delivery. COVID has said otherwise: from to-go sushi to cocktails in bags, traditionally eat-in restaurants have jumped into the carryout and delivery business, and have shown it to be possible and profitable. If you’re a new “eat-in only” place, or an old one that’s been able to weather COVID without trying carryout or delivery, consider adopting these former survival strategies to tap into new, previously unbelievable markets. Online options can help a lot with this process, by reducing the time and money investment needed to get carryout and delivery rolling. That way, it won’t matter if the crowd buying your eat-in food to-go is small, because the cost of accommodating them will be small, too. Also, who knows — they might just be your next big market.
What the Data Shows
Data shows online ordering doesn’t just seem good — it genuinely, concretely helps the restaurants that use it reach their patrons. According to a study from Deloitte, a full 70% of diners prefer to order delivery digitally. If you want this huge chunk of the population to prefer your restaurant, too, you’ll need to give them an online option, in addition to phone ordering. For traditionally eat-in restaurants, the same study suggests the carryout and delivery market is here to stay. The frequency of these types of orders has risen during the pandemic, and 23% of customers say their increased use of carryout and delivery services will be permanent. This is a smaller group than the pro-digital crowd, but one you’ll still want to serve, if you can.
Knowing Your Audience
When you pick up an online ordering system, you also pick up a powerful tool for data gathering and analysis. Putting this tool to use — whether by passively observing old orders, or by actively testing new ideas — helps you know more fully what your patrons want from your restaurant. With this knowledge in hand, operators can drive their business, in both online and offline forms, to new levels of success.
Easy Order Insights
Online ordering options make it easy to analyze what you’re selling, and learn how to sell it better. To start you off, they save orders. This is simple stuff, but you can’t study data that isn’t there. Next, they organize it. Want to know everything sold on Mother’s Day, or that week in June when it wouldn’t stop raining, so you can prepare for the next holiday or weather event? That’s available. Beyond that, online systems offer tools to manipulate your data. Track profits from specific items, time ranges, or order styles (carryout, delivery, or eat-in), then adjust your operation to match what you’ve learned. All of this might have been possible by hand, through drawers of receipts and POS system reports, diligent spreadsheet entries, and a course in statistics. What’s wonderful about going online is that these insights become available automatically, easily, to everyone.
Test and Reflect
Now that you can get these insights so easily, start using them proactively, by running tests. Try an ad campaign meant to draw in customers, and see if customer numbers go up. Add an LTO, see how it profits, and decide in a few weeks or months if you want to put it on the menu permanently. Extend your hours, and see what sells especially well in that extra late or early spot. The real, specific data captured by your online ordering service should let you respond to each test with confidence. As an added bonus, the fact that the online system is capturing everything lets you pick up insights you might not have seen coming. For example, you might test for late night best-selling snacks, to help build a new dessert menu — and at the same time, by accident, discover in the data that late night drinks are wildly popular. Congratulations: one more sales-driving menu update, on the house.
Online ordering options have different strengths, offer different perks, and deploy different payment models — they’re all trying to stand out from each other, after all. When it comes to getting started, though, they share lots of common ground. Whatever your situation, you’ll follow a similar path to get online. Choose a service that suits your business. Sign up on that service’s website. Set up your own site with their help, and maybe install some in-store equipment to streamline orders. Then work out payment (to you for your food, to drivers for delivery, and to the service for tying things together). Once that’s done, regardless of the specifics, you should be online and on track for stronger, smarter business.
Choose Your Option
Start your online ordering journey by knowing your options, and then picking the best for you. Consider your budget and the amount of orders you expect to pass through your online system, then use these factors to pick between higher setup, monthly, or transaction costs (the ways these services typically make money). If a service seems appealing but doesn’t offer transparent pricing, get in contact with one of their sales reps to find out the details. Look at any special qualities of your operation, which might steer you toward services with matching perks. If you make particularly well-packaged food, for example (such as burritos), you could look for a service that lets you set out completed orders for cashier-less pickup. On the other hand, if you’re low on counter space, you might deliberately avoid such a service. Start your research with us — we describe 10 prominent online ordering options at the end of this article.
Sign up with the service of your choice by filling out forms on their website. Provide information about your restaurant, to make sure the service can work with you — some may be restricted by region, or by nearness to a large city. Create an account, and save the username and password for future use. This will be how you access records of your online orders, and use the service’s tools to analyze them. Set up a payment method to cover whatever money you owe to the service. Depending on the option you choose, a representative might help you through the signup process (or even be a necessary part of it). Use their expertise to your advantage, by asking them any questions that come up as you go forward.
Once you’re signed up, you need to prepare your online storefront, and outfit your physical storefront with equipment that supports it. Create a banner with your restaurant’s name, and an eye-catching picture or logo. Upload your menu items, adding pictures when possible. Break your offerings into sections, just as you would with a physical menu. Most services will offer a walkthrough on creating an online storefront page — follow their guidance to match your marketing instincts to their system. Integrate that system with your physical location, too, by installing any necessary equipment, such as tablets or card readers. Train your staff to use these devices alongside, or instead of, whatever POS system you were using before.
Pay and Get Paid
Iron out payment details, making sure that you and everyone you work with gets their due. Pay any upfront costs to the service, and if they charge monthly fees, make sure you have payment information uploaded to your account to cover them. If it fits your business, and the service allows it, enable tips — then distribute those earnings properly to your employees. If your service charges per transaction, make sure those payments are going through. Also check that your menu items stay profitable with transaction and monthly costs factored in. It’s no good experiencing a carryout and delivery boom, and the extra work that comes with it, without a related boost in revenue.
There are many online ordering services to choose from, and more appearing every day. We’ve found 10 to highlight here, offering an array of carryout and delivery solutions. As a common feature, each one can help you get online ordering up and running for your restaurant. We’ll let you look over their other qualities, and decide which one best suits your needs.
Costs: $0 setup (they provide one device), $0 monthly fee, 3.39% + $0.15 transaction fee, Contact them for info on delivery fees
Toast offers a free starter kit that includes one POS device, which seamlessly integrates with their online ordering system (online ordering technically comes as an upgrade, called the Growth Plan — make sure to add it on). To make money from this offer, Toast charges a modest fee of 3.39% + $0.15 per transaction. Delivery is slightly more complex. You can integrate with another service, such as Grubhub or DoorDash, which will charge you a percent commission for their efforts. Alternatively, you can use Toast Delivery Services, which charges a flat fee (contact Toast for details). If you’re interested in putting your restaurant on a food ordering app, they offer Toast TakeOut. This option is a bit more pricey, at $75 per month through the Toast Now plan.
Costs: $0 setup (provide your own iPad), $0 monthly fee, 2.90% + $0.30 transaction fee, add $0.50 for delivery if you want to use your people, $1.50 plus a variable courier fee if you want to use theirs (you may choose to offload the courier fee to customers)
Square also offers free setup, but you’ll need to supply your own iPad to use with their software. Transaction fees come in at 2.90% + $0.30 per charge, which may compare favorably to Toast, unless you process lots of small orders. Square offers on-demand delivery by partnering with DoorDash and Uber Eats, replacing the percent commission from those services with a flat fee: $1.50 from Square plus a variable fee from the partner (contact Square for details), which you can choose to offload to your diners. If you use your own delivery team, the fee’s only $0.50. Square doesn’t have a food ordering app, so if that’s an important part of your online ordering strategy, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Costs: contact them for info on setup, monthly, transaction, and delivery fees
A more traditional option, Restaurant Manager offers a touchscreen POS and connected online ordering system for one upfront cost. Their pricing isn’t particularly transparent — you’ll need to contact them to find out what that cost is, and to make sure there aren’t any monthly, transaction or delivery fees tacked on. With nearly 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry, though, Restaurant Manager is likely to give you your money’s worth. They also offer delivery integrations with Grubhub, DoorDash, and Uber Eats (with percent commissions to those services). They do not provide their own food delivery app.
Costs: contact them for info on setup, monthly, and transaction fees (delivery not offered)
On the quirkier side, there’s Snackpass. This service offers an online ordering app focused on carryout, with no delivery option at all. Instead, they promote the idea of social rewards, letting customers build up points toward free food, which they can gift to friends — potentially bringing in new regulars. They can also help you set up a station for cashier-less pickup, if that suits your food and restaurant style. Snackpass doesn’t list prices on their website, so you’ll have to contact them for details about setup, monthly fees, and commissions.
Costs: $0 setup (provide your own device), $0 monthly fee, 15% transaction fee, add 5% for delivery if you want to use their people
Started in Gainesville, Florida, Byppo brings a local touch to online ordering services. They don’t charge for setup, though you do need to provide your own device. Instead, they charge a 15% transaction fee — high compared to Toast and Square, but comparable or low for DoorDash and Grubhub. Members of their delivery team, which they charge an extra 5% to use, get assigned to your restaurant by the day, avoiding some of the chaos that can come with delivery apps. Byppo offers a food delivery app of their own, and some marketing services. Founded in 2019, they’re new to the scene, resulting in slightly less polish than their competitors, but also a powerful hunger to serve their partners.
Costs: contact them for info on setup, monthly, transaction, and delivery fees
Bite Squad offers online ordering for your restaurant through a powerful food ordering app, backed by a well-trained and well-equipped delivery team. Build your online storefront in the form of a Bite Squad menu, which you can link to from an existing, more brand-consistent website if you wish. They don’t have transparent pricing for their services, unfortunately. You’ll need to contact them to see how their setup, monthly, transaction, and delivery fees face up to the competition.
Costs: $0 setup (provide your own Android tablet), $0 monthly fee, 6% transaction fee for app orders, 2.90% + $0.30 for website orders, add 9% for app order delivery (add 10% for website order delivery, offloaded to customers)
Another service with a strong food ordering app, DoorDash also provides transparent pricing. It’s free to set up (though you do need an Android tablet to run their software), with middling transaction fees for pickup: 6% if you use their app, 2.90% + $0.30 for orders coming through a DoorDash Storefront website (which they’ll help you build). Fees get steeper with delivery, which costs an extra 9% if you use their app. For website-based delivery orders, DoorDash charges the customer instead, adding a 10% fee to their total — potentially good for your pocketbook, but not a great customer experience. Despite this, DoorDash remains a solid option, giving you access to a big-name food delivery app, along with your own website, at a relatively low cost.
Costs: $0 setup (they provide one device), contact them for info on monthly fees, 23.05% + $0.30 transaction fee for app orders, 3.05% + $0.30 for website orders, add 10% for delivery
Grubhub also provides a top tier food delivery app, but with higher fees than their immediate competitors. Setup is $0, including a free device, but orders on their app incur a hefty 23.5% + $0.30 transaction fee. An upcoming website service, Grubhub Direct, would provide a cheaper alternative — charging 3.05% + $0.30 per order — but at this point restaurants can only join a waitlist, rather than starting immediately. With either option, Grubhub adds a 10% charge for delivery. There’s also the matter of monthly fees. Grubhub offers a 30 day free trial, but isn’t transparent about what happens after that. You’ll have to contact them to work out that part of pricing. All-in-all, Grubhub’s an expensive choice. If you want to sign on for their wide reach and quality app, make sure your restaurant has the margins to support the partnership.
Costs: $299 setup (they provide one device), $35 monthly fee, 3.40% + $0.25 transaction fee, add up to $6.75 + $1 per mile for delivery (you may choose to offload to customers)
ChowNow takes a different approach, offering low transaction fees in exchange for high upfront and monthly costs. Setup costs $299, and will net you one device. After that it’s around $35 per month, with a modest fee of 3.40% + $0.25 per order. This puts ChowNow in the ballpark of services like Toast and Square, but with a food delivery app more on the level of Grubhub or DoorDash. Delivery fees are flat rather than percent-based: $6.75 + $1 per mile, with flexibility to offload some of that to the diner, as needed. If you don’t mind the money up front, and you like an app-forward approach, ChowNow could be the service for you.
Costs: $350 setup (they provide one device), contact them for info on monthly, transaction, and delivery fees
Uber Eats costs $350 to set up, which includes the cost of one provided device. The rest of their pricing is not transparent, so you’ll have to talk to one of their representatives to find out monthly, transaction, and delivery fees. Uber Eats is known to run a solid food delivery app, though, so if you’re shopping around between the other app-forward services, consider contacting them as well.
With our online ordering guide, getting started overview, and rundown of the options, we hope we’ve given you the tools to start up online ordering with confidence. If you’re still unsure, and want someone on your side during selection, signup, or setup, we can help with that, too. Talk to your Florida Food Service rep about online ordering, today.