8 you need to know when choosing an online ordering platform solution

With COVID-19 greatly affecting our industry, we are forced now more than ever to sell more online for deliveries and takeout. To many, it is not a surprise what third-party food delivery apps like Uber Eats and Doodarsh are charging on commission while to some it has been a reason of disbelief. For those of you who are not familiar with these services already, they charge around 20% to 30% commission, on top of that they charge customers a delivery fee and sometimes even a service fee, which means they are making big bucks right now. That is very unfortunate for independent restaurant owners, who might already have low profit margins as it is. Now that we are forced to sell more deliveries and takeout in order to make it through the pandemic, we have these big companies charging us a hefty price to use their services. What if we can avoid these commissions? What if we can sell deliveries and takeout on our own? That is actually the best bet there is.

First of all, your own online ordering platform means you can get rid of these commissions. It also means you can control delivery prices and conditions. Lastly, you can keep your customer’s data, which is probably the most important thing. Keeping your customer’s names, email addresses, and phone numbers let you market to these customers in the future so that they may keep on returning to your website to buy food from you. “That sounds very techy, I am not sure I can pull it off and it probably costs a lot of money to get something like that done.” Not really, to be honest, some companies charge a couple of hundred dollars a month to put systems like these in place for you while some only charge the standard credit card processing rates most merchant service charge

So if some of these services are free and some cost a couple of hundred dollars a month, how do we know which is more suitable for us? Should we only pick based on price? No, I will show you things to look out for when picking an online ordering platform solution.

  1. A user-friendly platform: As you might have imagined, some of these online ordering platform solutions can be really “techy.” They can get very complicated and might require a professional to implement.  While this is the case for some solutions, it is not always the case. Some platform solutions have a very user-friendly backend that let’s restaurant owners easily change out menu items and make changes. If you’re just starting out with deliveries, this can be especially important since you might want to be making menu changes at first, and you might not want to invest thousands of dollars getting an expert to make these changes for you anytime you have one. In order to make sure the platform is user-friendly, ask for a demo before making a decision. Let a representative of their company show you how to system works from the restaurant owner’s side.

2. Branding: A lot of companies that offer these solutions love to show their brand, they want other restaurant owners to see that you use their service so that they can sell more. The truth is, as a restaurant owner you can care less and your customers even less. An online ordering platform should be able to have your branding on it, your logo, and your pictures. A lot of service providers also keep some part of their domain name on your restaurant’s online platform and redirect your users to another site. So when customers click on “order now” on your site, it might take them to another website and the website might be something like tatesbagelshop.food2go.com/order, if your restaurant’s name was Tate’s Bagel Shop. It’s better if you can choose your own domain name or use the one you already have,  if your customer’s can stay on your site, it’s even better.

3. Pictures: A lot of these cheaper online platforms solutions don’t let you add a picture for each menu item. If you’re trying to sell more online, this can be a challenge. People like seeing what they are going to eat. Have you heard the saying “Don’t eat with our eyes?”  We actually do the opposite, when food looks appetizing, we are more bound to crave it and order it. Users get a better experience when they can read the description of the dishes and see an actual picture.

4. Delivery service connectivity: The biggest downfall to having your own online ordering platform comes when you don’t have a delivery fleet. With closed dining rooms, we require a much smaller staff and perhaps some of them are interested in delivering to make some extra cash while the pandemic is going on. For those of you who don’t wish to do this, we can connect the online ordering system with delivery services like DoorDash or Postmates. “But aren’t we trying to get rid of their commissions?” Yes, we are, but these services only charge a commission when the food is ordered through their apps. You can hire a Doordash driver or Postmate driver to do the delivery for you and have the customer pay the delivery fee while you still get to get it rid of the commission they charge. In order to ensure you can do this, ask the online ordering platform provider if they have public APIs that allow for their system to connect with others. If the case is so, then your online ordering system can connect with these services and automatically request drivers when an order comes in through your website.

5. Pricing: Yes I know, I said pricing isn’t the only factor but it is still obviously an important factor. While some of these platform providers charge a flat monthly fee, others charge a percentage of the sale or both. We are trying to get rid of the commissions of third-party apps in the first place so an order percentage is not always what is mostly recommended. Order percentages can some up to equal a lot of money that comes out of your profits. Calculate how many delivery orders you usually sell and what price you might end up paying, it might be better to pay a flat monthly fee and a setup fee if there’s any. which can hurt your business. Make sure customers have plenty of options when it comes to credit cards and that it is secure with some form of encryption.

6. User payment options: Sounds pretty logical but it isn’t. Make sure your customers get plenty of payment options. If the system connects with your merchant service, it’s even better. A lot of these cheaper solution providers might just offer payments through PayPal or similar services, which can hurt your business. Make sure customers have plenty of options when it comes to credit cards and that it is secure with some form of encryption.

7. Data: This is a very important factor and it can be easily overlooked. When a customer places an order through your website’s platform, more than likely he or she will have to put in their name and email, and if not, it is important that they do so. Putting in their name and contact information not only helps prevent complications with the order but it also lets you market to them in the future. Email addresses allow you to send them offers and invite them to order from you again. This is where the real money is and if you are not marketing to your past and existing customers, you are losing out on a lot of profit. Make sure the online ordering platform you get lets you export customer data to a .csv file or spreadsheet. Also, make sure that it provides data with reports so that you can make business decisions on factual data, not just assumptions.

8. Workflow: When a new order comes in, you need to understand the workflow it goes through in order to make sure that the order is dispatched and received by the customer as fast as possible. For that, you need to know what happens when a new order is placed. How is the kitchen staff notified? If you get an email, that might not be so reliable. The good option is if you can have a tablet to accept orders and make sure that the tablet plays a sound whenever an order comes in. If it connects to a Bluetooth printer, even better because it can print the order right away and have the kitchen staff pick it up. What is even better is if the platform connects with your POS system like Square or Clover for everything to be channeled through one system.

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