Today, a night in is becoming as popular as an evening out. According to SFGate.com, “Well over half of people under the age of 44 already use the Internet for takeout or delivery, and three-quarters of people between 18 and 34 said they are likely to use a smartphone to order food.”
Whereas people used to see restaurants as a destination for the evening, a night of Netflix binge-watching and some good take-out is now just as attractive. Thankfully, these diners aren’t limited to pizza and Chinese food anymore. Thanks to online ordering solutions, all restaurants are able to expand their customer base through takeout and delivery orders.
How Does Online Ordering Work on a Restaurant POS?
There are two ways to offer online ordering in your restaurant – through third-party sites or with an online ordering POS integration.
Third-Party Online Ordering Partners
Restaurants can offer online ordering through apps like GrubHub, Postmates, DoorDash, and more by having customers input their location. Once they submit their order your restaurant POS will accept it and process the payment entirely online, using your restaurant POS’s integrated payment processing.
Online Ordering POS Integration
A restaurant POS with an online ordering system built-in is designed to give you more control and save money on third-party fees (up to 30%). Since the entire system can be integrated, orders are sent to the kitchen in seconds, not minutes, improving turnaround time, better allocating kitchen prioritization, and delivering food to happier customers.
- Upserve OLO
- Open Dining Network
- Grubhub for Restaurants
4 Ways Restaurant Online Ordering Software Improve Business
1. Boost your reputation
Any way you can improve the dining experience is going to make you money. By eliminating the need to wait in line or having customers put on hold, you’ll improve your restaurant’s reputation with hungry customers.
Restaurant online ordering systems also allow customers to build their ideal meals without the pressure of a rushed and busy staff, and the benefit of choosing items in a more dynamic, visually appealing way than a paper menu ever could.
2. Generate more revenue
As customers watch their orders (and check totals) grow in real-time, it encourages them to buy more since they are more aware of how much food they can get before they hit their nightly budget. Those apps they declined in the restaurant? Chances are they’ll make their way onto an online order.
In addition to that, as we mentioned above, you’ll be saving those third-party app fees which can cost you anywhere from 15-30% per order.
3. Earn more business with loyalty rewards
When you connect your restaurant POS online ordering to an integrated loyalty rewards program, customers will have more an incentive to choose your restaurant over the nearby competition. If they have rewards waiting for them in their account or are this close to earning a new reward, that may be just the thing to tip the scales in your favor.
4. Leverage online ordering data for marketing
By taking the ordering process online, your POS can now gather key data about customer behavior. You can then leverage this information to help you automate and craft your marketing efforts through targeted ads, social media posts, and more.
Plus, with the convenience of saving “favorite” items and tracking repeat orders, your restaurant POS can help personalize your follow-up outreach. For example, if Bob buys a fajita platter every Friday night, your system will help you offer him enticing specials and deals that match his ordering preferences.
Download our Complete Guide to Online Ordering for more info.
5. More accurate orders lead to satisfied customers
Nothing is more frustrating than inaccurate orders. It upsets customers, delays the kitchen, and causes staff to bear the brunt of everyone’s anger. One of the benefits of an online ordering system is that it allows guests to enter every last detail themselves, eliminating most communication issues.
In the end, happy customers are repeat customers and online ordering gives them the power to experience your business with less waiting, less frustration, and a reduced risk of unfortunate error.
6. Free up your staff’s time for hospitality
Consider online ordering as a “domino effect” of benefits. By moving a good percentage of your takeout business to a restaurant online ordering system, your staff is no longer tied to the phone line. This allows them more time to focus on providing a high-quality experience to the guests dining in-house.
7. Free up your time with an integrated menu
When your online ordering system integrates with your restaurant POS, your menu lives in one place. Do when you make an update to your master menu it will within the POS and on your online ordering platform, saving you time going back and forth with third-party operators when changes or updates need to be made.
How to Take the Best Online Ordering Menu Photos for Your Restaurant
“Imagine ordering from Amazon with no pictures,” says Kenn Pluard, owner of Kenji’s Ramen & Grill in Vancouver, Washington, who saw a 10% increase in sales after implementing online ordering. “Having the actual photo will speak wonders and give the customer an idea of the food quality.” Pluard notes that even showcasing canned beverages, with the logos visible and recognizable, can help drive sales.
“Having a presentable photo of the actual food,” he says, “can give the customer an idea of the value and image of the restaurant,” he says. “In addition to the food items, I always wanted to sell other items relating to our restaurant, like shirts, hats, gift items and gift cards. This can open up a lot of opportunities to the small business who cannot afford a high-end website, and the fact that it is real-time is hugely beneficial.”
Whether you’re just getting your online ordering up and running, or you’re now realizing it might be time for an update, here are some tips to help showcase your dishes in their best light.
Hire a professional photographer
While there are costs associated with outsourcing your images, restaurant industry veterans like Pluard bank on that return on investment. Leah Plevrites, founder and lead designer of restaurant interior design and branding agency studioBIG, agrees. “A professional comes with the right equipment and the expertise to capture the subject in a way that conveys ambiance and entices customers,” she says.
William Haynes is a photographer who has worked with many restaurants to create images for menus, social media, and apps. “Hiring a professional photographer can save tons of time, and money if you keep having to make dishes over again. There are many of us who have studied and are trained to take the best images and can often do so much faster,” he says, noting however, “That shouldn’t stop restaurant owners from taking some control, as menus might change more often than they want to do full shoots.”
In that case, follow the steps below to achieve the best results.
Focus on lighting
Proper lighting is key, says Pluard, who also strives for consistency among his menu images.
“All shots should be shot at the same angle and lighting for a consistent look,” he says. “Using a lightbox may be helpful if your restaurant is dark.”
Bill Roberts, founder of vlogging resource website VloggerGear, agrees that lighting is an important element. “One of the best ways to capture great menu photos for a restaurant is to have great lighting,” he says. “This could be in the form of umbrella or LED light panels, which provide an almost shadowless light and makes the food stand out. When taking photos with natural or overhead lights, the lighting can be inconsistent throughout the menu and give sub-par results.” But don’t overlook the importance of (free) natural light streaming through your restaurant’s windows. Haynes notes that natural light can be a restaurant’s best friend.
“You absolutely must have good lighting to really see the food. While a portable studio light kit allows for complete control, a bright, open window can do wonders,” Haynes says. “I also recommend filling in the shadows. This can easily be done by using a piece of white poster or project board that bounces the sunlight back to the food when placed opposite the window.”
He also shares challenges associated with restaurants in general. “Many restaurants are dark or have lighting with a yellow tint,” Haynes says. “Watch the color of the light as well to avoid making the food look different. Daylight is often best.”
Compose the shot
Composition is all about how the food is framed within the picture, says Haynes, noting that a 45-degree angle looking down on the dish often works well, especially if you have access to a tripod.
When used appropriately, props can help give customers an accurate picture of what they should expect. “One thing customers hate is to see a big picture of a dish only to find that, in real life, it’s much smaller. When appropriate, add little things that help show the relative size of the dish: salt and pepper shakers, a side of sauce, chopsticks, a fork, etcetera,” says Haynes.
And don’t overlook the importance of backgrounds. “Many restaurant tables are glossy and will reflect light in a harsh way. You may have to reposition the camera closer to the main light source,” he says. “It might also be worth creating or using something under the dish, like a placemat. I stay away from silver and metallic since it is often the most reflective.”
Make dishes look appetizing
It may seem like a no-brainer, but make sure you’re producing images that look appealing. At I Heart Mac and Cheese, images are composed to make food look its most appetizing. “We take the images that really show what’s in the item,” says CEO and chairman Stephen Giordanella. “For example, instead of showing a grilled cheese, we open up the grilled cheese, show some of what’s inside falling out, and get shots of cheese being poured on top of it. Showing the image as a final product is beautiful, but showing the image as it’s being created is both creative and more interesting to see.”
Haynes suggests shooting the food right as it’s plated, as it would be served to guests. This way, hot food has natural steam, and cold desserts are still holding up.
“Position the food so it looks its best,” Haynes says. “This might mean opening the sandwich up a little or unwrapping a roll so we can see what’s inside. Stack things, move it around, and try different sides of the food to see what looks best.”