5 Things We’ve Learned About Online Ordering

by Ben Gaddis

Most forward-thinking restaurants in the QSR and casual dining space are eager to add online ordering to their operations. To do that successfully, there are some key things operators need to know. At T3, we’ve been working with some of the largest brands in the space to help them build and manage amazing online experiences. Here are 5 things we’ve learned about online ordering after working with the best in the business.

1. Every brand is personal, so the user experience should be as well.
Engineering an online ordering and loyalty tool is one thing. Making it delightful to use for customers is another thing. Every brand has its own personality, and online ordering should accentuate a brand’s best qualities. We allow customers to see recommendations based on past orders and provide the ability to “favorite” dishes to make the next order easier. We also use countdown clocks and visual delivery tracking so that customers follow their orders all the way to their tables.

In short, we ensure that the digital experience accentuates the brand in the best way possible. And that extends to how the brand is presented online. For example, one company we work with—a fast-growing burger chain—wanted to position their food as “burgers with attitude,” so we added a Spotify playlist to put customers in the right frame of mind to match with the brand. Another client wanted to give its customers some very detailed options in the ordering process. They sell desserts and have dozens of selections for toppings, decorations, and packaging. We allow brands the freedom to translate the integrity of their brand to the online ordering process.

2. Context shows you care. It also boosts sales.
Our work with online ordering and loyalty has revealed that context matters. Showing menu recommendations based on the weather or the time of day, for example, is a small detail that makes a big impact. Let’s say a customer opens the mobile online ordering app at 8am in March and the weather is cold and rainy. We should recommend a hot cup of coffee instead of an iced latte. In short, the menu in an online ordering solution should adapt based on things like weather, time and location.

And context is more than just a nice feature; it’s a business driver. For one of our largest clients—a franchise group with 8,000+ units—we increased conversion rates by 20-40% by adding two variables like time and weather.

3. Loyalty and ordering should be one experience.
Today, loyalty is just as important as convenience, but the majority of programs on the market force people to navigate between two different apps or websites to get what they want. We’ve seen that integrating loyalty into the order flow is a much more delightful and business-driving experience. Our Restaurant Accelerator helps to do that. Customers who can see in real time how they’re being rewarded for their patronage are more likely to be happy with their experience. And happy customers are return customers, which can boost the bottom line.

For example, after creating a loyalty platform for one of the largest QSRs in the space, we noticed significant increases in several key areas of the business. This restaurant had a 33% boost in net sales and a 10% increase in store visits. They also saw a 16% conversion rate. And all these results are from just one quarter.

4. People order in different ways. Let them.
You’d be surprised at all the different ways people like to order food. We were. One customer may want to order dinner in the morning and pick it up after work. Another may need the food delivered. Some customers want to eat alone and others want to order for 10 of their closest friends or colleagues. And then split the check. Once we found out all the ordering possibilities, we made sure the accelerator could handle all of them.

Customers can order from a restaurant with multiple locations and pick up their food at a convenient location. They can schedule ahead of time, checkout with a mobile payment system, and then track the time the order will be ready. They can even invite friends at the office to order as a group, and get food delivered. A notification lets customers know when their food arrives.

And the best thing about it is that the accelerator will save a customer’s preferences so they don’t have to add them in each time they order online.

5. Food delivery is a critical part of online ordering. Don’t give it away.
As delivery takes on a much more prominent role in the QSR and casual dining space, many brands are feeling the pressure to join up with Uber Eats, Postmates, or Favor. Our advice: Do it carefully. You don’t want to give away your customer relationships, data, or profits (sometimes, the third-party delivery services take 30% of your guest check). Rather, try to own as much of the ordering experience as possible. If you do partner with Uber Eats or others, make sure it’s not your only strategy by planning for your own delivery future.  

We understand the challenge brands face as they consider delivery. It is, after all, an entirely new element of the operation. That’s why we’ve partnered with Olo (our online ordering partner) to offer clients a customized delivery solution through Olo Dispatch. This solution gives our clients ownership of the entire customer journey from ordering to delivery. It provides full transparency so that the client owns both the relationship and the data. It’s also a much more cost-effective way to add a critical element to online ordering.

At T3, we believe that happy customers are return customers, and return customers boost the bottom line. That’s why we try to make it easy for our restaurant clients to make their customers happy.

Ben Gaddis

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