In today’s fast-paced society, it can be difficult to find time to “go out to eat”. More and more, the line between work and meal times is blurred, and we’re finding that it can just be easier to multi-task and have our meals while we’re doing other things. Because of this, an online ordering system has become absolutely essential to keeping a restaurant business alive and thriving.
In this article, we’ll go into the ins and outs of online ordering systems: what they are, how to choose one, and examples of the best online ordering systems on the market today.
What is an Online Ordering System? What They Are, and What They Do
In today’s digital age, online ordering systems have revolutionized the way restaurants manage takeout and delivery orders. An online ordering system is a technology-driven solution that allows customers to place food orders from a restaurant through a website or mobile app. These systems provide a convenient and streamlined process for customers to select their desired items, customize their orders, and make payments online.
Here are some of the key functions of an online ordering system:
Menu Display and Customization
Online ordering systems showcase the restaurant’s menu in a user-friendly format, allowing customers to browse through the available dishes, view descriptions, and choose their desired items. Customers can often customize their orders by selecting options such as toppings, sauces, or sides, ensuring that they receive their preferred meal configuration.
Order Placement and Management
Customers can easily add items to their virtual shopping cart and proceed to the checkout process. Online ordering systems provide a smooth and efficient order placement experience, where customers can review their selections, specify any special instructions, and choose pickup or delivery options. The system captures all necessary details, such as the customer’s contact information, delivery address, or desired pickup time.
Integration with Payment Gateways
To facilitate secure online transactions, online ordering systems typically integrate with various payment gateways, allowing customers to make payments using credit cards, digital wallets, or other preferred payment methods. By offering a seamless and secure payment process, these systems enhance customer trust and convenience.
Real-Time Order Tracking
Many online ordering systems incorporate real-time order tracking capabilities. Customers can receive updates on the status of their orders, from confirmation to preparation, and even delivery or pickup notifications. This feature provides transparency and keeps customers informed about the progress of their orders, reducing uncertainties and improving overall customer satisfaction.
Integration with POS and Kitchen Systems
To streamline operations and ensure efficient order processing, online ordering systems often integrate with a restaurant’s point-of-sale (POS) system and kitchen management software. This integration enables automatic order transmission from the online platform to the restaurant’s kitchen, reducing the chances of errors or delays in order processing. It also allows for real-time inventory management, ensuring accurate tracking of available items and preventing overselling.
Customer Data and Analytics
Online ordering systems capture valuable customer data, including order history, preferences, and contact information. This data can be leveraged to understand customer behavior, tailor marketing campaigns, and personalize the customer experience. By analyzing ordering patterns and customer feedback, restaurants can make informed decisions, optimize menu offerings, and implement targeted promotions.
The Benefits of Utilizing an Online Ordering System
Having an online ordering system can bring a whole menu of benefits to restaurants, especially in today’s digital age where consumers increasingly prefer the convenience of ordering food online. Here are some advantages of implementing an online ordering system for restaurants.
Increased Efficiency and Revenue
Implementing an online ordering system can significantly enhance a restaurant’s operational efficiency. By reducing phone orders and manual entry, restaurant staff can focus more on food preparation and customer service. Additionally, online ordering systems enable restaurants to cater to a larger customer base, including busy individuals who prefer the convenience of ordering from their computers or mobile devices. This expanded reach can lead to increased revenue and customer loyalty.
Enhanced Customer Experience
Online ordering systems offer a convenient and hassle-free experience for customers. They can browse menus, place orders, and make payments at their own pace, eliminating the need to wait on hold or in lines. Customers can also save their favorite orders for quick reordering and enjoy the flexibility of choosing delivery or pickup options that best suit their preferences.
Online ordering systems can also be integrated with customer loyalty programs, which can save them money, provide added bonuses, and help make the decision of where to eat easier than ever.
A Big Upgrade Over Phone Ordering
Before online ordering, take-out and delivery orders were generally placed on the phone, which was more error-prone and led to added costs and less ideal customer experiences. Now, customers can be sure that their order will be received exactly as it was given, cutting down on errors and the costs associated with them.
In addition, and perhaps even more importantly, online ordering systems allow restaurants to better track data associated with take out and delivery orders, which helps them make better business decisions, forecast inventory needs, schedule employees appropriately, and more.
Overall, implementing an online ordering system can significantly improve a restaurant’s operational efficiency, customer satisfaction, and profitability in the digital era.
Factors for Choosing the Right Online Ordering System
Selecting the right online ordering system for your restaurant is crucial for ensuring a seamless and efficient customer experience. While online ordering systems provide an easy experience for your customers, there’s a lot more to consider when choosing the right system for your food service business. Here are some of the most important areas and details to consider when researching online ordering systems for your business.
When choosing an online ordering system for your restaurant, it is crucial to consider hardware compatibility to ensure a smooth and efficient order processing experience.
Point-of-Sale System Integration
Evaluate whether the online ordering system can seamlessly integrate with your existing POS system. Compatibility allows for automatic order transmission from the online platform to the POS, reducing manual data entry and the risk of errors. This integration ensures that online orders flow seamlessly into your existing order management process.
Kitchen Display Systems (KDS)
If your restaurant utilizes KDS screens to display orders in the kitchen, ensure that the online ordering system can integrate with your KDS software. This integration enables real-time order updates on the kitchen screens, improving order accuracy and expediting order preparation.
Printers and Receipts
Consider the compatibility of the online ordering system with your receipt printers. Ensure that the system can generate receipts with all necessary order details, such as itemized pricing, special instructions, and customer details. Compatibility with different printer models and the ability to customize receipt layouts are important factors to consider.
Many restaurants now use tablets or smartphones as dedicated devices for online ordering. If you plan to use mobile devices for order management, ensure that the online ordering system is compatible with your preferred operating system (iOS, Android, etc.) and supports responsive design for optimal display and usability on smaller screens.
Compatibility with your preferred payment processors is crucial. Ensure that the online ordering system can integrate with your existing payment gateway or processors to facilitate seamless and secure payment transactions. This compatibility ensures a smooth checkout process for customers and simplifies the reconciliation of online orders with your financial systems.
Digital Signage and Self-Service Kiosks
If your restaurant utilizes digital signage or self-service kiosks for order placement, verify if the online ordering system can integrate with these devices. Compatibility ensures that orders placed through digital signage or kiosks are seamlessly integrated into your order management process, reducing manual intervention.
Internal Software Integration
Integration between your online ordering system and internal software streamlines operations, improves efficiency, and ensures a seamless flow of information.
Kitchen Management Software
If your restaurant utilizes kitchen management software to streamline order preparation and communication in the kitchen, check if the online ordering system can integrate with it. Integration with kitchen management software allows for real-time order updates, order prioritization, and improved communication between the front-of-house and back-of-house teams. This integration enhances order accuracy, reduces preparation time, and improves overall kitchen efficiency.
Consider whether the online ordering system integrates with your inventory management software. Integration allows for real-time inventory updates, automatic stock deduction when an order is placed, and better control over ingredient availability. This ensures that online orders can be fulfilled without inventory discrepancies, reducing the risk of overselling or running out of popular items.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Integration with CRM software enables the capture and management of customer data, allowing you to build and nurture customer relationships. Look for an online ordering system that can sync customer information, such as contact details, order history, and preferences, with your CRM platform. This integration helps personalize the customer experience, track customer loyalty, and enable targeted marketing campaigns.
Accounting and Financial Systems
Integration with your accounting and financial software ensures a seamless flow of data related to online orders, sales, and revenue. This integration simplifies financial reporting, reconciliation, and streamlines the financial management of your online ordering operations. It also reduces the need for manual data entry and minimizes the risk of errors.
Delivery Service Integration
If your restaurant offers food delivery services or collaborates with third-party delivery platforms, choose an online ordering system that seamlessly integrates with these services. Integration with popular delivery aggregators or your in-house delivery fleet management software allows for streamlined order processing, delivery tracking, and communication. This integration enhances operational efficiency and ensures a smooth customer experience.
Assess the essential features that an online ordering system offers. Look for features such as menu customization, special instructions, order modifiers, upselling options, and promotional capabilities. Here are some key features to look for:
The online ordering system should allow you to create and customize your menu easily. You should be able to add, remove, or update menu items, descriptions, pricing, and options as needed. The ability to showcase appealing food imagery can also be a valuable feature, enticing customers to explore and place orders.
Customers appreciate the ability to customize their orders based on their preferences and dietary restrictions. Look for an online ordering system that supports order customization options, such as modifiers, special requests, and add-ons. This feature ensures that customers can personalize their orders, leading to higher customer satisfaction.
Multiple Ordering Channels
A robust online ordering system should provide flexibility in how customers can place orders. It should support various ordering channels such as website ordering, mobile apps, and even integration with third-party delivery platforms. Offering multiple ordering channels expands your reach and convenience for customers, allowing them to order from their preferred platform.
Online Payment Processing
Seamless and secure online payment processing is a vital feature for any online ordering system. Ensure that the system supports popular payment methods and provides a secure checkout process, including encryption and PCI compliance. This feature streamlines the payment process, reduces friction for customers, and enhances overall transaction security.
Order Management and Notifications
Efficient order management tools are essential for handling incoming orders and ensuring smooth operations. The system should provide real-time order notifications to both the customer and your restaurant staff, enabling timely preparation and delivery. Look for features such as automated order printing, order routing, and notifications via email or SMS.
Delivery and Pickup Options
If your restaurant offers delivery or pickup services, ensure that the online ordering system has robust features to support these options. It should allow customers to select their preferred delivery time or pickup slot, specify delivery addresses, and calculate accurate delivery fees based on distance. Integration with third-party delivery services can also streamline the process.
Order History and Reordering
Make sure the system provides customers with access to their order history, making it easy for them to reorder their favorite items. This feature enhances convenience and encourages repeat orders, fostering customer loyalty.
Review your budgetary constraints when selecting an online ordering system. Evaluate the pricing models offered by different providers, such as flat monthly fees, per-order charges, or commission-based pricing. Take into account any additional fees, such as setup fees, transaction fees, or ongoing maintenance costs. Balancing the cost with the system’s features and benefits is essential to ensure a sustainable investment.
Analytics and Reporting
Robust analytics and reporting capabilities are crucial for understanding customer behavior, identifying trends, and making data-driven decisions. When choosing the right online ordering system for your restaurant, you’ll want to make sure you’re also enabling an upgrade of your reporting and data gathering capabilities.
Order and Sales Analytics
A robust analytics module should provide detailed information about your orders and sales. It should offer metrics such as order volume, average order value, popular items, and peak ordering hours. These insights help you identify sales trends, understand customer preferences, and make data-driven decisions to improve your menu offerings and marketing strategies.
Analyzing customer data is essential for building customer profiles and understanding their preferences. Look for an online ordering system that provides insights into customer demographics, order history, and order frequency. This data enables you to segment your customer base, personalize marketing campaigns, and enhance customer retention strategies.
The online ordering system’s analytics should offer key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess your business’s overall performance. These metrics may include conversion rates, order fulfillment times, customer satisfaction ratings, and revenue growth. Monitoring performance metrics helps you identify areas for improvement, optimize operational efficiency, and measure the success of your online ordering system.
Analytics can provide valuable insights into the performance of your menu items. It can reveal which items are popular, which ones have low sales, and which ones have high profitability. This information allows you to make data-driven decisions regarding menu pricing, promotions, and item placement, optimizing your menu for maximum profitability and customer satisfaction.
Marketing and Promotion Effectiveness
With the help of analytics, you can measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and promotions related to your online ordering system. You can track the impact of specific promotions, discount codes, or loyalty programs on customer engagement, order frequency, and average order value. This information helps you fine-tune your marketing strategies to drive better results.
Platform and Channel Analytics
If you offer online ordering through multiple platforms or channels, analytics can provide insights into their individual performances. You can compare the performance of your website, mobile app, and third-party delivery platforms. This analysis helps you identify which channels drive the most orders, which ones have higher customer engagement, and which ones require optimization.
Timely insights are critical for making informed decisions. Look for an online ordering system that offers real-time analytics and reporting. This allows you to monitor your online ordering system’s performance in real-time, identify issues, and take immediate action to optimize your operations and customer experience.
The ability to generate customized reports based on your specific requirements is a valuable feature. Look for an online ordering system that allows you to create and schedule reports, focusing on the metrics and data points that are most important to your business. Customizable reports enable you to extract the information you need to assess performance, track goals, and share insights with stakeholders.
Platform Support and Maintenance
Consider the level of technical support and maintenance provided by the online ordering system provider. Ensure they offer reliable customer support channels, such as phone, email, or live chat, to address any issues promptly. Look for providers who offer regular system updates, bug fixes, and security enhancements to keep your online ordering system running smoothly and protect customer data.
By evaluating these factors, you can select the right online ordering system that aligns with your restaurant’s needs, budget, and future growth plans. A well-chosen system will integrate seamlessly, enhance operational efficiency, improve customer satisfaction, and contribute to the overall success of your restaurant.
Top Online Ordering Systems for Restaurants
When it comes to choosing the right online ordering system for your restaurant, there are several reliable and feature-rich options available. Here are some of the top online ordering systems in the market:
Toast is a popular restaurant management platform that offers a comprehensive online ordering system. It provides a user-friendly interface, seamless integration with the POS system, and various customization options. Toast’s online ordering system also offers features like real-time menu management, order tracking, and loyalty program integration.
ChowNow is known for its user-friendly online ordering platform that focuses on empowering independent restaurants. It provides customizable and branded online ordering experiences for customers, along with features like integration with popular POS systems, commission-free pricing models, and customer database management.
Square Online Ordering
Square Online is a versatile platform that offers an easy-to-use online ordering system for restaurants. With Square Online Ordering, you can create a custom online store, manage orders, and accept payments seamlessly. It integrates well with other Square products, such as the Square POS system, making it a convenient choice for businesses already using Square’s ecosystem.
Olo is a leading online ordering platform that specializes in providing scalable solutions for multi-location restaurants. It offers robust features like menu management, order fulfillment, and delivery integration. Olo also provides integrations with various POS systems, loyalty programs, and third-party delivery platforms.
Upserve offers a comprehensive suite of restaurant management tools, including an online ordering system. Its online ordering platform seamlessly integrates with Upserve’s POS system, allowing for real-time menu updates, order management, and delivery tracking. Upserve also provides powerful analytics and reporting features to help restaurants monitor performance and make data-driven decisions.
Open Dining is a flexible online ordering system that caters to restaurants of all sizes. It provides customizable online menus, order management, and integration with popular POS systems. Open Dining also offers additional features like loyalty programs, email marketing, and customer analytics to help restaurants enhance their online ordering operations.
DoorDash Drive is an online ordering and delivery platform that allows restaurants to offer their own delivery services. It provides a white-label solution that integrates seamlessly with restaurant websites and POS systems. DoorDash Drive offers features like real-time order tracking, driver assignment, and delivery analytics.
Grubhub for Restaurants
Grubhub is a well-known online food delivery platform that also offers a dedicated online ordering system for restaurants. It provides an easy-to-use interface for customers to place orders, while offering features like order management, integration with POS systems, and delivery tracking. Grubhub for Restaurants also includes marketing tools and analytics to help restaurants drive customer engagement and growth.
These are just a few examples of the top online ordering systems available for restaurants. Each system has its own set of features, pricing models, and integrations, so it’s important to evaluate your restaurant’s specific needs and requirements before making a decision. Consider factors such as ease of use, compatibility with your existing systems, customization options, and support services to find the online ordering system that best suits your restaurant’s operations and goals.
Your Online Ordering System Works Best with a Quality Restaurant Management Software
Utilizing online ordering systems is a great way to improve the experience of your customers, and your profits. But launching an online ordering system can present new challenges to your restaurant operations, analytics, and inventory system. In order to seamlessly integrate online ordering systems into your restaurant business, it’s essential to have a world-class restaurant management system in place that can cover all the bases and keep things running smoothly.
A quality restaurant management software must create a comprehensive solution for efficiently running and managing every aspect of your restaurant business, across every location. By integrating your online ordering system with a proven and efficient restaurant management software like SynergySuite, you’ll be able to integrate your online business seamlessly, and place your restaurant business in a prime position to maximize your profits and reach new heights.
To learn more about how SynergySuite can help you manage every aspect of your restaurant operation, request a demo today.
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