7 Proven Tactics for Boosting Online Restaurant Orders

7 Proven Tactics for Boosting Online Restaurant Orders

Every restaurateur wants to boost sales. A great way to do that is with an effective online ordering system that is popular with customers. 

Everyone has their preferred way to order food from their favorite restaurants. Whether it’s online ordering, calling in, or mobile ordering, old habits are hard to break. But as we move into today's era of instant gratification, it is clear that restaurant online ordering has taken the industry by storm. It is only growing in popularity as time goes by.

Delivery sites are great for the consumer, but service charges can range anywhere from 12% - 30% per order by using third-party websites. Instead of losing money from third-party sites, you can save a lot of headaches -- and pocket a lot of money -- if you manage your own online ordering platform.

Online ordering can improve your restaurant’s operations by freeing staffers from taking call-in orders and allowing them to work with customers in the store. To maximize its efficiency, however, you will need to implement a plan to educate and incentivize customers to actually use your online ordering program.

Moving customers away from their preferred ordering habits may be a challenge, but driving your restaurant’s online ordering habits can be easier than you think. Some proven practices for promoting your online ordering program include:

1. Create & Maintain an Attractive Website

A recent blog entitled How Online Ordering Can Increase Check Size by 23% offers several good suggestions, the best of which is that you have to have an online ordering website that is “easy on the eyes.”

In other words, your site needs lots of photos and descriptions. Photos help to upsell products and provide a context to your menu. Using descriptions is extremely important for restaurants that have an international or detailed menu. Not every customer will know what a Gyro or Bento Box is, so it’s helpful to explain what your menu items include.

2. Use Printed Promotions

In-store messaging is a staple for promoting anything in your restaurant. Window displays, table tents, posters, and flyers help remind customers to try ordering online next time they order.

The most important part of posters and window displays is the placement. When putting up these promotional materials for your online ordering site, you need to think about the pattern of how customers enter your restaurant. Think about what the first thing customers will see when they approach your business or step inside. Both are good locations for posters, which can only be effective for those who see it.

If you expect your guests to dine in, remember that table tents are the oldest trick in the book for a reason. These can be an effective way to brand and promote your online ordering program. Print standalone brochures to sit atop countertops and tables where customers can do a bit of light reading.

Another good step is to include online ordering flyers or coupons in takeout bags. Incentivize these customers to order online next time by explaining that they’ll get faster service, guaranteed order accuracy, and - even better - a discount!

Add your website and online ordering information to all stamps, stickers, takeout menus, and pre-made takeout packaging to spread the word about your online options. You have to have these items, so you might as well get some free promotion out of them!

3. Replace Your Phone Number with a Website URL

It’s usually customary to include your phone number on things like takeout menus, pizza boxes, and website pages. But a better move may be to replace your phone number with your website URL. This will lower phone traffic and drive more customers to your website, which should translate into bigger profits.

4. Place Custom Messaging on Receipts

Whether you’re printing receipts or offering them to customers digitally, receipts are always an advertising opportunity. Customize the verbiage on your receipts to include a callout for your online ordering program. It’s a free and easy way to distribute the message to your customers.

5. Provide Promo Codes

Everyone likes discounts. Why not incentivize your guests to try your online ordering program by offering them a discount for their first online order? A one-time discount of just 10% could be enough to drive customers to your website rather than clogging up your phone lines. Use your online ordering app or the online ordering program integrated into your POS system to set up the promotional codes.

Pro Tip: Messaging is crucial when it comes to discounts. Rather than saying “Save $5 when you order online,” try “Get $5 off when you order online.” “Saving” is indicative of an inevitable loss, whereas “Get” implies obtaining value for free.

6. Utilize Social Media

Take advantage of the immediacy of social media. Use your Facebook and Twitter profiles to make it easy for customers to order online. Facebook even offers a “Shop Now” button that sits right at the top of your profile. Now that you've added promo codes to your tactics plan, try posting on Instagram or Facebook with a special discount for those who order online within the week. After the week is over, you can remove the post and turn off the promo code.

7. Customize Your On-Hold Phone Message

For customers who insist on calling in their orders, you can use your phone messages to promote online ordering! When your restaurant is loud and busy, it can be hard to take phone orders. If a customer is on hold, try replacing the hold music for a prompt that advertises online ordering.

Sample script for a hold message: Get immediate service without the annoying elevator music. Visit [Your Restaurant] .com to order online and skip the line.

Timing is everything. What better time to promote the efficiency of your online ordering program than when a customer is waiting on the phone? This way, instead of losing a customer because of a long wait over the phone, you'll direct them to where they can find faster service, making it easier on both you and your guests. The same approach can be applied to voicemail messages.

Sample script for a voicemail message:

Hi! You have reached “your business”. We can’t take your call right now, but you can skip the line and order online at our website, websitehere.com

Why an Online Ordering Program is Right for Your Restaurant

Wondering about the impact of online ordering? Here's a real-world story. A burger restaurant recently began stressing online orders and decreased its flow of phone calls by nearly 50% and improved its profit margin in the process. Previously, the restaurant had to dedicate a cashier and POS terminal just for phone orders during the lunch rush. It was dramatically impacting the in-store experience.

By maximizing the impact of an online ordering system, the owner realized a major impact on the business.