How Restaurants Can Take Advantage of Online Ordering & Delivery

Online Ordering

Internet users often joke about how much they hate to wear pants and revel about how much online shopping they can accomplish in their pajamas. As a restaurant owner, there is no concern whether these pajama-loving folks will make a reservation and show up without pants. But you'd better be worried about those pants-less people placing delivery orders.

You want to be first in line to receive those because the growing popularity of online ordering is not a fad. It's more of a market shift and it's not going away. As a restaurateur, you must figure out which dishes travel well. You want to showcase those items even if it means forfeiting some profits to these online food delivery companies. When it comes to online ordering, this is what you must realize:

If you’re not jumping on these restaurant industry trends and on these online food delivery platforms, you’re losing money.

With the emergence of third-party delivery companies, businesses like DoorDash and GrubHub make it easy for guests to order food -- yours or your competitor's -- all in one app. Some individuals have opened up delivery-only places, also known as "ghost restaurants." While popular, these online-only eating options are far from the industry standard.

Based on research done in 2016, the vast majority of Americans still prefer eating at brick-and-mortar facilities. In that calendar year, Americans spent $799 billion in restaurants, but only $3.5 billion of that total was in food delivery. Without question, the online-ordering option will continue to grow in today's marketplace. But today's wise restaurateur is the one versatile enough to appeal to both types of diners.

That requires some adjustments to a traditional restaurant business model. You must change both your mindset and your procedures. Here's a great example:

In a sit-down restaurant, a guest complaint or an error with the order can be assuaged by a visit to their table or a free dessert. With this possibility off the table for an online diner, you have to rely on your food getting there quickly and without glitches in the delivery process. Among online orderers, 79% of people are choosing to order specifically from places based on the quality of food.

In other words: If you cook it, they will come ... or they will have you come to them with a to-go order. If you have a passion for food, and a clear vision, nothing can get in your way in efforts to create loyal, returning customers.

But impediments exist. A notable concern is the percentage of profits that third-party delivery services take for you to host your menu on their app (often 30% or higher). A presence on their site will boost your business, but it is a double-edged sword.

While there are ways to make your customers comfortable with the delivery option, it is harder to adjust your bottom line when you aren’t profiting from any alcohol sales. With a delivery restaurant, people aren’t indulging in a few glasses of wine with their pasta dish or a couple of cold beers with their burger. That adds up quickly.

A good mix might be a traditional pizzeria. The majority of them are styled for take-out and delivery, with featured food that travels well and plays into their success. But if you go there for a sit-down meal, that option can provide your diners with a nice experience as well.