It's a simple fact of business today that restaurants need websites and online ordering platforms for both web and mobile customers. While going to a restaurant for that luxurious seated experience is still an undeniably popular pastime and solution for dates and business meetings as evidenced by packed parking lots every weekend evening, ordering food is also becoming more and more common for people who don't want to cook for themselves or for group social events where no one will cook and everyone is hungry. Modern customers who aren't planning on a special dining experience are still very likely to flip open their phones at home, work, or out with friends to see what can be ordered quickly and easily. This means that restaurants without an online presence and no way for even repeat customers to order without a paper menu and a phone call are losing business.
Those restaurants missing out shouldn't have to be you, but you probably also don't want to pay the 10-30% commission fees for the current popular online ordering apps that 'courteously' add you to their marketplace, provide a 'free' website, and then take a chunk out of every sale you make. The reasonable solution is to back away from the commission marketplaces and build your own online presence with affordable one-time-fee ordering software.
Whether you pay a programmer to make you a custom app or find the perfect solution out-of-the-box, it helps to know what you're really looking for in an online ordering app or platform. Here are the top six features that your customers expect and you absolutely have to have.
1) Interactive Menu with Easy Navigation
Online menus are great but they come in a lot of different shapes, sizes, and software designs. Many of the first online menus were static graphics, some were even simple graphic scans of the menus given to customers at tables but times have changed. Modern customers are used to eCommerce and mobile shopping, meaning they expect to tap on each menu item and have it automatically add itself to their order. This is known as an interactive menu, as in a menu that responds directly to the actions and choices of your customers. Some of the best interactive menus include order customisation like the build-your-own-pizza features in popular pizza chain apps.
The second most important thing about your menu is that it needs to be easy to navigate, In most cases, and especially in UI designed for small phone screens, it will be impossible to show your entire menu at once. Instead, consider organising it into easy-to-browse categories so your customers can always find what they're looking for.
2) Special Instructions
Everyone's taste buds are different which results in each of us having our own special preferences for food. While often a dish is perfect exactly the way your chef usually prepares it, you must always be ready to account for food allergies, veganism, substitutions, special cooking instructions, and just plain picky people who don't want their potatoes to touch their peas.
You wouldn't hesitate to take these special instructions for guests inside your restaurant, so make sure that customers ordering online can give (and be granted) their special requests as well, ideally with a small text box for the whole order or each dish. Sauce on the side, no onions, these are incredibly important to some people and if you're willing to fulfill special requests, you will get customers where other less flexible restaurants lose them.
3) Credit Card Payment Options
Credit card options for online ordering is an absolute must. One of the most annoying things about some incomplete online ordering platforms is the bizarre necessity to pay on pickup or at the door when delivery arrives. Your customers want the entire exchange sorted out by the time their order is confirmed.
Never settle for an online ordering platform that doesn't take Debit, Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal. These are the big payment options and if possible, aim for an even greater variety of payment options for your customers. The easier you make it to pay, the more smoothly each checkout process will go which will mean fewer incompleted orders and more people flocking to your online ordering because you take their favorite form of payment.
4) Making Reservations
If your restaurant offers reservations or if you'd be happy to make on if asked, your online ordering platform should also make it possible for customers to book a table in your venue. This is a great way to convert online mobile customers into dine-in guests because it takes all the uncertainty and the usual hassle from visiting your restaurant on a busy evening. Simply by booking as little as 45 minutes ahead of time, they can ensure that there will be a table waiting for them on arrival with no wait, no buzzing coaster, and not even talking to anyone on the phone to book the table. You might even see a significant jump in dine-in customers as online browsers realize the possibilities of quick mobile table booking.
5) Mobile Integration
Online ordering may sound like it's a pure website feature but everything today is and should also be a mobile app. Mobile ordering allows customers to make orders and have food delivered no matter where they happen to be at the moment, whether it's at home, at the office, or hanging out in a public park. Even people at home or sitting next to a computer are, at this point, accustomed to whipping out their phones to order food and as long as your online platform has a mobile component, they'll be able to order from you.
Mobile integration needs to be smooth, configured for all possible screen sizes, and fully integrated with your online platform so that all the features are consistent between the two. This means an interactive touch menu, online card payments, and delivery tracking.
6) User Accounts and Personalisation
Finally, all of the best online ordering platforms for restaurants allow customers to make their own accounts and create some amount of personalisation. Tracking orders, saving favorite combinations for a quick re-order, and having their payment information remembered to avoid constant number punching are all highly appreciated features to have for your user accounts. Ideally, you want to make your return customers feel like restaurant regulars with their favorite meals, payment options, delivery address, and special instructions remembered every time they log in.
Building a great online ordering app is hard work and paying a developer to make you one with all the right features working correctly together is more of an investment than you might think. Fortunately, there's already a commission-free way to get your restaurant hooked up with smooth online and mobile ordering for your customers without paying through the nose for every online sale. Here at Takeaway Solutions, we've dedicated ourselves to providing an online ordering platform that is exactly what a modern restaurant needs, all the right features and zero commission fees. For more information about the Takeaway Solutions online ordering platform, contact us today!