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Getting Your Customers to Order Online

By David Litchman

Now more than ever, restaurant patrons want to have the ability to place orders online. Smart operators recognize this and many have enabled their website to take online orders. In so doing, they see less mistakes, higher average tickets and lower labor costs. In addition online ordering enables a restaurant to easily acquire their customer's email address for future marketing purposes.

Once a restaurant's website is accepting online orders, the next step is driving customer traffic to it for ordering. Doing nothing, will mean traffic will be slow to build. However, with a little effort, restaurant's can convert many of their customer's to the ordering platform. Below is a serious of tips that can help make this happen:

  • Choose a well rated online ordering partner. Investigate and see who they work with, how long they have been in business and what their product can do. Don't be driven by price because not all systems are the same. Look for one that has tools that allow for menu management, couponing, feedback, etc. It is important to choose a processor that is reliable and experienced, not one that just has a low cost.

  • Execute well. Even if the online ordering works well, if the order is made wrong or late, the restaurant customer will associate the poor experience with the online ordering. If this happens, the customer will be less likely to order online again.

  • "Order Online" at must be largely displayed on the menu and any printed materials. Flyers and stickers also work well.

  • Give customers a reason to order from the website. For example, perks such as 10% off the first online order or a $5 loyalty coupon for every 10th order could easily be programmed into most systems.

  • Make sure the online ordering system allows for customers to leave feedback and can send ecoupons. By being able to hear from customers who have had poor experiences, restaurant managers need to easily be able to respond with an ecoupon (again, driving customers online).

  • Make sure search engine listings are correct. Google offers a free local listing. Additionally, some keyword advertising can help ensure the restaurant website comes up when customers search online.

  • If a phone message is being used at the restaurant, this message is a great place to let customers know they can now order online.

Many operators still don't recognize the value of online ordering. However, once they get their first few online orders, they begin to reap all the benefits. Customers are spending more money, the staff is making fewer mistakes and, employees are off the phone doing other tasks and the restaurants' website is now producing tangible sales. With a strong provider, proper marketing and good execution, owners are finding that having customers order directly from the restaurant's website is just good business.

David Litchman is owner of Pocket's - which has 10+ locations in the Chicago area. David is also the owner of iMenu360, an online ordering website system for restaurants.

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