The Ultimate Survival Tool: How Food Online Ordering Systems Empower Restaurants in Challenging Times

In March 2020, Arnaud's Restaurant, a venerable 102-year-old New Orleans French fine-dining establishment, faced a daunting challenge. The sudden halt of dine-in services led to the heartbreaking decision of laying off hundreds of dedicated employees. However, determined to weather the storm and preserve their cherished legacy, Arnaud's swiftly pivoted to a delivery-only model, offering a condensed menu complemented by discounted wines. Fast forward to 2023, and Arnaud's has triumphantly reclaimed its rightful place by resuming full operations both online and offline. Looking back, it becomes evident that what saved this iconic restaurant was not only its rich history but also its remarkable resilience and the unwavering commitment to adapt to new ways of doing business.

In the face of unprecedented challenges such as the global pandemic and economic recessions, the restaurant industry has proven its resilience and ability to adapt. Amidst these adversities, one powerful tool has emerged as the ultimate survival tool for restaurants: food online ordering systems. These robust platforms have not only helped restaurants stay afloat during turbulent times but have also empowered them to navigate the changing landscape with agility and innovation.

An analysis by New York Times of data from Earnest Research, which tracked credit card and debit card purchases of nearly six million people in the United States shows that while customer spending on fine-dining, fast-casual and fast-food dine-ins have plummeted, food delivery services have seen an increase of up to 50%.

One critical lesson that the restaurant industry has leant from the current series of crisis is that having an online ordering system in place is no more about having an auxiliary sales channel but a vital necessity.

In this article, we help you identify all the advantages of having an food online ordering system for your restaurant, followed by top tips when choosing a reliable online ordering platform.

What are the benefits of food online ordering restaurants?

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, online ordering was already positioned as the fastest-growing segment within the restaurant industry, with projections of reaching a staggering $200 billion by 2025. However, the current landscape has propelled online ordering into the mainstream, transforming it into a critical source of revenue for restaurants. The capability to accept direct online orders has become a lifeline, allowing restaurants to navigate the adversities and maintain their operations. Beyond the well-known advantages of boosting sales and enhancing brand value, online ordering services offer a plethora of additional and unforeseen benefits. Let's delve into some of these remarkable advantages that can revolutionize the way your restaurant operates, both during challenging times and beyond.

Psychological connection

During challenging times, the ability of restaurants to deliver food to customers serves as a powerful conduit for connection. When faced with adversity, customers greatly appreciate the convenience and reliability of receiving their favorite meals right at their doorstep. Speaking to National Post, Kerry Bowman, professor of bioethics and global health at the University of Toronto said that with food delivery apps meeting the needs of a lot of people can have positive psychological effects. This seamless service not only meets their immediate needs but also establishes a sense of trust and dependability. As a result, customers develop a stronger emotional bond with the restaurant, leading to increased loyalty and respect for the brand.

Moreover, the act of delivering food in difficult times fosters a deeper connection between the restaurant and its customers. It creates a shared experience of overcoming adversity and finding comfort in the familiar tastes and flavors that the restaurant provides. This shared experience creates a sense of camaraderie and strengthens the emotional bond between the customers and the brand.

👉 More on staying connected with customers during challenging times here.

First mover advantage

The ability of restaurants to serve customers both online and offline during challenging times grants them a significant first-mover advantage in the ever-evolving landscape of the industry. Traditionally, the shift from in-restaurant dining to online delivery was anticipated to occur gradually over the span of 10 to 15 years. However, the ongoing crises have accelerated this transformation, prompting restaurants to rapidly adapt to the changing dynamics.

By being proactive and embracing the digital realm, restaurants position themselves at the forefront of innovation and customer convenience. While some establishments may have initially viewed the shift with apprehension, visionary leaders like David Chang of Manhattan's Momofuku Noodle Bar recognize the importance of seizing the opportunity. Their willingness to adapt swiftly has allowed them to gain a competitive edge and captivate a broader customer base.

Restaurants that successfully establish a strong online presence and seamlessly integrate online ordering and delivery systems alongside their traditional in-restaurant dining options open up avenues for growth and increased revenue streams. This diversified approach enables them to cater to the evolving preferences and behaviors of their customers. Whether customers choose to dine in or opt for the convenience of online delivery, these restaurants can cater to both preferences, ensuring that no potential sales or customer interactions are lost.

Seamless transition to newer technologies

As the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres rightly pointed out, the future of the restaurant industry is poised to undergo a profound digital transformation. This shift towards digitization not only includes the adoption of food online ordering systems but also opens doors to the integration of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). As restaurants embrace these innovative solutions, those that have already implemented food online ordering systems will enjoy a significant advantage and smoother transition.

👉 Read More: Why Should You Invest In AI For Your Restaurant?

By being early adopters of food online ordering systems, restaurants can gain invaluable experience in navigating the digital landscape. They develop a solid understanding of the necessary infrastructure, operational processes, and customer expectations related to online services. This familiarity gives them a head start when it comes to seamlessly transitioning to newer technologies.

Furthermore, having established an online presence and effectively marketed their online services, these restaurants possess a strong foundation for expanding into the realm of AI-driven technologies. AI has the potential to revolutionize various aspects of the restaurant industry, including personalized recommendations, automated customer service, and predictive analytics.

In addition to the technical aspects, the seamless transition to newer technologies is also facilitated by the mindset and organizational culture that restaurants with online ordering systems have fostered. They have cultivated a culture of adaptability, innovation, and embracing digital advancements. This mindset gives them a competitive edge as they are more receptive to change and more willing to explore and experiment with emerging technologies.

Expanding the customer base

Online delivery services enable restaurants to broaden their customer base by tapping into demographics that may not have previously embraced online services. This expansion is particularly significant during the pandemic, as customers increasingly rely on digital and eCommerce experiences. As John Copeland, Vice President of Marketing and Customer Insights at Adobe, emphasizes, companies must prioritize their digital offerings to meet and surpass customer expectations. By doing so, restaurants can cultivate loyalty and long-term customer value, recognizing that customers are less forgiving in challenging times and gravitate towards establishments that cater to their needs effectively.

Business innovators

Companies have completely transformed the way they operate on a day-to-day basis. By working through challenging times, restaurants constantly learn valuable lessons in adapting new workplace models, especially on conducting business through digital mediums.

Experts have all but confirmed the emergence of technology as a bigger and stronger force and, with the experiences garnered from the ongoing situation, the restaurant industry has the opportunity to be at the forefront of this changing business environment.

How do you find a good online ordering platform?

The importance of online ordering systems for restaurants cannot be stressed enough and the recent adversities has highlighted its significance even further.

Choosing the right online ordering platform that works for your business can be a stressful task. There are several key factors to consider before narrowing down on one. We’ve outlined some of them to help you make a more informed decision.

Your restaurant’s needs

First and foremost, take stock of your business’s requirements. Some of the things to consider are— what volume of orders you can take on daily, what demographics do you cater to, do you need marketing support, what price point can you afford, etc.

It always helps to list out the platforms that your competitors are using. Once you have answers to all of these questions, you can start looking up the best online ordering platforms.

👉 Check out the list of questions to ask when choosing a restaurant online ordering software provider

Additional features

A full-fledged, feature-rich software is what you need to assure a seamless transition to online ordering. Features like in-built marketing modules that help with important aspects of the business like discount coupons and loyalty schemes are central to any restaurant operations. You should also have access to real-time analytics through the platform which is indispensable in identifying opportunities, creating personalized customer services, and targeted marketing activities through data-driven decisions.

Flexibility and customization

A reliable online ordering platform should offer flexibility in areas like menu management and payment options. For instance, if you want to update any specials of the day or add/erase any items from the menu, you should be able to do so without technical hinges. An effective in-built order management system will also help modify orders, keep track of inventory, sales, and cash flow.

Customization of online ordering websites and mobile apps according to your brand identity is also important.

Multiple ordering channels

To engage customers on all mediums, you should be able to capture orders across platforms —website, mobile applications, and social media. The digital landscape is wide and varied and your customers will be more comfortable with one channel than another.

Reasonable pricing

An online ordering platform that provides all the above features and also offers them at an affordable price has an edge over the others. A company that offers customized packages according to different restaurant’s needs and no hidden costs is even better. Look for services like a free trial period and cancel anytime.

There is no better time than now to invest in an online ordering system for your restaurant. Besides reaping the benefits at present, when delivery services are much in demand, and preparing for the future will ensure that your restaurant stays in business and continue to generate revenue.

How Restolabs is the right solution for making the transition?

At Restolabs, we appreciate the desire, vision, and pride that goes into empowering a struggling community. Given the current circumstances, as a team and a small part of the industry, Restolabs has decided to empower the restaurant community by providing them with the right support so they can quickly digitize their restaurant operations, without feeling overwhelmed.

With this inspiring thought, we have started an initiative to help independent restaurants prepare themselves for the changing scenario in the hospitality industry.

If you don’t have an online ordering system in place, we would be grateful to help you launch your own online ordering website within three days of signing up with Restolabs. Don’t worry about the subscription. There are no charges for the first 90 days.

To start set up immediately, you can check out our subscription offer here.

To learn more about Restolabs, book a live demo with one of our online ordering specialists today!

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