How to Move Your Restaurant Online: Everything You Need to Know

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COVID-19 has profoundly affected the hospitality industry with its disastrous impact on the restaurant business. The future is uncertain, as the virus is still raging worldwide, and its consequences on our everyday habits are yet to be seen.

Many restaurants had to close their doors and find new ways of doing business to help them survive, protect their employees, and address their customers’ changing needs.

Fortunately, there has been a considerable rise in food deliveries due to quarantine, giving restaurants a chance to adapt and thrive, despite the unfavorable circumstances.

When your customers can’t visit your restaurant for a meal, moving it online gives you an option to have your meals delivered to them.

But, how can you move your restaurant online and survive the Coronavirus crises? 

Here is everything you need to know.

Make a Plan

To successfully start your online restaurant business, you have some proper planning to do. There are a few crucial questions you need to answer before implementing this new business model:

Who are your target customers? 

The more you know about your target audience, the better chances you have of reaching them. Consider your target group’s needs and habits: are you planning to deliver to their homes or their workplace? Is your restaurant serving affluent patrons or healthy eaters? Who is more likely to use your services, Millenials or Boomers? 

Do you need to adjust your menu? 

Go through your menu options, and determine whether all items are suitable for delivery. Some of them won’t support transportation or retain the heat well, while some wouldn’t be easy to recreate if the demand grows massively. Focus on the deliverable and scalable food so that you can keep your operations streamlined and simple.

How will you plan your workflow? 

When it comes to online food delivery, speed is everything. You need to be able to have your food delivered within 60 minutes, so your staff needs to adapt to the new workflow. They need to count on an increased volume of the weekend and late-night orders and organize accordingly. 

Conversational AI chatbots can pick up the slack easily and take the burden off your employees’ shoulders by automating specific tasks, such as engaging with your customers when the order is placed.

How will you keep your customer safe? 

Remember that the food you deliver is your responsibility until it reaches the consumer, so you need to ensure it’s delivered in perfect shape, at the right temperature, and on time. 

During the COVID-19 crisis, make sure you follow all the safety procedures and have contactless options provided. The safety of your customers’ data is also your responsibility, so choose the right technology options with security on your mind.

Decide on the Ordering System

Before putting your menu online, you need to decide on the ordering system you will use. There are three types for you to choose from:

POS add-ons

If you are already using a point-of-sale system for your restaurant, it might have add-ons that can enhance it and take online food orders. Your customers will be able to place a food order using your restaurant’s website or an app, giving you the option to control your branding, marketing, and customer relations, so that you can run loyalty programs and increase retention. 

According to a 2018 survey, 70% of customers prefer to order directly from the restaurant and not use third-party services.

Food delivery marketplaces

Food delivery marketplaces connect customers with restaurants and drivers who provide and deliver the food. It’s the right choice if you don’t already have a customer base, as you can easily sign-up and start making sales. 

However, their fees can be hefty – from 10 up to 30 percent of orders, and you can hardly do your own remarketing or develop strong bonds with your customers.

Third-party white-label service

Services such as “MenuDrive” or “ChowNow” can help you set up your online ordering system and run your loyalty and marketing campaigns, without having to give up on your POS. However, the fees are usually higher than when it comes to POS add-ons.

Get Your Menu Online

When you’ve decided on the ordering system that suits your restaurant’s current needs the most, it’s time to put your menu online and attract traffic.

Here are a few useful tips:

  • Focus on your most profitable and the most popular dishes first
  • Use high-quality images of the food.
  • Keep your food descriptions clear and straightforward.

Use Marketing to Boost Your Online Revenue

Leveraging digital marketing techniques will enable you to reach more customers, retain the existing ones, and boost your sales.

Consider having a blog where you will post original and useful content for your customers. How-to articles or videos, meal ideas, interviews with your staff – this can all increase your traffic and lead to conversions.

Use social media and influencer marketing to raise brand awareness and engage with your customers and email marketing for loyalty programs and personalized special offers.

Keep Your Customers Happy

For your online restaurant business to be successful, you need many happy customers and many great reviews.

Your customers’ satisfaction should always come first, so ensure that:

  • the ordering process is straightforward,
  • you provide multiple payment options,
  • promote and highlight positive customers reviews,
  • answer your customers’ queries immediately,
  • reply to comments, posts, and reviews quickly,
  • ask for their feedback.

Moving your restaurant online will not only help you survive the current crisis but also help your business thrive when we’re out of the woods.