Firing on All Cylinders
For more than a decade as the owner of Sciarrino’s Pizza in Wilmington, Delaware, Billy Gianakopoulos went without online ordering, the byproduct of a DOS point-of-sale (POS) system unable to accommodate digital orders.
But when Gianakopoulos’ POS provider sent word one year ago that MenuDrive could attach its established online ordering platform to Sciarrino’s POS system, Gianakopoulos jumped at the opportunity. The pizzeria unveiled online ordering in February and it already accounts for nearly two-thirds of Sciarrino’s overall sales.
“It’s been amazing for us. Any time that machine spits out a ticket, it’s like printing money,” says Gianakopoulos, adding that Sciarrino’s top-line revenue has jumped 30 percent since online ordering’s arrival.
Online ordering has certainly emerged a key ingredient in present-day restaurant operations, and especially so for pizzerias given the nation’s hefty appetite for comfort food amid a global health pandemic. Online ordering streamlines operations for pizzerias, has been credited with increasing ticket sizes and delivers convenience to time-starved, digitally connected customers. Since February, online
ordering has soared across the U.S., headlined by a 3,868-percent jump in large suburbs, according to data from Upserve, a leading restaurant management platform.
“Pizzerias that aren’t prioritizing online ordering are missing out on serious customer demand,” MenuDrive CEO Saleem S. Khatri says.
But online ordering cannot be a set-it-and-forget-it proposition. With new players entering the fold and ongoing technological advancements, savvy pizzerias consistently monitor new offerings and critically evaluate their digital ordering platforms to ensure online ordering is operating at peak performance.
“If you wish to sell more and serve more, you must leverage the power of online ordering and keep optimizing it to keep up with the changing demand,” says Bharti Batra, the co-founder of Restolabs, a leading restaurant ordering system headquartered in Reno, Nevada.
To get the most out of online ordering, prominent players in this still-evolving space offer these tips:
Favor the “white label.”
White-label branding refers to a product or service removing its brand and logo from the end product. With respect to online ordering, that means an individual pizzeria’s branding overtakes any mention of the specific online ordering platform. It’s Sciarrino’s Pizza, for instance, not MenuDrive. White-label branding is important, Batra contends, because it allows a pizzeria’s customers to “feel at home when interacting with your brand online.”
Assess online ordering’s impact on sales.
Khatri encourages operators to investigate how their online ordering solution is contributing to sales. MenuDrive, for example, will automatically create customer offers for individual restaurants on Facebook and Instagram. When a customer wishes to redeem that offer, they receive a prompt for their name, e-mail, phone number and birthday. This information then heads into the restaurant’s secure customer database, which operators can later use for periodic messaging to drive traffic and orders.
“Restaurants will need to optimize their digital marketing efforts and automated communications in order to grow their customer base and bottom line efficiently,” Khatri says.
Show, don’t tell.
The ability to add images to menu items, so long as it does not compromise website speed, can drive sales. In fact, online food ordering system LimeTray reports “an increase of more than 25 percent in conversion rates when restaurants moved from text menus to image-based menus.”
Personalization is ingrained in the pizzeria world. Some customers want to split pizza toppings, request heavy sauce or favor a well-done pie. In today’s age, customers expect customization from all restaurants and online ordering should seamlessly and capably accommodate such requests.
“Pizza ordering should have the ability to modify different complex modifiers,” Batra confirms.
Be mobile ready.
Heading into 2020, one out of every 10 food orders at quick-service restaurants came from a smartphone, according to Business Insider Intelligence – and that figure continues trending upward. Today, any online ordering platform should absolutely be optimized for mobile ordering.
“I see so many platforms that don’t work as seamlessly on mobile, which can be a major turnoff for customers,” Batra says.
Look beyond the online ordering.
Khatri says restaurant technology has increasingly moved toward holistic, all-in-one restaurant management solutions. Rather than a patchwork of different solutions, pizzerias might explore the full scope of capabilities different online ordering platforms provide. This can drive more seamless operations as well as potential cost savings.
“‘Online ordering platform’s will, like ‘point of sale’ before it, become a misnomer as leading technologies evolve into comprehensive platforms for online ordering, delivery, menu management, stock levels and so forth,” Khatri says, adding that more layered, comprehensive solutions provide restaurants more “complete ownership of their online experience.”
Monitor new functionalities.
Over recent years, multi-language support, order-ahead optionality, social media ordering and real-time analytics have all become commonplace on online ordering platforms. More recently, contactless ordering has become important – if not a “permanent requirement” of restaurants, Batra notes. Having access to such functionalities helps a pizzeria up its online ordering game and respond to evolving customer needs.
“When all of these come together, you create a comprehensive and intuitive system for your restaurants that helps generate profit,” Batra says.
When is it time to investigate a new online ordering provider?
Much as a discerning pizzeria operator would investigate alternative providers of mozzarella or chicken wings should prices skyrocket or quality fall, operators should apply that same scrutiny to their online ordering platform.
For most, investigating a new online ordering provider begins with investigating orders and profits.
“If you’re paying high monthly fees and not getting a decent ROI, time to start looking,” MenuDrive CEO Saleem S. Khatri says.
Support is also critical, as tech snafus and limited technical assistance to address customer quandaries can leave a pizzeria vulnerable to irking – and losing – customers.
“You really don’t want your customers hanging there, waiting for their complaints to be resolved,” says Restolabs co-founder Bharti Batra.
And given the public health alarms ringing in the wake of COVID-19, contactless features stand vital to serving wary customers.
“Without contactless delivery, ordering and payment being an integral part of your online ordering system, your customers will not trust your business and move to the next one,” Batra says.
Daniel P. Smith Chicago-based writer has covered business issues and best practices for a variety of trade publications, newspapers, and magazines.