Online ordering has grown exponentially in recent years, accelerated by the smart phone revolution that placed a high-powered computer in everyone’s pocket.
Other contributing factors include peer-to-peer delivery like Uber Eats and Grubhub; a global pandemic that shut down indoor dining and encouraged contactless transactions; and a post-crisis recovery characterized by a labor shortage and higher wages. Notably, online ordering jumped by 3,868 percent in large suburbs from February to April 2020, according to data from Upserve, a leading restaurant management platform.
In fact, the long-term culture of delivery and carryout that characterizes the pizza industry makes pizzerias among the best candidates to benefit from online ordering. It’s safe to say that online ordering plays a bigger role than ever in the success of pizza operations.
However, even though online ordering and delivery have grown 300 percent faster than dine-in traffic from 2014-2020 (according to Upserve), many pizzerias are either not using online ordering or not taking full advantage of their existing systems.
Here’s some information on why pizzeria operators will benefit from online ordering; how to choose the right system; and how to get the most out of your new or existing online ordering system.
Benefits of an Online Ordering System
The pizza arena is crowded and competitive, and every operator needs to maximize revenue while attracting customers with convenience, quality and service. Customers are now used to controlling the transaction, and online ordering fulfills this expectation. Many customers assume they can order online, and may go elsewhere if they can’t.
Restaurants are facing staffing challenges, and online ordering allows staff to focus on other tasks such as building pies or serving in-person customers. A constantly ringing phone disturbs guests and interrupts workers’ continuity, plus the loud environment on either side of the phone line can make it hard to hear and record an order accurately.
At its best, online ordering saves labor while being simple, seamless and accurate.
“With the addition of kiosks in-store, operators can have as much as 50 to 90 percent of their orders placed without human interaction, between web order services and kiosk services in-store,” according to Freida. This reduces staffing crunches by taking employees off of order-taking duty so they can perform higher-value tasks. Plus, you’ll never lose a customer to a busy signal.
Automated upsell suggestions can increase your per-ticket revenue. “The site or app can upsell to the customer: hey, do you want breadsticks or do you want a drink?” says Figueroa. These pop ups can increase sales.
“For our users, average online orders are between 7-24 percent higher in total than over the phone or in-store,” says Tim Freida, VP of Sales at Microworks, which makes Prism POS. “Some locations reach as high as 30-40 percent higher average tickets placed via online ordering, depending upon their market demographics.”
Freida describes a content-sensitive upsell feature that offers a sequence of offers that are predicated on the initial order. For example, the customer sees a different suggestion if they order a pizza versus a sandwich.
Importantly, this technology appeals to younger, tech-savvy, digitally dedicated customers who value convenience and reliability.
Choosing your Online Ordering System
There’s a wealth of online ordering platforms, including ones that may be powered by or compatible with your existing point of sale (POS) system. The number of options, features and value propositions is extensive, so operators need to consider their priorities and examine their range of choices.
Freida urges that operators “should be looking for a point of sale system and service that was designed specifically for the pizza industry.” Talk to your colleagues in the pizza business, and pull up their websites to check out their online ordering.
Compare the huge range of available features, such as an included website, loyalty programs, databases of customers and analytics. For example, Figueroa says his company is a Google Food Ordering Partner, so a blue “order online” button appears on their clients’ Google My Business listing. Freida’s product allows them to add Google Tag Manager, which enables users to access Google Analytics.
Any tool must work equally well on a phone, laptop or tablet, so make sure it is responsive.
“A responsive website design will automatically resize based on the screen resolution of the device you are using. It will increase for a desktop computer and decrease for a smaller mobile device,” says Freida. “This is very important as it lessens the need for a brand-specific app. A pizza store can have one website that works on all devices without the added cost of developing a brand-specific app.”
Compare their pricing structures, whether it’s based on a monthly fee or calculated per transaction. Figueroa says his company’s lowest tier product is free, charging only credit card processing fees.
Most pizzerias want “white label” branding, which means that their brand and logo are featured, not the online ordering company. You’ve worked hard to establish your brand, and your customers need to feel confident that they’re ordering from a familiar place.
Other factors to consider include:
- Find out what kind of customer service, coaching and troubleshooting you can expect from your vendor.
- Pizza consumers expect custom ordering, so your tool needs to be able to accommodate special requests such as half-pepperoni-half-sausage or extra sauce.
- Some tools include images on the menu, which tends to increase sales.
- Find out what kind of analytics are available and how you can use them to know your customers better and ramp up receipts.
Ultimately it has to function well enough to win over both your customers and your team members by serving both parties better.
Get the Most from your Online Ordering System
“Promoting your online ordering service is paramount,” says Freida. “The more business that goes through the web order portal with the higher average ticket obviously affects your profit while decreasing your labor.”
Publicize the ease and simplicity of placing online orders in every possible channel, including on menus, table tents, pizza boxes, window stickers, and social media. “We want to make sure that our clients add the order link to their Facebook, to any type of social media,” says Figueroa.
Some customers may resist your new-fangled technology. One way to train your old-school customers away from phone ordering is to send calls to a recorded message that clearly explains where and how to order. Implement a system that offers clear benefits, such as images of the products, ease of check out, loyalty programs, and the ability to save and re-order a pizza or entire ticket.
Get to know your dashboard, and get assistance as needed from your provider to master your system. Seek out feedback from both staff and customers to improve the system and iron out any wrinkles.
Thriving in the competitive pizza industry requires keeping up with 21st century technology. Online ordering can be part of your strategy to be a lean, profitable pizzeria.
Annelise Kelly is a Portland, Oregon-based freelance writer.