As digital capabilities continue to increase the possibilities for small businesses, one feature stands out. Online ordering systems are taking the world by storm, especially in recent years — and they don’t show any signs of slowing down. Growth research estimates the value of this industry at $111.32 billion, and it is expected to reach $154.34 billion by 2023.

For the consumer, online orders eliminate the need to leave the house, or it ensures that their order will be ready in the five minutes they have to stop by on their lunch break. Online options boast convenience in a fast-paced world, and consumers will frequently choose restaurants at which they can order online over ones they have to go in for. So what does all this mean for small restaurants, including specialty shops like cafes and bakeries, that want to start taking online orders?

Is It Time for My Restaurant to Provide Online Ordering?

For many consumers, online ordering is the clear winner. They don’t have to call you, they can see that their order is entered in how they want it, and they know their order will be ready when they get there. If you provide delivery, they can even avoid leaving their home or office to get what they want.

Many customers have even begun to expect it. It is an incredible trend that could very well become necessary for restaurants in the 21st century. As digital integration grows and online ordering becomes more popular, many small businesses can’t afford to skip this technology. Even if you’re not offering delivery, online ordering is still worthwhile. Not everyone wants to pay extra for delivery, but a lot of people like to avoid phone calls.

In the competition against big chains, online ordering options can be critical, particularly where the younger generations are involved. The convenience of going to a big chain where online ordering is easy tends to pull sales from the smaller stores, especially when those small locations have little to no online presence. Businesses that don’t go digital risk getting left behind.

Okay, so we know why customers love it, but how does online ordering benefit your business model?

  • It boosts order volume: This might be an obvious one, but you typically increase the number of people ordering from you. Some people are more likely to shop with you if you offer a convenient option. They might hate phone calls or just prefer the online approach. Whatever the reason, a new ordering method can bring more customers to your restaurant and encourage repeat purchases.
  • It can offer easy integration: Depending on your setup and your point-of-sale (POS) system, you can get many online ordering systems up and running within the day. With a fully integrated system, you can take orders and payments through your POS. You don’t need to have someone manually ring the orders, which takes up time and increases the possibility of errors.
  • It creates customer tracking: With ordering accounts, you can effectively keep track of your customers and their orders. This adds convenience for the customers, if they can reorder their usual, and allows you to offer targeted marketing efforts, such as coupons.

Restaurant Online Ordering Systems: A Simple Solution

There are a few different ways to implement online ordering in your restaurant. The easiest route is to find a system that offers POS integration, but other options involve third-party delivery services and doing everything yourself.

Online Ordering With POS Integration

POS integration serves as something of a middle ground between those third-party options and doing everything yourself. It is typically less costly for restaurants and easy to implement. For example, with a Clover POS system and Clover Online or a third-party app, you can link the POS and the website together, offering seamless payment processing and inventory and content management.

Some third-party apps offer complete control for the merchant while others are set up and managed by the developer. Many of them will link up with your Clover merchant account, but others will require you to use their channel for processing.

When it comes to choosing your online ordering interface with your website, consider the following questions:

  1. Do you offer pickup or delivery? You’ll need to have a system in place to handle curbside pickups, in-store pickups and deliveries. Will deliveries be sent off to a third party or handled in-house? How will your staff be notified of pickup orders? Some apps offer features that might be more useful to you than others, such as order notification methods and integration with third-party delivery services.
  2. What is your budget like? Identify your budget early on and decide if saving time or money is more of a priority. Consider the resources you have available and what options will fit with your budget. Some third-party apps may cost more but save you significant amounts of time and vice versa.
  3. How do you want online ordering to be accessed? If you’re using a website, people can typically access it from any device. You could also create a phone app that users can download from the Google Play Store or the App Store. An app would cost more and take longer to set up, but it offers convenient customer access. Some Clover app developers offer phone app design as well, which could allow you to synchronize offerings across devices.
  4. How much control do you need? Some Clover apps allow you more control than others when it comes to adjusting online elements. You may be able to add, hide, delete or change aspects of the interface as needed, which comes in handy for specials and holiday items. If you need a lot of technical assistance or to contact someone else to make changes, it can slow down your menu updates. Phone apps could also complicate the level of control you have.

By integrating your online ordering with your POS, you make things much easier on your business by:

  • Simplifying the order process. Other methods might require third-party involvement or use valuable employee time to reenter orders into the POS. That step can increase the opportunity for error and cost you more in labor. By streamlining orders and payment, you make the process much simpler.
  • Spending less on inconsistent or extra fees. Typically, an integrated POS online ordering system works on a predictable monthly amount. Third-party delivery services may charge exorbitant percentages per order, making it hard to gauge how much you’ll be spending each month. Some apps will even allow you to charge the customer a small amount to support online ordering or deliveries, making it essentially free for you.
  • Viewing complete reports. With multiple non-integrated systems, you’d have to compile reports separately. An integrated program allows you to gauge online sales alongside in-store sales, streamlining your bookkeeping and offering more comprehensive results.
  • Saving employee time. Employees won’t need to stay attached to a tablet or computer, organizing order intakes and keeping track of deliveries. Instead, they can spend time fulfilling those orders and keeping the in-store experience top-tier.
  • Collecting customer information. With order and account tracking, you get to track repeat orders and customers and offer points according to any loyalty programs you have in place. It also proves excellent for marketing efforts, as you can target these customers appropriately. You can offer coupons to loyal customers or send people who haven’t been in in a while a special promotion.
  • Integrating your menu. Third-party delivery apps and standalone websites typically require you to update their menus separately. With integration, you can make adjustments to your menu on a Clover device or online, and those changes will sync with online ordering. Customers get the same information across platforms.

By integrating your online food ordering system with your POS, you create convenience across the board — for customers and the business. Many of these improvements lead to cost savings, as well.

Delivery Services

Third-party delivery services, like UberEats and DoorDash, allow the customer to view a large collection of restaurants in one app and order what they want, which can improve visibility for small restaurants by putting their names in front of more people. Despite this benefit, these apps have a plethora of disadvantages for small businesses.

After a customer places an order, a delivery driver from the service collects the food and brings it to them. The apps typically require manual order entry at the restaurant, but they take the hassle of managing a delivery team off your hands — you can offer extensive delivery hours and keep a smaller in-house team. For that benefit though, they take a large chunk of the profits, some as high as 30%.

This significant hit is one of the primary reasons that restaurants avoid third-party apps. Customers might believe they are supporting small businesses when they use third-party delivery, but don’t realize how damaging the high costs can be. Some also have poor support, and owners have reported struggling to get paid.

With third-party delivery apps, you also have less control over the customer experience — which could come back to bite you if bad reviews roll in — information and payments. That means you’d be collecting and keeping track of payments for tax purposes. You would also have to create and adjust your menu separate from your in-house one.

Do It Yourself

The other option for online ordering is doing everything yourself on your own website without any POS integration. Organizing online ordering on your restaurant’s website takes out the middleman, but it also requires a lot of extra work. You’ll have to consider website design, accepting payments and the logistics of delivery. You’ll still need to add a cart and payment gateway. The result is two separate entities — one for your brick-and-mortar store and another for all online orders. Without integration, you’ll have to enter your orders manually as they come through.

Clover App Market

Clover is a popular POS system for restaurants, in part because it plays well with other systems. The Clover app market includes a variety of integrations to offer added functionality, including online restaurant delivery software.

One of our favorite Clover apps is Smart Online Order, which offers many professional interfaces and is easy to update. It also syncs with your Clover inventory and uses the Clover merchant ID for payment processing.

Another bonus of Smart Online Order is that it is very customizable. You can add a wide variety of features as needed for your business, including:

  • Coupons
  • Multiple payment options
  • Text and email notifications
  • Scheduled orders
  • Order histories
  • Multiple location setups

With options like these, you can create an integration that works beautifully with your POS and adds new capabilities to your ordering system.

We find that Smart Online Order is one of the most feature-packed apps for an affordable price. It offers our clients extensive customization with an excellent support team. We can help set up Smart Online Order as an in-house system for all of our merchants.

How Can I Get Started?

Before you take the first steps to set up an online ordering system for your restaurant, make sure you’re prepared for it. If you’ll be offering your own delivery, you’ll need to train your drivers, sort out insurance requirements and establish policies for tips and delivery fees. If you’ll be working with a third-party delivery service, you can probably get started right away.

Once you’ve decided you’re ready for it, you’ll need to pick what system you’re going to use and see how it will integrate with your existing POS. Is it as simple as downloading an app or will you need to rework your website significantly? If you don’t already have a website, that’s another place to start.

Again, most of these programs are easy to use and quick to get up and running, so often, it’s as simple as contacting a representative and downloading an app. If you don’t already have a POS like Clover, you may need to purchase the hardware for it.

Contact VMS Payment Solutions

Finding the right payment solution can create a world of opportunities for small businesses, especially in the digital age where online ordering has become an expectation for many. With online orders turning into an incredible source of potential revenue, many restaurants will be left behind if they don’t pick up on this new technology.

However, each business is different, and weighing the benefits and drawbacks to these options isn’t always straightforward. The value of saved labor could be particularly significant to one business, while saving on delivery fees charged by third parties might make more sense for another. At Velocity Merchant Services, we can help you find the best solution for your small business. Reach out to us today to learn more.

Have questions?  Talk to one of our Small Business Specialists.

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