Why Online Ordering is Making Call-In Ordering Obsolete

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Online ordering is pulling ahead of call-in ordering in every area, from speed to order accuracy.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, online restaurant ordering had become an increasingly common feature provided by restaurants and enjoyed by customers. Globally, online ordering systems generated $107.44 billion in 2019, and the expectation is for that number to climb to $154.34 billion by 2023.

What did the pandemic do to that year-to-year growth from 2019? With restaurants shutting down or operating with limited capacity, online orders saw a 27% bump worldwide and yielded $136.4 billion in 2020, in online ordering, takeout, and delivery. For many restaurants, online ordering has been a lifeline in an incredibly difficult year, and loyal customers are excited to be able to experience the food and hospitality of their favorite restaurants from the comfort of their couch. 

Why? For starters, your customer base is increasingly more and more comfortable with their desktops, laptops, cell phones, and tablets, and they’ve come to expect convenience. There's serious room for growth for restaurants that have never offered online ordering or integrated that software with their POS system. 

But why have they moved away from phone ordering, and what does online ordering software offer that's different? What's in it for you? Besides the fact that, in the U.S., it's clear we're moving towards a broad shift to online or mobile ordering in general, here are some more reasons why you should drop your "traditional" call-in ordering model for an online ordering system.

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The Benefits of Online Ordering Software

1. Sales Go Up

In an interview with Fast Company's Co.Lab's, Chris Brandon, a spokesperson for Domino's, said that the primary benefit from the company's online ordering is that it increases sales for add-ons  — and turn first-time guests into returning, loyal regulars.

"Customers love it because they can experience more of the menu," Brandon said. "With Domino's before, you only needed to know a phone number and to think of your regular order or pizza order. Now that we have sandwiches, specialty pizzas, chicken, all these additional products and desserts, it increases sales."

Why? Well, a 2015 study looked at tens of thousands of orders over a multi-year period from a single pizza chain location and found that people spent more when they ordered online compared to when they ordered on the phone. Online orders had 14% more special instructions, showing what we all knew about the Internet: we let our guard down online and ask for exactly what we want... and we order all the toppings, extra cost be damned.

2. Save Time & Money on Restaurant Labor

Restaurant employees have dozens of tasks to juggle during their shift — not even considering the time they spend tied up on the phone. Restaurants need workers cleaning, cooking, delighting guests, and taking orders, not asking a guest to repeat the details of their order because their phone line is crackly. 

With online ordering systems built into your restaurant POS, the phone will ring less and your staff will get their time back to dedicate to providing amazing service. In fact, Toast products have a built-in notification system that takes the necessary information from an online order right when it’s placed, and routes it to the people who need to see it so they can get right to work cooking, bagging, and sending the food out for delivery or takeout.

3. Guarantee Payment Upfront

With online ordering software, there's no longer a need to worry about getting paid in loose change during a delivery order. That’s because payment is upfront or, in some cases, paid in advance. When guests give their credit card information, they can press submit and payment is processed right then and there. The best online ordering software saves that information, as well as previous orders, for guests' convenience so the process is even quicker next time.

4. Orders are Always Accurate

"Can you hear me now?" With a restaurant online ordering system, you don't need to listen through a crackly connection for someone driving through a spotty zone. We've all been there, but we shouldn't have to worry about misinterpreting orders. Phone calls increase the likelihood of a misunderstanding of a guest’s order. Online ordering helps prevent headaches and the possibility of classic he said/ she said situations. If an order is inaccurate, point to the data trail behind it. No one can argue with data.

5. Capture Data For Your Customer Relationship Management System

Along those same lines, online ordering software helps you capture data for your customer relationship management system (CRM). We're proud to have the first robust CRM system for restaurants here at Toast, which captures credit card information, email address, phone number, and more, and organizes guests by their most recent visits, food and drink preferences, and even average tip spend.

This also means that guests can easily be enrolled into loyalty programs and your email marketing flow so they can find out when they’re about to earn a free appetizer or when you’re providing some big Tuesday afternoon discounts. 

For the guests' benefit, data from the online order provides a digital paper trail that shows exactly what they ordered. A phone order may end with a confirmation number, but you can’t be sure what that number confirms until you receive the order; with online ordering, receipts with confirmation numbers can be emailed instantly.

6. Online Ordering = Quicker Transactions

People like options. When an individual places an order, they may ask dozens of questions before finalizing it. The employee who answered the phone call is most likely also supposed to be making the food, so something is going to get neglected in this process. However, if the same customer uses an online ordering system — where they can see the full menu, add-ons and all, right in front of them — they can order without distracting the cook, increasing throughput for the restaurant.

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How to Choose an Online Ordering System

Once the decision to embrace an online ordering system is made, surveying the options is crucial. A first-party system enables customers to directly engage with your restaurant and get a full sense of the vibe, aesthetic, and — most importantly — the menu. A third-party ordering platform outsources functions to an outside partner and comes at a price. 

To determine which one is right for you, consider the following strategies:

Check Out Their Fees

If you decide to hand your online ordering system to a third-party partner, it’s as much a financial issue as it is an operational one. Different platforms charge differently per transaction, others come with a flat monthly fee, and some options come with both. The important thing to determine is how much of the technical heavy-lifting you want to offload, then assess all your third-party options to see which one provides the most bang for your buck. At the end of the process, you might find an online ordering system that works best for you, or you may say it makes more sense to host it in-house.

Make Sure it Integrates with Your POS

Restaurant online ordering systems don’t just operate autonomously. It needs to seamlessly integrate into your POS system to maximize 

all your restaurant’s assets and provide customers the full experience. When looking for the right system, look at what your current system does well and what gaps there are in the system. Once you’ve found the right software, make sure it meshes with what your current POS offers to provide visitors solid service. 

Ensure You Can Get Great Support

Delays are never a welcome sight at restaurants. And when you consider that restaurant online ordering is supposed to simplify things, having resources on the ready to help troubleshoot delays can be key. Make sure that whatever online system you invest in has adequate, round-the-clock support that allows your online ordering software to stay functional during surges and downtime. 

Find Out Which Systems Your Community Prefers

Your audience, hopefully, will engage with your online ordering system frequently enough to start forming opinions about the good, the bad, and the otherwise. When they provide feedback, incorporate it into how your POS and online system coordinate. Listen to customers and field their thoughts on functionality. Use this insight to continually improve and invest in your online technology so customers want to continue frequenting your online services.

Online Ordering Isn’t Going Anywhere

The verdict? Online ordering software increases convenience for restaurant operators and guests.

Even with the sleekest menu and a fun website like Mattenga's, you still need a way to triage these online orders as efficiently as possible. The online order is only the start of a beautiful transaction; there must be systems in place for the food to be prepared (perhaps by having online orders automatically assigned to specific employees), then delivered to a guest's door as quickly as possible. It should also not be a pain to have to offer online ordering; it shouldn't be like another restaurant to manage, taking hours to update the menu.

“The fact that I can update my menu and it automatically updates my online ordering has probably saved me five to six hours a week," said Matt Mattenga.

You should be able to customize your online ordering workflow and see delivery tracking as well as detailed online ordering reports right in your restaurant POS system.

To learn more about optimizing off premise dining, check out the Toast video course on online ordering & delivery.

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