For most restaurants, winter almost always signifies a dip in sales. But with the rise of online ordering and food delivery, your restaurant doesn’t have to suffer a dip come wintertime.
In fact, research shows that while foot traffic may decrease during the rainy, wintry, and cold seasons, you can more than compensate for the loss sales by increasing revenues from takeout and delivery.
If your restaurant hasn’t taken advantage of online ordering yet, this winter is the best time to get started. Here are some tips that can help you launch and run a successful online ordering system.
#1. Choose the right food items to offer.
Research by online food ordering platform GrubHub shows that, between late December and March, customers prefer to order warm and filling foods such as tom yum soup, Italian beef sandwich, and chimichanga. They are also more likely to go for immune-boosters, such as chicken noodle soup, vegetable soup, and minestrone soup. Not surprisingly, sales of cold and frozen items fall flat on winter. Popular comfort foods, such as pizza, mac ‘n cheese, and meatball also don’t get much love during the winter.
#2. Team up with an online ordering platform.
Third-party services such as GrubHub, UberEats, and FoodPanda allow foodservice establishments to provide online ordering and delivery without investing a ton of resources into getting started. With millions of users combined, these platforms provide easy access to a ready market of tech-savvy customers. GrubHub alone has 14 million users as of 2017. Many of these platforms also provide delivery drivers so that you don’t have to shoulder the expenses of having your in-house drivers. The key is to work with multiple platforms to cover all your bases. Talk to other restaurant owners and operators and ask them about their experiences working with these services. You will want to know what processes and technologies are required and how it will ultimately affect your own operations.
#3. Spread the word.
When customers walk into your restaurant, the first thing they should see is a sign that lets them know you are taking online orders starting this winter. Train all staff to inform customers about this new service and teach them how they can reach your online ordering page. Don’t forget to leverage your social media presence. Offer attractive discounts and deals to entice your followers to your website and encourage them to place online orders. On your website, place a prominent Order Now button at the top of the page.
#4. Simplify your system.
Get your employees ready and educate them on what they need to do to fulfill online orders. Make sure all equipment are fully serviced to take on any extra orders that may come in. This includes storage equipment such as your walk in freezer and commercial refrigerator as well as machines that need special maintenance during winter, such as the commercial ice maker. Prepare a menu that allows customers to order your bestsellers or, if they’re ordering again, their favorite items. Make sure it is easy for them to search for specific foods, such as gluten-free or low-carb, and provide all possible add-ons to reduce the number of special requests that may complicate the order.
#5. Package right.
Packaging can make or break the success of your online ordering service. It doesn’t matter if your chef can prepare the most delicious meals in the world if your customers receive them messed up and spilled over. When choosing which items to offer for delivery, don’t include items that won’t hold up in the delivery van for 30 to 60 minutes. If possible, do a run test to check how specific food items fare. It’s important to choose good packaging to hold you’re your food products. This winter, customers will be ordering a lot of hot soup, so make sure to use sturdy containers that are sealed with a plastic wrap to prevent liquids from spilling.