7 Tips to Help Grow your Restaurant or Cafe Online

As the world shifts online, it’s likely you’ve been considering making your business more digital-friendly too. 📲

The Coronavirus lockdown has accelerated the move towards digital and both businesses and customers are learning how to adapt to a normal that involves more smartphones, more online services and better wifi. Although there has been quite a shift in customer habits, the good news is people are purchasing more items online now than ever!

We know adapting a physical business to the online world can be a little overwhelming at first, so we put together this article with some great tips on how to grow your restaurant, cafe or takeaway online.

1. Sign up to a food delivery marketplace 💻

A food delivery marketplace is a platform that connects restaurants with drivers who want to earn money and customers who want to order online and eat a meal. According to a recent survey, 63% of consumers say it’s more convenient to get delivery rather than to eat out, with signs indicating this trend will only become more relevant.

These food delivery marketplaces are relatively easy to sign up to and are a good way to get started with the world of digital orders. The main advantage of food delivery marketplaces is that they have an existing customer base already - you just need to sign up and you’ll start making extra sales with hardly any extra online marketing.

The main disadvantage is that these apps and services charge large fees, from 10 to 30% per order, quickly eating into the margins. These marketplaces can also interfere with the relationship you have with your customers, further reducing brand trust and customer engagement. In the UK, the best marketplaces to get started with are UberEats, Just Eat and Deliveroo.

2. Adapt you menu for deliveries 👜

If you do start offering online deliveries, it’s worth looking at your menu and services to see how you can adapt your business for these kinds of meals. That’s because your regular dishes may not be appropriate for deliveries: the food may go cold quickly, or not look very visually appealing.

Use this as an opportunity to expand your menu offering to a different set of dishes, such as snacks, drinks or smaller edibles. Make-at-home meal kits are becoming more and more popular, so offering option with your branding and ingredients could be a hit!

3. Implement an online ordering system 🔄

An online ordering system is a system that allows your customers to order from their phone. The set up is quite straightforward: your customers arrive at your premises, scan a QR code and have immediate access to your online menu. They can then order and pay for their food from their smartphone, and you’ll be able to see and fulfill the orders coming in from your end.

This type of system has increased in popularity over the past few years. According to this survey, digital ordering has increased 300% times faster than dining-in since 2014, and 70% of customers said would rather order directly from their favourite restaurant, rather than a third party app. In 2018, the online ordering business was worth $5 billion in the first two quarters - and that was before the lockdown. According to an American survey, restaurants who had online ordering enabled fared a lot better during lockdown than restaurants that didn’t - with 7% not being impacted by lockdown at all.

With an online ordering system, you are moving your services online but you are still keeping the relationship with your customer. You can start taking orders and deliver food while maintaining a safe distance and keeping your customers healthy. You’ll also be able to process more orders, reduce the number of order errors and drastically reduce costs (no more menus or expensive POS systems!). You’ll also be able to customize the ordering system as you want, and can use it to run your own loyalty programmes and reward your best customers.

The main thing to note with online ordering systems is that you will need to educate your users on how to use the ordering system and QR codes. You may need to change your POS provider, but once it’s done you won’t need to worry about expensive hardware anymore! With a free online ordering system like Pomelo Pay, you can accept online orders without building a website or getting your customers to download another app!

4. Offer pre-orders 🤳

Pre-orders are another great way to actually grow your business using digital channels. That’s because pre-orders can help increase the number of orders you take and fill any fulfillment gaps on slower days. With pre-orders, your customers can purchase meals in advance and then collect them at a specific time.

There are many benefits to pre-orders, the main one being that they help avoid massive queues and drastically reduce waiting time (and encourage social distancing). Customers can pick up their meal at a specific time without waiting around, which helps improve customer experience as well as retention. On the business side, pre-orders help increase turnover and capacity, and can make it easier to follow government guidelines.

Once again, the main thing to note with pre-orders is that you’ll need to let your customers know you offer this feature so they start using it. You may need to rearrange the kitchen and your menu dishes to make it easier to deliver quick meals. At Pomelo Pay, we offer the pre-ordering feature for free.

5. Educate consumers on benefits of online 👍

It’s all nice and well to have online features, but what’s the point if your customers do not use them? That’s why it’s worth making the effort to let your customer know what services you offer. Some educational ideas include: promoting new features on social media, offering discounts to those who purchase online and letting your customers know in person by adding a sign on your premises.

When educating your customers, explain why it is convenient for them: they can pick the exact dish they want and easily include any food intolerances, they won’t have to wait for their order, and they can pay from the convenience of their phone. You’ll also be able to run promotions more easily, gather relevant data on who your best customers are and collect feedback in the form of reviews.

6. Build your own online ordering system 👩💻

A bespoke online ordering system could mean hiring an agency to build a system, or simply using white label online ordering services. Only a few companies offer this service, and they do require a higher financial investment. The main advantage is that you can keep your current POS system and simply integrate it into the new one. A bespoke system is easier to scale and you will have more opportunities to customize it to your own needs.

Having said that, it may be hard to integrate if you use a POS that isn’t well known, and you also may need to pay higher fees. As with most online ordering systems, you will also be responsible for your own marketing and generating online orders.

7. Build a social media presence 📷

If you’ve never bothered with social media before, now may be a good time to get started. Customers are on their phones now more than ever, and according to an American survey, nearly half (45%) of diners say they’ve tried a new restaurant because of a social media post published by the restaurant.

You can start with one social media network, such as Instagram, and do some experimenting. Let your customers know when you’re open, encourage them to share your meals with your hashtag and promote any new dishes you are releasing. You can use social media to help grow your audience and build a real brand for your business. You can also use it to experiment with new styles or dishes. It can be a fun way to interact with customers too - and you can eventually integrate your social media so customers can pre-order any dishes they see on their feed!

Moving your restaurant or coffee shop online can be a little daunting at first: where do you get started? But with the right tools at hand, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With a free Pomelo Pay account, you can set up an online ordering system, start accepting pre-orders and easily accept payments online. You won’t need to create a new website or app - we do it all for you!

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