Voice of the Restaurant Industry
I am curious to see how many people agree or disagree with me. I think that online ordering systems are a great way for restaurants to be able to market to their technology savvy customers. However, some restaurants think that it is too complicated or expensive to start. What are your ideas?
That is a great point! I am a member of the Gen Ys, and I would say I definitely enjoy being able to use technology for anything I can. But do you think that restaurant owners may get in over their head when trying to use new technology? A lot of owners are of an older age and like you said may be hesitant trying to use the newer technology. I think that this might be another reason why they haven't started using things like online ordering systems as much. Do you think that they could eventually learn to use it effectively?
I think online ordering is a must for any restaurant! As someone who works in the mobile technology business, I'm a little bias, but as a consumer, there is nothing easier then placing an order online for take out vs calling in an order. Typically restaurants are loud and the person taking the order is in a hurry (or something doesn't speak the best English) and it can be a real pain ordering that way. Also with online ordering you can avoid ordering mistakes sometimes made when communication breaks down for one of those reasons. I find myself favoring ordering from restaurants who have online ordering OVER restaurants who don't, even if I personally prefer the food of the company without the ordering more!
I agree with you on the communication part. I think that is one of the biggest things that consumers have a problem with. They may love the food, but if they have such a hard time trying to order it they are not going to want to come back.
Mobile technology, which you said you work in, is also a great way to get people to order online. There are tons of mobile apps out there that help with ordering and the amount of people that own a smartphone has increased immensly. I don't know what you do, but do you see a lot of people using online ordering with mobile devices?
I've been doing online ordering for quite awhile. My studio created the online ordering system for the Los Angeles area-based Tender Greens organic fast-casual chain. And we're currently working on making it even better with a lot of extra enhancements. Mobile is clearly a must for that tech-savvy Gen Y crowd. There's no question about it. I just launched two non-online ordering systems (one for a bar and the other for a dessert shop) and both have mobile themes. Responsive web design whether via media queries or user-agent switching is going to become more and more important and people just don't want to use that pinch zoom if they don't have to. It's the same thing with making sure you're menus aren't just PDF downloads, all-Flash (fine pre-iOS, but not now) or loaded with music or other irritating distractions.
The big issue I've encountered is with connecting to POS systems. It was a big problem with Tender Greens and it's not getting any easier. I've seen some of the new iPad only POS systems like LAVU but they don't want to integrate with online ordering systems. There needs to be a 360 degree system in place that can be online ordering, POS, iPad/Android Tablet ready and affordable. It just doesn't exist yet or at least I can't find it.
That being said, Tender Greens' online ordering system was not cheap by any stretch. But it is paying dividends. TG is an example of a restaurant clearing looking into technology for its' future in a wide variety of ways and online ordering is just part of that equation.
POS integration is something that is a problem like you stated. There are hundreds of systems and integrating each online ordering system to them is a hard task. It can take a few weeks to 6 months sometimes and restaurants cannot always wait that time. It would be good if there was a single system that everyone could use. However I think that it is going to be a long time before we see that and an even longer time before it will be affordable for smaller restaurants to use.