Peer Review: Online Ordering

By Tim Clark, Contributing Editor | February 11, 2009

In the perpetual cycle of boosting customer satisfaction and streamlining operations, a growing number of restaurant operators are turning to online ordering capabilities. Today's online ordering systems have become much more than just transaction hubs and are now deemed competitive differentiators. By fully integrating online ordering into the POS, for example, operators now have full transaction visibility and can quickly resolve errors, deploy targeted marketing messages, retain loyal customers and also boost the average ticket price. Hospitality Technology spoke to several restaurant operators to find out which online ordering solutions they chose, and why.


WHO:
Fifer's Seafood
WHAT: Single location family casual dining
NEEDS: Online ordering solution that would offer seamless integration with the POS and for carry out and delivery; also wanted capacity to accept future orders
VENDOR: Action Systems, Inc.
When Fifer's Seafood (www.fifersseafood.com) of Pasadena, Maryland, wanted to develop a marketable web site with online ordering capabilities, they turned to Restaurant Manager from Action Systems, Inc. (www.rmpos.com). Tracy Fifer, vice president and operating manager of Fifer's, says integration with the restaurant's POS is seamless. The order arrives into the system just as if the person placed their order at the POS. Online carryout orders are directed to the appropriate carryout section of the POS and online deliveries enter the delivery section. Tickets print automatically in the kitchen and prep areas, complete with all customer information.  

"We even have an advance order feature, so future-date orders can be shown in the POS even if they are for different dates, allowing preparation for future orders," says Fifer. "That really helps around the holidays when preparing party trays, for instance, as we encourage people through our marketing efforts to pre-order."

Fifer says several operational items were altered to ensure a smooth transition to the Restaurant Manager online ordering system:

  • Changing menu item descriptions for better customer comprehension. Fifer's had abbreviated a lot of menu items for the staff, but with online ordering the customer also sees this same menu, so item descriptions must be clear. Since integrated online ordering reads directly from Fifer's in-house menu there wasn't a need to recreate the menu.
  • Changing settings in the Restaurant Manager back office solution to accommodate reporting and accepting online orders. Fifer's also made changes to its revenue centers, adding online carryout and online delivery to differentiate between regular carryout and delivery orders in reports.  
  • Installing updates to the current version of the Restaurant Manager solution.  
  • Developing a marketing plan, with planning assistance from ASI. The campaign includes TV commercials, table tents, signs that are posted on-site, flyers, direct mailers and an automated phone system which markets Fifer's website and online ordering to customers when they call.  
Fifer notes the importance of developing a detailed plan to install, train, promote and implement online ordering. A continuous improvement philosophy is highly valuable, whereby the restaurant provides feedback to developers and resellers based on input from the restaurant, its employees and its customers.  Another key to success, according to Filfer, is to kick-start the online ordering system with incentives, offering "online only" coupons to customers who use the online platform.

"Like everything else in business, you get out of it what you put into it," says Fifer. "Don't assume it's just going to start working for you. It takes time to implement and be successful." ASI's track record with continuous improvements makes the Restaurant Manager software better and more user-friendly each year, she notes. "In my eyes the potential is almost limitless because an establishment that is full for dining most of the time only has one place to grow, and that's through carryout, and delivery. "

WHO: Godfather's Pizza
WHAT: 650-unit, national fast-casual pizza chain
NEEDS: Robust enterprise solution for a large, multi-unit chain; PCI compliance
VENDOR: Fishbowl
Since 1973 Godfather's Pizza (www.godfathers.com) has grown into a popular, fast-casual, quick-serve pizza chain operating in the neighborhood of 650 locations across the United States. When considering an online ordering solution, Godfather's decided it made more sense to purchase a solution than custom build. "We required a certain level of accessibility, PCI certification and branding capabilities," says Curtis Stalnaker, IT administrator, Godfather's Pizza. "But we also were looking for a provider with enterprise experience that understood the concept of the chain versus just an individual store."

Stalnaker says Godfather's found the right fit with Fishbowl (www.fishbowl.com) and can now offer a unique service to its customers. At its pilot location, which launched in September 2008, Godfather's has enjoyed a 30 percent increase in ticket averages over in-store sales. The restaurant plans to roll out the solution to 200 additional restaurants.

And while Stalnaker says Godfather's will integrate the Fishbowl system with the company's POS, he believes that 90 percent to 95 percent of the benefit of online ordering comes from the customer experience. "There is value to be derived from integration with the POS system in operational efficiency; however a significant layer of complexity is also added. Stores that are used to programming their own POS system now have to ensure they are aligned with the online POS system as well," says Stalnaker. "But even for our franchisees that do not offer delivery, online ordering is still a great model for pick-up customers. We can send out an e-mail blast at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday with a targeted message encouraging customers to place an order now, for pick-up at 5:30 p.m. There's a huge convenience value there."

WHO: Papa Gino's
WHAT: 400-unit pizza chain; also operates D'Angelo Sandwich Shops
NEEDS: Online ordering solution with functionality specific to the pizza industry; simplified pricing models for easy budgeting; smooth integration
VENDOR: Onosys
For Papa Gino's (www.papaginos.com), a roughly 400-unit pizzeria franchise that also includes D'Angelo Sandwich Shops, an integrated online ordering system helps drive new business while taking care of regular customers, according to John Eagles, director, Papa Gino's.

"Business is running more smoothly, so it's easier for customers to place orders and the average check order has increased significantly," says Eagles. "The quality of customer data has also increased making it is easier to market to them. We know who they are, what they purchased and when they respond to coupons."
Eagles researched approximately 20 online ordering companies as a part of the vendor selection process, narrowed the list to five for product demos, and settled on a solution from ONOSYS (www.onosys.com).

Two key elements of the ONOSYS solution stood out to Eagles. First, ONOSYS offers a fixed pricing model regardless of order volume. Most other vendors use a transaction-based pricing structure based on the restaurant's use of the system, notes Eagles. With the ONOSYS system, however, the price-per-month is fixed, regardless of whether one or 20,000 orders are placed via the online system. For Papa Gino's, the price model makes it easier to establish and stick to budgets. In addition, Eagle's valued the vendor's experience in the pizza industry, where complex orders are commonplace (half pepperoni, half mushroom and extra cheese, well done crust, etc.) ONOSYS has built-in capabilities to handle the complexity of order variety.

Eagles also notes that the ONOSYS system is fully integrated with Papa Gino's POS, enabling the restaurant to easily sell different products at different locations. Integration also makes the order confirmation process run smoothly. When the customer completes an online order, it is sent to the restaurant and confirmed to the customer via the online system. The full integration allows Papa Gino's to isolate and correct problems before they become an issue. "There's nothing worse than a customer being double billed, for instance. Full integration with an online ordering system doesn't always eliminate these types of errors, but it provides the full transaction analysis so we can see what went wrong along the way and quickly correct it," says Eagles.

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