If you’re still thinking long and hard about entering the $61.5 billion catering market, you should think again. Catering can drive strong business results (here are some stats). And online ordering, in particular, can turbocharge your entry into catering. Why? Today, one-third of catering customers place their orders online and more customers are expected to follow, according to Technomic’s 2018 “Catering Insights Program” report. So if your restaurant doesn’t “do” online ordering, you’re actually walking away from a third of the market. Take a look at how that impacts your business: Every catering order you turn away averages $283 a pop—fifteen times the typical delivery order. Additionally, 41 percent of customers order catering at least once a week. Think about how that can add up over time.
If you don’t have online ordering for your catering business, it’s a good moment to pause and consider its benefits. Here are some of them:
1. Reach and Retain More Catering Customers
In our age of “crazy busy” work schedules, catering customers expect businesses to make it easy to place last-minute orders. Regardless of how you feel about that, most business catering orders are placed at the last minute: 38 percent are ordered just hours before they’re needed, and 69 percent need to be filled within a day. Take a cold look at those numbers and you’ll see that the old standby methods of ordering via phone, email, and fax don’t cut it anymore. Today’s catering customers don’t have time to fill out an order form and wait 24 hours for a reply. And they don’t want to hear “please hold.” To meet your customers’ needs, your restaurant needs the flexibility and instant transactions of online ordering. With online ordering, your business has a better chance to compete.
2. Save Time and Money on Restaurant Labor
When you power your catering business with online ordering, your employees spend less time walking away from their main duties to answer the phone. Because catering orders are more complicated than takeout, your employees can spend a lot of time on the phone taking down those orders. This isn’t good for restaurants, which rely on highly efficient staff. But with the help of online ordering, you can improve your employees’ efficiency and cut down on labor costs.
3. Improve Order Accuracy
A lot of details get lost in translation with phone ordering. But when you offer online ordering, customers can manage and adjust their catering orders easily, which can reduce errors. Plus, restaurants can avoid the heated “he said, she said” exchange and check the system if there’s a difference of opinion. In the long run, this can save time, money, and headaches.
4. Prevent Common Mistakes
For some customers, scheduling a catering order can get pretty knotty, especially when dealing with large group orders, dietary restrictions, and budgets. Unless you have well-trained staff members who can answer all their questions, a lot can fall through the cracks. When catering customers make a mistake, this can be frustrating for both sides. Fortunately, some online platforms are specifically designed to support customers in the complicated aspects of ordering catering. For instance, ezOrdering features automated calculators, menu labels, and fields to make customization easy. Plus, at checkout, the website will remind customers if there’s too much food in their carts—or not enough—so that things go smoothly.
5. Improve Your Customers’ Ordering Experience
Online ordering contributes to a great customer experience, with features like 24/7 customer service and digital support. It can strengthen customer affinity with your brand and build customer loyalty, too. Whether you choose to work with a third-party vendor or hire an agency to build an in-house ordering system, make sure your website is mobile-friendly and easy to navigate. Also, look at other features of the system: Does it offer behind-the-scenes customer support, which may help encourage customers to place orders on your website? Are there other added features like rewards points? Customers love that sort of stuff. In the end, a better experience can help you build loyalty and sales.
6. Grow Add-On Catering Sales
Restaurants that take online orders see their bottom lines jump due to add-on sales, according to Fast Company. When hungry customers have to order catering with the full online menu in front of them, they tend to order more.
7. Capture Data
Data solves a lot of mysteries, like who your catering customers are and what they prefer to order. In knowing this, you can enhance the customer experience, improve your marketing strategy, and bolster sales. If you want to leverage data this way, online ordering systems allow you to capture and store your customers’ email addresses, phone numbers, order preferences, and more. Use this information to market directly to your customers through email and text, based on what they frequently order. You can even use data to craft and deliver a personalized customer experience, which pays off, according to Forbes.
8. Create Harmony in Your Kitchen, Not Chaos
Catering really is different. One major difference is that the orders are bigger. And unfortunately, some food delivery platforms flunk the test because they’re designed for individual meals for the couch-bound, not large group orders. It’s hard for your kitchen to pull off a 100-person catering order disguised as delivery—especially when the order is hidden in a stream of tickets bearing single orders. It kinks up the workflow, which is vital to smooth service. It can also jack up food and packaging costs.
Despite these incredible benefits, not every restaurant that could use online ordering does. “It used to be that you could have a successful restaurant without having online catering,” says Jennifer Parker, Founder of Impact Brands. “But [the] off-premises [market] is too big of an opportunity. And the way that you get there is through technology.” So consider moving your catering order system online. Your customers will love you for it. If you’re interested in a third-party platform to give your catering business a competitive advantage, learn more about ezOrdering.
Grow your catering business with ezOrdering