With new technology spreading to the restaurant industry, there’s a heightened level of expectation that comes with it. Customers expect the correct food—and quickly—from the moment they place their order. All restaurants rely on a restaurant ordering system to meet this demand, though not all restaurants are taking the same approach or using the same system.
For that reason, it’s important to consider which type of restaurant order system is right for you. With all of the available options out there, it can be overwhelming to decide how best to move forward. This definitive guide is here to help you through that.
In this article, we will discuss the following:
- Types of restaurant ordering systems
- Common online order systems
- Downsides of third-party ordering systems
- Benefits of using in-house software
- Crucial features of in-house software
- The best software provider
As restaurant technology evolves, so should your restaurant. That much goes without saying, but another important thing to remember is that your entire restaurant revolves around your customers. Don’t sacrifice great customer service just because you have fewer interactions with your patrons. Even as technology grows and develops, you can still adjust your operations to deliver the best service possible.
Are you ready to dive into this guide and learn what you need to know about restaurant order systems? Let’s take a look!
1. Types of restaurant ordering systems
When it comes to restaurant ordering, there are two types of methods you can use. These ordering systems for restaurants are in-house ordering systems and online/external ordering systems. Both are beneficial and can help boost your sales, but there are variations of these systems that you should keep in mind.
In-house ordering systems.
In-house ordering systems include mPOS (mobile point-of-sale) systems and tableside ordering, which allows servers to efficiently take orders, or lets customers place their orders directly through a tablet at their table. You’ve probably noticed that tablets are also replacing cashiers at counter-service restaurants, like at Panera Bread, for example. While this method can decrease customer-staff interactions, this technology increases customer satisfaction with its accurate, streamlined ordering process.
A legacy ordering system, on the other hand, is managed from a central kiosk and must be installed by a specialist. Legacy POS systems don’t offer the same functionality that mPOS systems have (e.g., frequent security updates, cloud-based data, etc.), so this is important to consider when choosing your restaurant ordering system.
Online/external ordering systems.
Just a couple of years ago, 42% of customers said the ability to order online would make them choose one restaurant over another. Incorporating online ordering into your restaurant ordering system is a great way to gain more business and exposure.
Online or external ordering allows customers to place an order from any device, and this system immediately notifies the kitchen when the order is processed. Customers can choose whether they want their food delivered or picked up, or if they want to dine in.
Online ordering is also important because it ensures accuracy in the actual order, and streamlines the process of paying and tipping online. Even more, front-of-house staff can focus on dine-in guests, rather than taking orders over the phone.
With both in-house and online/external ordering systems, you can increase your orders and revenue. But there are some common online restaurant order systems you may want to avoid. We’ll cover those in the next two sections.
2. Common online order systems
When you think of ordering systems for restaurants, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? As a consumer, you might think of third-party food ordering vendors, such as Grubhub or UberEats. These are incredibly convenient ordering platforms for customers, but are they as convenient for restaurants? We’ll come back to this idea in a bit.
Aside from third-party ordering systems, there is also in-house automated software your restaurant can use to allow customers to order directly from your website. With this restaurant ordering system, a customer has made a conscious decision to order from your restaurant, which means they’re more likely to complete their order.
So, which restaurant order systems are the most effective and efficient? Let’s find out.
3. Downsides of common third-party online ordering systems
Third-party online ordering systems may seem appealing for a few reasons: they provide smaller restaurants with an opportunity to expand their reach, as well as get more brand recognition. However, there are more downsides than may be obvious.
When looking at common third-party apps like UberEats and Grubhub, it’s important to consider the following:
- Commission fees. GrubHub charges an average commission fee of 18%, while UberEats charges a commission fee as high as 35%. This is a large cut of the profit that is removed from your restaurant’s revenue. The more business your restaurant gets, even from using these apps, the more your third-party vendor pockets.
- Data insights. One of the most important steps in creating a personalized and improved experience for your customers is through analyzing your data. By using a third-party app, much of the data about the customers who have ordered from you will not be available for you to access.
- Lack of control. If you work with a third-party vendor, this means your brand is being handled by a completely separate party and you have little to no say over how your brand is represented on their platform. In addition, third-party vendors present several restaurant options to customers, which means they may end up ordering from somewhere else anyway.
If you’re incorporating a third-party vendor app into your restaurant’s sales strategy, especially as a new, up-and-coming restaurant, it’s understandable that your goal would be to give up a percentage of your sales in exchange for gaining new customers. However, paying per-order commission fees can make it difficult to grow in the long-run.
4. Benefits of using in-house software
Now that we’ve covered the downsides of using third-party vendors for restaurant ordering, let’s dive into the benefits of using in-house software. As opposed to giving up a percentage of your profits in exchange for new customers, the initial investment in your in-house software can save you much more revenue over the longer term.
Simply put, third-party providers are costly enough that it may not be worth using them.
Using in-house software that integrates with your restaurant POS system and other software is a better option than using a third-party app because you get access to all your data. Let’s take a closer look at what that data is:
- Loyalty integration. If you use in-house software for ordering, you can integrate your POS with loyalty programs, which will allow you to keep track of customer information, personalize their experience, and convert them into returning customers. By knowing who your customers are and understanding their order history, you can also send them customized marketing messages and promotions, which can increase repeat orders.
- Inventory tracking. With in-house software, you’re in control of your inventory. You can manage all of your vendors in one place, get real-time inventory updates, generate reports on ingredient amounts and financials, and create purchase orders.
- Communication. Make processing orders easier for your kitchen staff because all orders come through the same KDS (kitchen display system).
- Reduced human error. With in-house ordering, you can reduce human error. Automate much of your order-taking process and generate the reports you need, when you need them.
- Learning opportunities. Learn from your inventory data what dishes are most the popular, for instance, so you can stock up on the right amount of each ingredient. This leads to happier customers and less stress on your staff. Your staff will also be aware when an ingredient is about to run out so they can alert customers proactively.
Of course, all of this data is meant to streamline your operations, but it is also meant to increase customer satisfaction, as mentioned earlier. Having an in-house ordering system ensures your brand is reflected in your ordering process and gives you total control over the ordering experience.
Here’s a popular example of how a restaurant provides a great experience for online customers: Have you ever used the Domino’s pizza tracker? Domino’s does a great job of representing their brand while also allowing customers to closely track their orders, increasing overall satisfaction.
There are many benefits, like those listed above, to using in-house ordering systems for restaurants. From increasing your brand visibility to creating a consistent experience for your customers, an in-house restaurant order system will make your job much easier and allow you to focus on what matters most: the food and your customers.
5. Crucial features of your restaurant ordering system software
Once you’ve decided to invest in an in-house restaurant ordering system, there are several important features you should ensure are part of the package. By incorporating these features, you can increase customer satisfaction and your level of efficiency, getting customers in and out the doors in a smoother and quicker manner.
Here are the top features you should look for:
- Total menu customization. Make sure the right questions are always asked when customers are placing an order. This is done through forced and optional modifiers that prompt the server to ask particular questions when a certain order is placed. For instance, if a customer orders a hamburger, the server will be prompted to ask how they want it cooked.
- Hold and fire. Assign individual menu items to be processed at different times for dine-in customers. If a group orders appetizers and then their meal, for example, ensure that the items are prepared and freshly delivered at the appropriate moments.
- Tab preauthorization. Allow customers to pay for their drinks at the beginning of the night, which prevents them from forgetting their cards. This is especially useful for bars.
- Happy hours and discounts. Easily run a happy hour or discount by setting an automatic percentage or dollar discount during certain periods of time.
- Offline mode. This is crucial for software! If your Internet goes down, you can still continue taking orders using the offline mode.
- Combo options. Create combinations from existing menu items, such as an entree, side, and drink. This allows individual components of the combo to go to different areas: the bar, kitchen, etc. This is also more efficient for kitchen operations.
- Dual cash drawer. Heighten your security with a dual cash drawer. Two cash drawers are attached to a single shared POS terminal and printer, and you can hold employees accountable by assigning each cash drawer to a single server.
- Self-ordering kiosks. Add a self-ordering kiosk in addition to counter service or as a stand-alone solution. Customers can place their orders, pay, and send their orders straight to the kitchen.
These features span areas of efficiency, security, and convenience. Don’t settle for less than what is necessary, given your restaurant’s needs. By incorporating the above features, you’ll be in for a much smoother and streamlined daily operation.
6. Best software provider
You may be asking yourself at this point: what is the best restaurant order system? When you’re looking to invest in the best ordering system for restaurants, you should take a look at what your needs are and where your operations could improve on a daily basis.
Lavu delivers best-in-class ordering systems for restaurants, with all the previously mentioned features included. If you’re looking for an iPad POS system that can take care of everything, including tracking orders and inventory, as well as collecting other data, you can benefit from Lavu.
Lavu is the #1 ranked restaurant POS system and iPad POS system. Customers consistently rank Lavu over competitors when it comes to functionality, ease of use, value, and support. Review our POS competitive comparison guide to see how Lavu ranks against Clover, Toast, and TouchBistro.
You can offer restaurant online ordering with Lavu To Go, which is an easy-to-use online ordering system that streamlines your day-to-day operations by integrating into your website and POS.
On top of its low cost and level of maintenance, Lavu To Go offers:
- Upsell prompts
- Nutritional information
- Custom modifiers
- Customer profiles
- Online versus in-store sales comparisons
- Reports directly from your POS
- Easy online ordering
Give your staff the resources necessary to efficiently run your restaurant, and give customers the convenience they want and the quick service they expect. By investing in the best restaurant ordering system software, you can create a great atmosphere for everyone involved.
With the rise in restaurant technology, customer service and experiences don’t have to suffer. Use the right type of restaurant ordering system for you that will help you maximize your profits, track your data, and create happy customers all at the same time. After all, customer loyalty is a large part of keeping your business running. Why not make it easier to build that loyalty?
Looking for more information about restaurant order systems, or anything else discussed in this article? Explore these additional resources below:
- Optimize To Go Food Sales with Integrated Online Ordering. Interested in learning more about how to maximize your food sales with online ordering? Check out this helpful article!
- Restaurant POS Systems: The Comparative Buyer’s Guide. Still trying to decide what restaurant POS system to invest in? Read through our comparative buyer’s guide!
- Improve Your Restaurant’s Front-of-House and Kitchen Communications. Communication is key when running your restaurant. Learn how to improve and build on communications between your front-of-house staff and kitchen staff.