How restaurants can maximize the digital landscape to drive sales

As VP of a technology solutions provider for restaurants of all sizes, with over 20,000 restaurants using our company’s technology, there are common misconceptions about how digital can be fully leveraged and maximized to generate profitability. When looking at data from the most successful restaurants, there are a few trends that rise to the top.

First party vs third party

This is by far the biggest misconception (and opportunity) proliferating in today’s restaurant landscape.

As the world’s Grubhubs, UberEats and DoorDashs have proliferated, so has the false narrative that third-party delivery is the “bane of small restaurant existence,” a necessary but frustrating mainstay that sucks up all the profits.

At the heart of this narrative are fees. Undoubtedly, third-party platforms charge a hefty premium for easy delivery. What is needed here is a reorientation of the role and purpose of the third party within the broader landscape of a restaurant’s convenience business.

From a strategic perspective, the restaurant should not view third-party ordering providers as food delivery services — at least not as far as the small restaurateur is concerned. Its real roles are reach and visibility, which for the line item worldwide makes it a marketing spend.

Bringing mass visibility to small businesses while allowing them to have their food delivered without the infrastructure of employing drivers is no scourge. It’s the cost of marketing — and marketing is not cheap. It brings you more customers, but it costs you money.

No one I talk to has ever said they don’t want to acquire new customers that they can then serve again and again. Because that would mean the end of their business. Strategically, the first part can fulfill this objective.

The analogy I like to quote is that of a sign rotating near a physical location. Their job is to stand outside and direct customers inside. For every customer who walks in and dines, that person receives a commission. Of course, once you have these new customers in your restaurant, you can push them further down the funnel by letting them know that there is a side door where regulars can enter of their own accord. That open door is part one, and the billboard outside your restaurant is part three. The two work together, which is what creates a large flywheel.

Soggy fries are the price of a third

No. They are not.

No one likes soggy fries or a lukewarm entree. But the problem is not with the driver, but with the timing of the order. If a driver is 20 minutes away when the order is received and instantly sent to the kitchen, you’re likely going to have that order pending. Matching the arrival of the driver to the time of the order is crucial, but easy to do. The order can be held until the driver is within close enough distance to ensure the food is delivered with as much product integrity as possible. Protecting food quality protects the customer experience. Faster delivery times, better delivery transfers, and optimal food quality are essential for happy customers, great reviews, and repeat business.

The multiplicity of suppliers makes true accounting impossible

One thing that’s not a myth: financial inconsistencies between a restaurant’s point of sale and third-party delivery reports. It’s 100% real. So are the accounting headaches small business owners incur trying to reconcile what their bank tells them they’ve been paid and what the third-party delivery bill claims. The good news is that there are solutions to this problem and they are as effective as they are financially beneficial. Regardless of the mechanism for reconciling accounting issues, ask your technology solution provider to give you an automated way to identify inconsistencies.

Customer sentiment is unmanageable

We know that when third-party delivery goes offline, it’s the restaurant that suffers customer sentiment, whether on a review site like Yelp or through word of mouth. In fact, Tattle, which measures customer sentiment and is integrated with ItsaCheckmate, recently discovered that during a three-hour window when a major third-party delivery player went down, customer sentiment of restaurants fell 30%. No matter who or what is to blame, when the dining experience fails to live up to expectations, the restaurant suffers the consequences.

As unpredictable as customer sentiment can be due to forces beyond your control, it is not unmanageable. Make sure your team members should have easy, turnkey access to be able to disable delivery providers and pull down menus from online ordering platforms in case something goes wrong. If your team has this plan in place and is ready to activate it, by the time the restaurant is notified that a supplier is offline, damage has been done with customers unhappy with their experience.

Like the best restaurants, doing the basics exceptionally well is what wins. Times, tools, and technology change, but you and your organization set yourself up for success by leveraging the resources, digital or analog, around you, it doesn’t.

AUTHORS BIOGRAPHY

Kevin Jaskolka is Vice President at ItsaCheckmate. With over 20 years of experience in all growth and marketing functions of various technology companies, Kevin previously served as Vice President of ParTech for over four years.

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