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Join an online marketplace or get your own app? A tricky choice for restaurants and takeaways.

Join an online marketplace or get your own app? A tricky choice for restaurants and takeaways.

June 22, 2020

I live in an area with a lot of small independent cafes, bars, retailers and restaurants. These small businesses get an incredible amount of support from locals living in the area, plus extra trade from visiting tourists. Currently these businesses doors are closed due to Coronavirus, but luckily with online ordering for takeaway and delivery, we can still get our hands on delicious local food and drink.

Online ordering for takeaway and collection is the obvious route to keep your restaurant thriving when you can’t actually seat any guests. There are a few ways to get online, some methods quicker, and more beneficial, than others:

1. Take orders over the phone, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.

The initial benefit of this method is you pay no commission. To get started with this you just find a way for your customers to see your menu and contact you with their order. So pop your menu on your Facebook page and let them know how to get in touch. The issues with this method are that you are going to get mistakes, it’s hard to keep a track of your orders, and you have to take payment over the phone (which isn’t great idea these days, it’s not secure, and if card details are leaked you are liable) or worse try to link bank transfers to orders. If you get busy, those phone calls and messages can quickly get unmanageable, it’s hard to stay on track!

2. Build yourself an online ordering website you can run yourself.

This one takes a little more time and skill, but there are a few website builders out there that can help you take orders online. The orders can still be a bit tricky to manage if you are busy, as these sites are normally designed for e-commerce rather than takeaway deliveries, so they won’t be able to handle updating order times or some of the customer communications. But they can take payment online, which removes the issue of taking payment over the phone. You will have do the work yourself to bring customers to your website.

3. Get yourself a branded ordering app.

The next level up from a website is native ordering app. Apps are always in your customers hands, and customers enjoy the slick ordering experience. There are a few ways to get your own app, with different levels of costs. For some apps you will pay an order commission, others a flat fee, and things vary when it comes to paying card processing fees. Some apps come with a terminal for managing your orders in the restaurant, so you benefit from receipts for the kitchen and fully featured order management. If you have a really good customer base and brand, this can be an option for you, as you will be able to bring all your loyal customers to your very own app.

4. Join an online marketplace app.

I might be a bit biased about this option, as we run a marketplace ourselves, but joining an online marketplace ticks all the boxes. Joining an online marketplace is like getting a small shop on a busy high street. You may be just one shop on that row of businesses, but if that street has lots of passing trade, then you will certainly benefit. Online marketplaces already have registered customers, who love to try something new. Marketplace apps are also incredibly ‘sticky’, with customers opening up the app for a browse as soon as they start to get hungry. A good marketplace will promote you to its customer base shorty after you go live, and will also promote new items on your menu and special offers. Most marketplaces will include a terminal for you to have in your store, where you can easily manage all your orders. The terminal will print receipts and handle customer communications too. The downside with an online marketplace is you can pay for this service with a high commission fees, but not all marketplaces are expensive.

If the online marketplace is a busy high street, then your own app is a stand alone shop just out of town. These stand alone apps do work, as long as you have your own existing customer base and a strong brand. If you want the custom that a busy high street brings, then paying the commission to the online marketplace will be worth it.

On the subject of commissions, it’s true that the big players charge a lot, sometimes more than a small independent business can afford. So it’s worth looking into whether a smaller independent marketplace is operating in your area. They are out there, and they are doing a great job of working with businesses in their area to keep commissions low (again, I’m a little biased!).

Where I live, a mixture of all these methods are in use by local businesses; some restaurants are only taking pre-orders over the phone, some big brands are setting up their own ordering apps, and a lot of the independents have joined the local online marketplace that we run, called Pronto. But no matter what they are using, delicious food is getting into the hands of locals, and many small businesses are doing better than ever.

If you would like to chat to me about anything in this article, please reach out, I love to chat about restaurant technology, and food too (this article was powered by a delicious takeaway from The Olive Branch in Ilkley, thanks Mel!).

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