As restaurant brands deploy digital ordering, the stakes are high. Done well, digital ordering enables a brand to foster greater customer loyalty, grow sales and create a win-win-win for customers, operators/franchisees and the brand itself. Done poorly, digital ordering can damage valuable customer relationships and result in operators/franchisees losing trust in the brand.
In my experience as the Founder & CEO of Olo.com over the past nine-and-a-half years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with more than 150 brands to operate digital ordering programs that today serve more than 7 million customers. In that time, I’ve learned that there are many critical components to a successful digital ordering program. Here are my top 10 tips for a successful digital ordering implementation:
1. Make sure that all key departments are in the boat before you set sail. Digital ordering requires participation from IT, operations, marketing, and training, as well as executive buy-in from the c-suite. Involve all key departments in the project of launching a digital ordering program. One department (typically IT, operations, or a project management office) should captain the digital ordering ship on a day-to-day basis and keep the larger organization updated on a regular basis.
2. Involve key franchisees/operators upfront and be decisive to be consistent. Typically franchisees/operators and their teams are utilizing the digital ordering tool the most and thus have the most impact on the program’s success or failure. It’s critical for brands to involve key representatives from the franchisee/operator community in evaluating the digital ordering program and providing feedback on an ongoing basis.
3. Begin with the end in mind. Think through the end-to-end customer experience and the end-to-end store experience. Your goal should be as consistent an experience as possible from store-to-store. Plan for success and don’t get caught flat-footed when/if your digital ordering program grows to 25% of your sales.
4. Choose the right technology platform. There are many digital ordering providers on the market. Be sure to pick one that’s flexible and capable of meeting the needs of both high-volume and low-volume stores. And put your customers and their experience and privacy first by choosing a platform that’s reliable, fast and secure.
5. Choose the right technology partner. Your technology partner should provide you with best practices from their experience working with other brands like yours and should continue to be a resource for you and your team on an ongoing basis, engaging in regularly scheduled check-in calls and easily accessible by phone and email when you have quick questions.
6. Measure twice, cut once: Test, test, test. Make sure that you have a lab environment setup in your headquarters that comes as close to exactly mirroring your in-store operational setup as possible (e.g. same point-of-sale database). By testing thoroughly all of the dishes and configurations of dishes on your menu, you’ll save your franchisees/operators frustration down the road.
7. Plan for varying degrees of adoption. Some stores will have great success with digital ordering and require that you put controls in place like volume thresholds during busy time periods during the day and a friendly distribution of scheduled orders so that they don’t overwhelm the kitchen all at the same time. Maintain consistency amongst stores as much as possible, but be prepared to cater to the special needs of high-adoption stores.
8. Train your teams. Train and prep all the way to the register. Provide managers and employees with laminated FAQs to keep on hand. Be sure that the Operations department understands the technology from end-to-end (both customer experience and store experience) and is prepared to retrain new managers/employees quarterly.
9. Train your customers. Like anything new, it’s critical that you communicate to your customers and make it easy for them to place their first digital order. Start inside the four walls and with your owned media channels (e-mail list members, Twitter followers, Facebook fans) and sell the key benefit that they can have faster, more accurate, more personal service by ordering through the app.
10. Get moving — time is of the essence and this is just the first step. Next is digging into data. As consumers have come to expect the faster, more accurate and more personal experience that digital ordering services offer, restaurant brands can no longer keep their head in the sand and ignore customer demand. However, proper execution requires holistic planning and a thoughtful approach.
Noah Glass is the Founder & CEO of online and mobile ordering pioneer Olo. Since 2005, Olo has helped leading restaurant brands use digital ordering for faster, more accurate, and more personal service to more than 7 million customers. Olo has been featured on “Good Morning America,” The Wall Street Journal, ABC World News, and more.
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