What You Need to Know to Generate More Online Orders During COVID-19

COVID-19, or the corona virus, has become an international pandemic, causing health concerns for the American public in every single state. This has resulted in sweeping changes in consumer habits, especially for our industry: the restaurant industry.

We’ve seen a decline in foot traffic to restaurants by 100% in most areas. Many cities have had to implement shelter-in-place orders, keeping restaurants open only for delivery and pickup. Our industry has seen numerous challenges over the past few weeks.

Today, we’ll discuss proven tips and tricks for creativity through delivery to drive increased revenue and keep your restaurant doors open.

Alex Canter

CEO & Co-Founder, Ordermark

Alicia Kelso

Senior Contributor, Forbes

Tim Brown

VP Global Sales F&B, Oracle

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Q: We recently saw The Great American Take-out. It was a day dedicated to supporting local restaurant communities across the country. They started a weekly campaign: is this helpful? And what else are you seeing around supporting delivery from restaurants and online ordering platforms specifically?

Alex Canter: I’m excited to see these campaigns popping up. I think it’s really important to spread awareness to consumers that restaurants need them more than ever. If you work in the restaurant industry, you have an idea of how challenging this is, how devastating it can be. But a lot of people are still in the mindset of stopping at the grocery store and eating their perishable food before it goes bad. I think that there still needs to be a bigger mindset shift to how important it is to order from your favorite restaurants to keep them in business, to keep their doors open.

I’m encouraging any restaurants that I’m talking to, to do their best to educate their customer base on how critical each order is for them. Tuesday is a slower day, so it’s great that there’s a little bit of a pickup on that day [with The Great American Takeout], but one day a week is simply not enough to create a sustainable uptick in order volume and I think that there needs to be, in general, greater awareness. 

There is some relief coming from some of the online ordering companies themselves. Specifically, some of the other online ordering platforms are trying to figure out ways in which they can promote to their customers better in different ways, especially by offering free delivery.

Postmates has been giving out a lot of free delivery codes and some of the online ordering companies have, in a relief effort, attempted to reduce some of their rates, whether it’s for new customers or for a certain period of time, but those companies can figure out ways to subsidize or reduce their percentages.

Q: You recently wrote an article: Restaurant Brands Are Launching Higher-Ticket Family Meals To Ease Sales Declines. In what ways are you seeing restaurant owners get creative with their delivery operations?

Alicia Kelso: They’re [restaurants] getting creative with everything and that is the perfect example, tragically. We’re going to have a lot of losers on the other side of this and unfortunately, the buffet segment, some family dining concepts. That doesn’t mean that people don’t want that. 

Those holes are going to have to be filled and I just see, across segments, people filling those voids. I don’t think family meals or bundles are going to go away. In fact, I think they’re going to accelerate during the crisis. 

In the past month, in terms of things people are doing creatively to shift into delivery, making sure that these [delivery] fees are waived. That’s the best thing that people can do right now. When we look at the macro picture of consumers, they’ve got just as much uncertainty as well. They might be a little conservative with their eating-out spend until they know a little bit more about what that other side is going to look like. And unemployment numbers right now are not boding well for eating-out spend.

We’re seeing chains pivot almost their entire marketing spend to subsidize that delivery fee. If we drill down into a more granular level, I’m seeing creativity all over the board. There was a fun story a couple weeks ago in the New York Times about a guy who runs a bagel shop in New York City.

And he wanted to jump into delivery. But the third-party commissions were just too high. So I just started delivering the bagels himself and, obviously, the ROI isn’t great on that. He got everybody in his neighborhood involved and started delivering all their items. That’s a great example of people coming together and it’s a great example of getting creative. 

They threw some toilet paper in there.

I don’t know if that [creativity] is going to stay, but I definitely think delivery is going to stay and we’re seeing those habits being forced. Those habits aren’t going to go away particularly with the younger consumers.

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Q: One of the most important things restaurants need to look at right now is how their menu items travel. What changes to packaging and delivery are currently in development or in place to ensure customers delivery is safe and delicious on arrival?

Tim Brown: Packaging is more important now than it’s ever been, and  to have completely integrated solutions. What I  mean by that is: you’ve got to manage customer expectations at the start of this whole journey. The customer is still fickle in some respects and doesn’t want to ring up or place an order and just be told it’s going to be 40 minutes. I think moving forward, fully integrated systems through your off-premise ordering app or website or voice or whatever sends orders into your kitchen, especially with ghost kitchens and virtual kitchens, it’s about managing consumer expectations. 

It’s looking at the menus that we’re designing to make sure that they travel well. I think it’s important that when we cook the food in the kitchen, that we cook it in a process where everything hits the window, or the pass, at the same time with optimal cooking conditions. So, the last few miles that it travels is actually finishing off the cooking process. We’ve already seen at trade shows over here that some vendors are playing around with boxes that continue the cooking process. As long as it leaves at a particular point, then the material will continue to cook it on the journey. People have got to look at how food travels. 

It’s also thinking about their delivery area  and we’ve got to get back to talking about delivery is going to work. It’s important to have that one-to-one relation on a delivery so that you’re delivering the food to that customer on a one-to-one relation that we don’t have a 1-2-3 because if you’re number three in the queue your food isn’t going to be in the optimum condition. 

There’s a number of things to look at. I think data and Tech helps. I think menu planning helps. I think getting the food on the back of the bike and cycling around and seeing how far you can deliver the food is really basic. It’s not tacky. It’s not scientific. It’s that: a burger tastes good after a couple of miles. That will get you where you need to be, so a bit of tech, a bit of common sense.

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Macy Walp

Macy Walp

SoCal native and self-proclaimed “foodie”, Macy educates Ordermarks customers on the emerging new shift of online ordering. Her restaurant experience and background in marketing and social media management allow her to keep her finger on the pulse of the industry and guide restaurants towards a successful online ordering business.

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