vicki powers
freelance writer

Click to Order

Hospitality Technology, March 2007

by Vicki Powers

First, customers had to walk inside to place their orders, even the to-go ones. Then, they started driving up to a window, but still waited in line. Next, they picked up the phone and called ahead. Today, customers are placing orders from their computer terminals before ever leaving their offices or homes.

Online ordering offers convenience to the customer and the restaurant, especially during peak meal times. An increasing number of casual dining restaurants are moving beyond the “take-out/to go” market and giving customers the chance to order from a Web site — as early as that morning or even the day before.

Lunch time, for example, is extremely busy at Charlie's Bar-B-Que and Catering in Bellaire, Texas, located right outside Houston. Customers would call at 11:30 a.m. to place a lunch order to go, right during the busy lunch rush.

“We were putting people on hold and not being as polite as we wanted because of the crowds,” says Stathy Demeris, owner and president, Charlie's Bar-B-Que. “Now when people call, we can refer them to our Web site to place an order. I started online ordering more because of the convenience for the customer. People are more computer savvy now.”

To assist first-timers looking for insights and advice with their online ordering solutions, HT talked to restaurants with experience with the technology. Here's what we found out.

Financial gains
Online ordering can save in manpower costs, says Timmy Yan, general manager of CyBelle's Front Room, a San Francisco-based full-service restaurant with New York-style pizza, steaks, seafood and burgers. When restaurants believe they might need to hire a second dedicated phone employee, online ordering is a good tool that costs much less than an actual person.

Yan worked with WL Information Services Inc. to create a custom online ordering program for CyBelle's. He was interested in this option because it works with his POS system. Online orders come from his receipt printer, and employees manually enter the order into the POS system.

“I didn't like the fax option for orders because our fax is in the office area, not the order area,” Yan says. “It also ties up the phone line when faxes come in.”

Jason's Deli, owned by Texas-based Deli Management Inc. with 140 locations in Texas and 20 states, realized it was more cost effective to outsource its online ordering after co-developing and hosting its own online ordering platform since 1998. Jason's Deli partnered with Dallas-based orderTalk to host its online ordering system. After evaluating many solution providers, Lee Greer, marketing director at Jason's Deli, says orderTalk was the most flexible and easy to use.

“Outsourcing alleviates lots of pain,” Greer states. The hardware requirements aren't necessary, he says, as well as the manpower to continue developing and improving the system.

Greer also points to an online ordering system's ability to offer additional menu items, toppings, etc. to customers. Up-selling helped increase the online ticket at Jason's Deli an average of 20 percent higher than similar phone orders.

In addition, online ordering should be considered as a part of a broader marketing strategy. Many online ordering technology solutions capture customer data from each order that can be.

©2004 Vicki Powers. Web design by