The World of Online Ordering for Restaurants

online-food-ordering

This post by my best friend, Cynthia Roberts. She is going to be getting into blogging in the coming weeks. Please let her know what you think of this post in the comment section!

My husband and I own a chain of three Mexican restaurants in Southern California. We have wanted to incorporate online ordering into our operations for a while, so when I got too big to safely navigate around the takeout order desk last fall (we had twins) and my ankles swelled to the size of cinder block brinks, I announced that I was taking maternity leave. But my maternity leave was not going to be a luxurious and pampered one of foot rubs and shoulder massages (as if anyone has ever had one of those).

I explored the world of online ordering.

For most restaurants, take-out is a good chunk of the business. For fast food, or quick-serve as they prefer to be called, take-out is huge, sometimes more than 50%. We’re more of a casual dining operation, with a wait staff. Still, last year our three locations did 16.2% in take-out on total sales of $2.8M. That’s more than $450,000 in take-out, not uncommon for our type of restaurant. The overwhelming majority of those orders, over 90%, came either from phone calls, or people coming into the lobby, placing their order, and then cooling their heels until the order was ready.

Online ordering offers a way for people to get on the internet, go through your menu, and place the order. They can even pay online. It’s convenient, and the order is right all the time (because when someone is placing a phone order and three other restaurant employees are asking me questions and glasses are breaking in the background, I have been known to get an order wrong).

It’s the best of both worlds. The customer goes home and eats the meal they want, and we do what makes us money – The customer is not sitting in the restaurant occupying real estate and keeping the restaurant staff busy, which costs us money. Added to that, when someone is leisurely placing an order on their desktop or laptop (they can also do if from their tablet an even their Smartphone) and not having to talk with me or one of the other people who handles orders at our restaurants, orders tend to get bigger, as much as 20% to 30%.

Pretty nifty.

There are two main types of online ordering. The first, which is what I planned to research while I was on leave, is a service specific to your restaurant. It is part of your website, and the better ones can even be made to look like your website. The customer accesses it from a button on your home page, and anyplace else you want to place it. Orders are instantaneously transmitted to you to put into the kitchen.

The second type of online ordering are services referred to as portals. Portals are megasites, listing hundreds or thousands of restaurants. A consumer on the portal enters their geographical preference, maybe the price range and type of food they are looking for, and the portal pulls up a list of restaurants meeting that criteria. Then the customer chooses and orders from the portal and the information is transmitted to you.

Portals typically list restaurants for free, but the charges can be as high as 15% to 20% of the bill, as opposed to individual services that charge much less (5% or less). You may get more exposure through the portals, but you are up against a lot more competition. Our restaurants are listed on a few portals. Since we didn’t pay unless the service was used, what did we have to lose?

Then I did some more research, and I ran across a study about online ordering done by Cornell University. Turns it that “nearly half of the consumers [47%] on multiple-restaurant sites [or portals] said they clicked over to the restaurant’s own website to order their food.” This made me kick myself (no easy feat considering how big I was with twins and about a week away from my due date). Almost half the people who ordered from us by the portal would visit our website. We could have gotten their business for far less money if we had offered online ordering. I know of two or three customers who order takeout through the portals at least once a week. We’re giving the portals a lot of money that we could keep if we offered online ordering through our website.

So now that I’m convinced that we need to offer online ordering, the question is, What do I look for in an online ordering service? There are a lot of them out there. Here is what I found:

Branded Online Ordering Site. Portals make us all look alike. We’ve put a lot of money and effort into cultivating a brand and we want to keep doing that. I wanted a site that would allow us to.

Ease of Use. Think of this in terms of how many ‘clicks’ it takes to complete an order. The fewer the better. Stay away from clunky looking systems that don’t offer customers an attractive and easy way to order.

Payments Directly to You. When a customer places an order using your site, you want the money deposited directly into your bank account. This is not the case with portals and is also not a guarantee with all individual online ordering systems. Make sure it works that way on the system you chose. I read an article about a portal that was holding $20,000 of some restaurant’s money. I don’t think so.

Mobile Site. People ordering from Smartphones make up a larger and larger chunk of the total online business. I needed to find a service that was mobile-order friendly.

Easy to Update. Even the good portals are difficult to update. At least once a week we get an order from a portal where the item has an old price, or we don’t offer it anymore. We needed an individual site that was easy to update, and could be done anytime.

Control of Customer Data. When you get an order from a portal, you know very little about the customer. In fact, it is the portal’s customer, not yours. I found individual sites out there that collect customer data and allow you to download it into an Excel database where you can slice it and dice it. The best ones allow you to do email and other marketing promotions. They can remember a customer’s birthday and send out an offer, and track redemption rates, too.

Linked with Facebook. With over a billion people on Facebook, and lots on Twitter and Instagram, the idea of an online ordering service that easily links to social media is a must. They are out there, too.

I’m five weeks back in the restaurant now. My two little ladies are still small enough that I can keep them in playpens and nurse them when they’re hungry. I even found a source for online ordering that meets all the requirements I’ve outlined here. It’s a company called NetWaiter: Online Food Ordering System For Restaurants. They’ve been a wealth of good advice, including how I should do a gradual rollout of online ordering through the three restaurants, one at a time. We’re getting ready to roll out the second this week.

NetWaiter even gave me something I didn’t include in the list of things I gave you. That is a strategy. I was telling my sales rep that as soon as we went live with NetWaiter I was planning on canceling all the portal entries we have.

“Don’t do that,” he said. “Instead, come up with a program to convert those portal customers over to your online ordering website. Let the portal do the heavy lifting for you, and then turn those customers into customers on your website.” The first thing I did was to remove all the links on our website referring folks to our portal sites. That was just plain dumb. Then I started offering portal customers incentives – discount offers and such – to order from our website. NetWaiter is so easy that once is all I need to convert a customer to a lifelong association.

Besides, online ordering also takes me off the phone and gives me time for what’s really important—playing with the baby girls and their big brother.

Thanksgiving Day Activities For Kids

thanksgiving-family

Every year my family and I round up everyone and host a giant Thanksgiving feast at one of our houses. It usually falls to my home for hosting because of our two separate dining areas. While I absolutely love hosting Thanksgiving, I always feel bad about my younger nieces and nephews who appear lost as the adults all drink and converse.

This year I decided to do something a bit different. I prepared some fun activities for kids of all ages to do for Thanksgiving this year. Continue reading →

My 5 Favorite Ways To Relax When I’m Stressed

Running two businesses (three if you count this blog), being a wife, and being a mother can be a bit overwhelming some times. I certainly wouldn’t trade it for the world but the stress occasionally gets to me. When I talk to my friends, they seem to be going through the same stressors but we all have different ways of relaxing.

Today I would like to talk about the 5 ways that I find best to relax when I’m stressed out. Hopefully you find some of these helpful!

1. Go For a Run

Back before I was a mother or a wife, I was a very big runner. I did the New York Marathon twice :). As my time started to get eaten away by little tasks, I pushed running to the back of my “to do” list and eventually (almost) gave it up completely.

This was a bad idea.

I noticed that I became much more sluggish, tired, and even my attitude changed. Little things would stress me out. One day I realized that it must be because my body was used to the endorphins of running and hadn’t gotten any in months.

I picked up my old running shoes, went for a three miles run, and guess what? Well, at first I was tired as heck but I felt great. Since then I realized the immense benefits of running and how it keeps me calm and level headed through the day.

2. Yoga

I’m not a big yoga fan but my friends Michelle and Amy are crazy about it. They say it is akin to working out and meditating at the same time. It’s all about finding your center – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

The benefits to yoga are far beyond just stress release. It also gives you a much more flexible and stronger body.

3. Writing

I have always found writing to be cathartic. It’s my way of reflecting on something I am interested in. Prior to creating this site I would write in my journal almost daily about my life and things that were bugging me. Even if my journal entries were only a few sentences long, it helped me get things off my mind.

4. Spa Day

All of my friends and I agree this is our favorite stress reliever. I think many ladies reading this would agree. Who doesn’t love to be pampered, massaged, and smell great?

Our bodies are like a car, you need to take it to the shop and detail it every once and a while.

Like I mentioned in my last post, if you are looking for an absolutely amazing spa experience, try Yon-Ka.

5. Going For a Walk

As simple as it sounds, going for a walk is a great way to relieve stress. Why? It clears your mind and allows you to connect with nature for an extended period of time. There’s no screen in front of you, screaming children, bad drivers, etc. It’s only you and nature. If you can, try to take walks in a preserved area such as a forrest or bird sanctuary.

My Skin Care Routine Plus Bonus Secrets I Use To Keep My Skin Looking Healthy

I don’t like to toot my own horn but I am almost always asked how I keep my skin so clear.

Although a bit of it is makeup magic, 99% is the healthy lifestyle that I live and keeping up with a routine. Everyone is built differently – some people have extremely oily skin, others have extremely dry skin, some peoples skin type changes drastically during the colder or warmer months. For this reason, not everyone can use the same skin regimen.

Today I’m going to walk you through how to figure out your skin type and which regimen is best for you!

Let’s do it… Continue reading →

How to Get Rid of Hiccups the Right Way

getting rid of hiccups with a lollipop

My youngest son had the television on the other day and an interesting segment came up about a girl who invented a cure for hiccups and they’re lollipops. But the best part is she’s only 15 years old!

I was amazed.

I did a bit of digging and found out that her name is Mallory Kievman. Her whole company began when she was thirteen years old, searching for a way to get rid of hiccups after she was plagued with them for hours and hours at a time. This is a condition known as “chronic hiccups”, something I was unaware of until reading up on it.

What I found really touching about this story was the fact that she wants to use her invention to help people who, like her, want to stop hiccups. You see, hiccups are a spasm caused in your diaphragm. Your brain is basically telling your lungs to try to “reset” so that you can get more oxygen. Some common reasons for getting hiccups include drinking soda or eating food too fast – both inhibit your body from breathing oxygen. What you don’t often hear about is the many people who have hiccups after certain surgeries or patients receiving chemotherapy.

I was able to track down the video that inspired me to write this post. Check it out below!

After reading up on Mallory and Hiccupops, I did some more research on the other ways to treat hiccups. Previously, I only thought there were a few (holding your breath, spoonful of sugar) but after searching for over thirty minutes, I was astounded at the amount of hiccup remedies I was able to find – hundreds. Now, some seemed legitimate but others were downright funny.

I’ve collected my ten favorite below… Enjoy!

  1. Blow on your thumb.
  2. Sing loud and with heart.
  3. Scream for as long as you can.
  4. Make yourself gag.
  5. Drink a full glass of water.
  6. Sit down and hold your breath.
  7. Breath into a paper bag.
  8. Gargle with ice cold water.
  9. Pull out your tongue.
  10. Eat a spoonful of peanut butter.

 

New Job, New Stella!

UPDATE: It’s finally official, we’ve merged with another SEO Company in NJ, digitalux! Very happy to share this announcement. Will be writing another post about the crazy month it’s been!

Many of you might not have known that I graduated from Stevens University (in Hoboken, NJ) with a BA in Marketing. After spending a few years working at an agency, I met my future husband. Once we had our first child, I decided to take some time off from work to raise him, giving up my job. Of course I absolutely love being a mother, but always wonder what my life would have been like if I stuck with my marketing career.

After purchasing this website to work on my writing and really getting into teaching myself WordPress, I learned more about a internet marketing and how it can help all types of businesses. Well, I was hooked! John let me redesign our company site a while back and I began learning about an industry called “Search Optimization” or SEO. It is a beautiful symmetry of science and art that comes together to help push websites up in search engines. I was amazed when I started learning more… Prior to my introduction to SEO, I always thought the search engine rankings were based on clicks (yes, I’m not the smartest cookie). Being a passionate person, I began reading more and more about this industry, learning about how everything worked together. John and I worked with some of our partners to help their websites grow (Anello’s and Halls’ sites). This leads me to what I’m very happy to announce… A family friend of ours saw the interest I had in this and decided to offer me a position at his brand new agency as Head of Content Marketing! Although I was not familiar with the term “content marketing” prior to our discussing, I was informed that it is basically what I am doing on the ReynoldsFence.com blog and on my personal blog. Since I also have experience with graphic design and SEO, it made me the perfect candidate :).

Even though I will technically be working two jobs, I am ecstatic to begin working on the projects lined up. Please feel free to check out our website here and my biography page!

P.S. That is my crazy/silly brother-in-law, James in the image above. I told him I would include that picture in my blog. Happy, James? :)

Update: The Vacation

Wow, what an amazing experience. Even though there were a few “speed bumps”, our trip was great!

It all began on a slightly chilly morning. Our bags were packed, passports in hand, but taxi was no where in sight. Apparently they had miss-booked us. Of course, I went into a melt-down thinking we were going to miss our trip but John stayed calm (he always keeps me grounded). We were eventually able to book another taxi service, putting us only 30 minutes behind. Once we got to the airport, it was a fairly straight forward process. Being 4:30am, no one was there and there were no lines. My adrenaline was already pumping (even though I hadn’t slept) so I was wide awake.

The plane ride was a bit bumpy as we hit some turbulence but I had a few glasses of wine and fell asleep around 8:30am (technically night time in Italy, so it’s okay). We arrived early in the morning and began our day as soon as our bags were in our room.

My absolute favorite spot we visited was the coliseum (below).

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When you actually get near it, you can feel the history come to life. It was a very strange feeling.

In all, it was a very relaxing, romantic vacation that John and I need badly. Although, it is great to be back to work and see the family again.

I will be uploading more pictures of the trip in the coming weeks! Just have to figure out my new camera – ahhh!

 

Another New Member – Everyone Meet Alicia!

Before I go off on how amazing my trip with John was (FYI, sorry for not posting in a while!), I would like to introduce a very special new addition to our Reynolds Fence family! Everyone meet Alicia!

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She is a college friend of mine who recently moved here from frigid Chicago. In fact, she was the first girl I roomed with when I joined a sorority. Her, Steve Feldman, and I would always pull all-nighters in the old library on 4th Street. I am so glad her and her family decided to move to the NJ shore :).

Funny enough, she did the accounting and was the general manager at Steve’s Law Firm in Chicago. Since she’s already a part of the family and we are expanding rapidly since the merger, we decided to make her our full-time general manager at the North Jersey contracting office.

Again, super excited to have her aboard :).

Keep an eye out for pictures from the vacation in the next week or so!

Travel Time!

italy-tripIt’s official – the trip is 100% booked. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a crazy person when it comes to booking traveling arrangements. Maybe it’s the OCD in me but I just need to have every second of the trip planned. Usually this need for control annoys people but my love doesn’t seem to mind – that’s why I married you, Johnny ;).

Where are we going, you ask? I’d be glad to tell you in full detail!

Our trip starts May 22, where we leave out of Newark Airport at 10am, which means we need get up by 6am – not bad – to make it there and through security before the flight leaves. I’m a bit paranoid when it comes to being on time at airports because when I was in college, studying abroad, I missed my flight home and had to stay in England an extra three days (it cost a poor college girl a lot of money).

We touch down in Rome around 6pm that day and will spend the next few hours getting to the hotel and unpacked. That night I reserved a table at one of the best restaurants in Rome, Roma Hamasei. I watch the food network a lot and saw this place and fell in love.

For the next week in Rome we will be doing all the tourist stuff – seeing the colosseum, taking boat rides, museums… Then we head to Sicily!

I’m particularly excited for Sicily because John has relatives there. Also, his father, the one who started Reynolds Fence, was born in Sicily. We’ll be meeting a few distant cousins, aunts, and uncles. John speaks a bit of Italian so hopefully we can get by because they don’t speak any English – yikes.

We spend a week in Sicily with the family before our final destination, Naples. The travel logisitcs are a bit off because the week we’re in Sicily is the only week we could get all the distant relatives together.

I’m excited! This is the romatic/fun getaway that Johnny and I really need (and deserve) right now after the crazy year we’ve had. Oh, and don’t worry, I’ll be updating the blog and Facebook with pictures along the way :).

Vanessa – Our Newest Team Member!

With the recent changes in our business, we’ve had to expand… A lot! By expand, I don’t just mean our new showroom, three new trucks, and machine that makes chain link fences (honestly, I don’t know the name – lol). I mean we’ve increase our work family by five people! To a lot of people, that may not seem like a lot but all business owners know that’s a huge increase. If you think that they are making at least $40k per year, that’s an extra $200,000 in payroll – wowza! Of course, we’ve merged with Anello Fence and Halls Fence, which has lessened the financial blow.

I’m getting a little off-track writing this, let me reel myself back in. I’m just excited to announce that my niece, Vanessa, has joined our team! She recently graduated from Rutgers with a degree in Marketing & Communications and will be helping us with market the newly merged business. Not only am I excited, but also relieved. You see, before the merger, I was the one running the show in terms of marketing everything. Now, I like to consider myself tech-savvy but having to juggle Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Houzz, our email list, commercials, and more was too much. I was putting in eleven hour days and feeling like still nothing was getting done. Now that Vanessa is on our team, I can finally step back and hand the reigns off to her. This also comes at the perfect time, since I’ll be taking a few weeks off for my vacation to Europe soon (yay!).

I’ll give you a brief little synopsis of what Vanessa will be doing…

Since we’ve increased our product line, we’ve been trying to think of ways to market all the new types of fencing we carry. This can be tough since when people think “new fence”, pictures of split rail fences, wood fences or vinyl fencing usually pop in their head. With the recent advancements in plastics (PVC/vinyl) and wood treatment, the amount and quality of fence products have skyrocketed. Two to three years ago, we were unable to install wood fences around pools. We had to install a specific vinyl pool fence because the chlorine would literally erode anything else. This is due to the way the plastic is treated with specific chemicals that not only protect it but also don’t seep into the ground and destroy your grass, flowers, etc. At the most recent fence trade show we went to, we were introduced to a new type of wood fence that has specific chemicals literally injected in them before being pressurized and treated again, making it indestructible (when it comes to chlorine). The guy running the booth showed a side-by-side comparison of a regular wood fence and the treated fence after two months of being exposed to chlorine and the results were astonishing…

So, Vanessa and I have been working on reaching out to pool companies to try to market our product wholesale (since we became a supplier almost instantly after seeing the video at the trade show – lol). It’s been tough but we came up with a great outreach program using email, social media, and our network of current buyers.

I’m so proud to see her all grown up, doing what she loves :). I can still remember when she was born but, I wont embarrass her because I know she periodically reads my blog!