Modernize Your Business With A Good Restaurant Ordering System
What if there was a way to reduce wrong orders, increase customer trust, and make your restaurant feel trendy and modern? Well — lucky you — there is! The solution: rethink your restaurant’s ordering system. With a modern restaurant ordering system, you can have online orders sent directly to your kitchen display system, servers can send orders from the floor with handheld tablets, and dine-in customers can pay at their table without having to wait for the server to go run their credit card. And those are only a few of the many cool things you can do with a good restaurant ordering app.
Table of Contents
- What Is A Restaurant Ordering System?
- 12 Features That Take Your Restaurant’s Ordering System To The Next Level
- 4 Ways The Right Restaurant Software Will Improve Your Business
- Cost Is The Biggest Hurdle To A Good Ordering System For Restaurants
- Is It Time For You To Upgrade Your Restaurant’s Ordering System?
What Is A Restaurant Ordering System?
A restaurant ordering system includes any and all features that allow you to accept orders in person, over the phone, or online. As such, there can be a lot of moving parts and several different ordering processes, depending on your setup. Ideally, your ordering system should be as streamlined as possible and linked through your point of sale system. Sometimes, online ordering is separate from the main POS, supported via a third-party app like DoorDash, Postmates, or Grubhub—though many restaurant POS systems offer seamless integration with these apps.
A key aspect of the POS in a modern restaurant ordering system is that it should be tablet-based. At the very least, the POS should work with tablets in addition to a traditional terminal. Why is that? Tablets mean mobility, and they put powerful technology at the disposal of your servers—and your customers. The optimal configuration varies according to the restaurant type; for example, a casual quick-service restaurant system might include self-ordering kiosks or even just a single tablet register equipped with a credit card processing app, while an upscale bar and restaurant setup might have servers use handheld tablets to take orders and payments.
12 Features That Take Your Restaurant’s Ordering System To The Next Level
Now that you’re considering a revamp of your ordering system, it’s time to decide which features are important to you.
The most basic tablet POS consists of a cloud-based POS app installed on an iPad/touchscreen register. But even with a lightweight, single-iPad setup, you might be surprised at all the features a cloud-based system can offer, from online menu management to targeted email marketing campaigns. Your system may also include other additional hardware and accompanying functionality, described in more detail below.
Keep in mind that even if all of these features are available, you only have to use what’s relevant.
Kitchen Display System
A digital kitchen display system, or KDS, is a lot better than kitchen ticket printing. This allows servers to send orders directly from a tablet to the kitchen, with the ability to prioritize orders, check on cook times, and so much more. The result is a fast, accurate, streamlined ordering process. What are some more advantages of a kitchen display system? Read What Is A Kitchen Display System? for a more in-depth breakdown.
Online & Phone Ordering
With phone orders, the operator may manually key in payments, noting the type of order (call in for pickup vs. delivery) and other transaction details. A smartphone ordering system can save these details for easy re-ordering the next time the customer calls in.
With an online ordering and delivery system, online orders are sent into the queue with the rest of orders (again, this is where KDS comes in handy). Note that online ordering and delivery functionality can be a built-in function of your POS that integrates with your restaurant website, or your POS might support third-party online ordering apps like Grubhub, Uber Eats, etc.
Modifiers & Prompts
A POS system with a menu that allows for modifiers allows for easy order customization. Even better is a POS that prompts servers to ask for choices instead of assuming the customers want the default meal. A handheld tablet ordering system can prompt servers to upsell on the spot, and input the customers’ choices for sides, dressings, level of spice, etc. All of this information is relayed to the kitchen via a KDS or ticket, with no need to ask for a special order.
Seat & Table Management
Using a POS with seat and table management, you can easily assign orders, split items, reassign items to different people, and more. Table management can also include support for reservations, via an add-on or integration (more on reservation management below).
Menu management makes adjusting menu items easy and keeps your offerings up to date. Usually, you can do this with a back-office function online. You might also update your menu to include special time-sensitive offers and daily specials, or manage several different menus for different locations or days of the week. With integrated raw ingredient tracking, menu options stay in sync with ingredient availability.
An emerging trend flips the traditional restaurant payment system on its head, bringing the POS to the customer at their table. Servers simply swipe/dip the card in front of the customer and voila! The customer can sign their receipt on-screen, or the POS may have a mobile receipt printer. The system can also prompt customers to leave an on-screen tip, with percentage suggestions.
Clover Flex and Square Terminal are both examples of mobile POS devices that allow customer payments at the table. These nimble, cordless terminals include both a card reader and receipt printer.
It can be a big investment, but some POS systems give you the option to place tablets at every single table. This lets customers enter their own orders, summon servers, and even split the check themselves. This is typically seen at casual dine-in setups. For example, Chili’s and several other casual restaurant franchises use self-ordering kiosks at tables. Some fast-food chains, such as McDonald’s and Wendy’s, also offer self-service ordering, from touchscreens located at the front of the restaurant.
Customer Relationship Management
Have a takeout restaurant with regulars? A good CRM system keeps track of what they order so if they want to call in “the usual,” you can plug it in without having to remember it. Customer data can also be used for targeted marketing—for example, sending emails about discounts, promotions or events. Additionally, CRM can include a loyalty program for in-person transactions, which rewards frequent customers with discounts, free entrees, etc.
Server & Customer Notifications
A POS system can include different types of notifications for both servers and customers. For example, some restaurant POS systems can alert servers when orders are ready with an in-app notification sent to their handheld device, or even with a text-message— SMS alerts are probably more effective if servers use a smartwatch to receive these notifications. Customers can also receive texts letting them know when their takeout order is ready, or alerting them that their table is ready. Again, the best way to use notifications all depends on your restaurant’s setup.
Mobile Payment Support
More and more restaurants accept contactless NFC (mobile) payments like Apple Pay and Google Pay. Mobile device payments require the customer to be present, so you usually see this at casual eateries where customers pay at the counter. However, a sit-down restaurant can also accept mobile payments, if you opt to bring the POS to the customer with pay-at-table functionality.
Giving customers the option of email receipts for their orders is beneficial for both you and your customer. Customers can track expenses and past orders, and you can reduce receipt paper costs. Email receipts can also contain CTAs customers can click on, such as surveys or prompts to follow you on social media. Once you have a customer’s email address, you can additionally send them promotional offers in the future.
Depending on the POS system, you use, you might not even have to ask the customer for their email address. For example, Square lets you send automatic receipts to any customer who has already opted into receiving Square email receipts from another vendor.
Online Reservations & Waitlist
When your waitlist and reservations are automated, your staff is freed up to focus on the bread and butter of your restaurant: food orders! While not too many POS systems offer native support for reservations, many restaurant POS systems now integrate with a reservation or waitlist app, such as Waitlist.me or OpenTable, which also serves as a marketplace where new customers can find your restaurant online, similar to Yelp.
Yelp also now has an online waitlist app that, when integrated with your restaurant management system, lets customers hop on your waitlist before they even leave the house. Customers can view their approximate wait time, see how many parties are ahead of them in line, and receive a text when their table is ready.
4 Ways The Right Restaurant Software Will Improve Your Business
Okay, we’ve covered the features to look for in your POS—but we haven’t discussed why these assets to businesses. What are the high-level impacts and how will they change your business? Let’s delve in!
Tableside Ordering Means Fewer Errors
Back to modifiers and prompts—if servers enter orders at the table, they are less likely to forget or make a mistake. This improved accuracy results in less waste and fewer unhappy customers. Even if mistakes are made, they are quicker and easier to fix with a digitized system that allows for easy modifications and instant reordering.
Pay At Table Means Better Data Security
A card leaving a customer’s sight is a liability due to the possibility of credit card skimmers and identity theft. In some cases, you can reduce this risk with a pay-at-table feature and also with mobile payment acceptance. Additionally, the option to pay at the table means no waiters walking away and taking forever to bring the card/check back.
Better Efficiency Means Faster Turnarounds & Happier Customers
All of these features ultimately lead to one thing: a more efficient restaurant. Less time transpires between orders being taken and orders being placed, and less time is needed to complete payment transactions. Tables turn faster, resulting in more customers. And even more important than the faster turnaround is that you’ll have happier customers who aren’t stuck waiting. This should also lead to better tips and happier servers!
Updates & Integrations Add Even More Functionality
All of the popular tablet POS systems integrate with other apps. This gives you the potential to extend your system’s functionality ever-further with each new integration that comes out. For example, there are restaurant apps for liquor inventories, tip tracking, social media management, and much more. Web-based systems are also updated frequently to add and improve features, meaning that the system you buy today could be even more powerful with next month’s update.
Cost Is The Biggest Hurdle To A Good Ordering System For Restaurants
There isn’t really a disadvantage to having a POS with a solid ordering system. But there is an obstacle: the cash investment required. Some cost considerations for investing in a new restaurant POS:
- You need multiple tablets so servers can use them.
- You need the space and equipment to charge tablets.
- You need additional card readers if you offer pay-at-table.
- You need a reliable internet connection, either with cellular data plans or WiFi that reaches across the entire premises. Some POS systems set up local networks as a backup to keep the system functional during internet outages. No matter how you approach it, your internet infrastructure is going to cost money.
- Depending on your setup, there are also additional hardware costs such as a KDS, kitchen printers, self-service kiosks, even a digital menu board.
- Monthly POS software costs can add up if you have a lot of add-ons or third-party software integrations, e.g., $50/month add-on for loyalty program, $99/month add-on for delivery management, etc.
Whatever you do, don’t try to cut costs by leasing POS/credit card processing hardware. This ultimately costs way more and involves contracts. Buy the equipment outright instead. Also, when choosing a restaurant POS system, make sure any system you’re considering offers competitive pricing for payment processing (if in-house payment processing is included) or integrates with a merchant account that offers interchange-plus pricing.
If you need to finance your POS system, this is possible with small business loans. Make sure you research the best options for small business loans for restaurants.
Is It Time For You To Upgrade Your Restaurant’s Ordering System?
Your existing restaurant POS might already support some of the tech-forward ordering features I’ve described in this post. Are you using them? If not, it might be time to consider trying them out. If your POS doesn’t support these features, but they sound interesting, it’s probably time to switch to a new POS system. Start shopping around!
So what are the next steps toward implement a faster, more efficient, mobile restaurant ordering system? Talk to your POS provider and learn how to implement existing features you haven’t taken advantage of yet. Or, check out some top restaurant POS providers to find a system that does support the modern ordering features you want and need to make your restaurant all that it can be.