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Checklist to Optimize Online Ordering for Holiday Season 2021

Demand for online ordering surges in December. Restaurants need to have a streamlined, optimized ordering experience to maximize revenue this holiday season.

Courier on a bike delivering food

If it wasn’t already apparent, the last two years have proved that online ordering is essential for modern restaurants to thrive and succeed. Today’s diners crave convenience in the form of online ordering — with 70% of diners preferring to place their delivery orders online. 

Now, with the holidays fast approaching, restaurants need to ensure their online ordering software is prepared to meet holiday demand and maximize profits by updating the menu with holiday specials, adding gift options to the menu and streamlining the online ordering experience. 

Read on to learn why online ordering is so important for restaurants during holiday season, and how restaurants can optimize their online ordering systems for the occasion.

The Importance of Online Ordering During the Holidays

A restaurant’s demands are likely to change during holiday season. With schools closed and an estimated 81% of workers taking time off in the last week of December, the ebbs and flows of a standard week go out the door. This means a temporary pause on the normal influx of office workers during lunch and the expected weeknight lull.

Instead, Americans spend the holidays traveling or relaxing at home. With all that extra time — and perhaps a disinterest in cooking after preparing an extravagant holiday feast — they might be looking for a meal from their favorite restaurant, or even that new place they’ve been meaning to try all year. 

To reach these diners, online ordering is a must. According to our Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Holiday Season, last year online ordering sales shot up a staggering 38% from November to December. Between colder weather and the post-holiday relaxation window, guests desire a different kind of service and want to enjoy a restaurant-quality meal in the comfort of their homes. 

chart, bar chart

The rise in online ordering sales rose 38% from November to December in 2020

To take advantage of this demand, restaurant websites need a reliable and optimized online ordering platform. Optimization is the key here, as restaurants need to ensure their online presence is easily discoverable, on-theme and on-brand. Furthermore, online ordering should be intuitive for the user and provide helpful insights that help restaurateurs improve their menu where needed.

Here are some quick yet effective ways to optimize online ordering for the holiday season.

Optimize Online Ordering for the Holidays With These Essentials

Restaurant operators are continuing to see the opportunity of direct online ordering, and an optimized digital experience is key for maximizing that opportunity. The hard part, however, is learning how to optimize a digital ordering experience. 

Below are ten tactics that restaurateurs can employ to ensure online ordering meets the needs of their guests and their staff.

Use the Right Online Ordering Software

First and foremost, a restaurant needs to be equipped with exemplary online ordering software. Choosing the right tool has a direct and significant impact on an online ordering program’s success. Key features to look for include:

  • Branded customization. Restaurants should be able to control the design of the online ordering page with custom imagery and descriptions.

  • Customer ease-of-use. Diners should be able to know whether or not their favorite holiday meal is available and have multiple payment options for a streamlined checkout experience.  

  • Primary data. An online ordering program should provide restaurants with the data they need to manage their orders as they come in, as well as make adjustments to their holiday menu based on online ordering sales data. 

  • Custom menu structuring. Restaurants should be able to add specials or popular items to the top of the online ordering interface so customers can quickly see what the restaurant wants to highlight. 

BentoBox’s online ordering software boasts all of the above. Diners who interact with an online ordering page powered by BentoBox complete an order 98% of the time and are twice as likely to become repeat customers. This means that in addition to maximizing holiday revenue, restaurants can position themselves for success through the remainder of the year. 

Feature Food Imagery

Diners don’t want to take any risks when ordering from a restaurant — that’s why 45% of them will visit a restaurant’s website just to view photographs of its food. 

At all times of the year, including images of menu items is a best practice for online ordering. It provides a visual of what guests can expect when they open their takeout container so they can place an order with more confidence. 

Food imagery is especially useful during the holidays, however, when restaurants can include eye-catching visuals that fit the spirit of the season. One business that stepped up in this realm is Chicago bakery Lost Larson, which combines the fall aesthetic with seasonal taste preferences.

The website for Lost Larson

The photos of Lost Larson’s Thanksgiving pies and baked goods are not just centered and well-arranged; they also feature leaves, apples and other seasonal decor. These minor touches bring more prominence to the photos and, by extension, their corresponding menu items.

Stay Brand-Consistent

A restaurant’s brand should be clear and instantly recognizable, especially on channels the restaurant owns like its online presence and marketing materials.

When working with a third-party online ordering platform, the restaurant’s branding isn’t featured; it’s shoehorned into that app or website’s design. Direct online ordering gives the restaurant more control over its branding, which creates a more seamless experience for guests. For example, Lilia sports its own imagery, logo and custom descriptions to make online ordering feel native to website visitors.

The website for Lilia

 Like Lilia's setup, an optimized online ordering presence should offer all of the following brand customizations.

  • Photography. The restaurant should be able to add and adjust photos of its food as needed — particularly when it comes to limited-time holiday menu offerings. 

  • Menu Descriptions. The restaurant needs complete control over how menu items are described. Since guests can’t talk directly to a server through online ordering, these descriptions give guests the clarity they need to decide their orders. 

  • Consistent URLs. It is jarring when someone is on YourRestaurant.com, but then suddenly gets redirected to another URL to place an order. Direct online ordering keeps the same URL for guests and reduces confusion in their ordering process. Plus, it helps a restaurant’s SEO when everything the restaurant does online lives under one domain.

Showcase Popular Items

If a restaurant’s menu has a lot of items, diners may find it exhausting to scroll through the whole online ordering page. While page responsiveness and easy navigation help the user experience, diners still benefit from having some standout menu items front-and-center.

That’s why an online ordering system should have the option to feature popular items higher up on the page. That way, guests can quickly see what the restaurant’s most common choices are — especially if they’re new and holiday-themed. 

For added optimization, this section should have the option of being customizable (i.e., the restaurant chooses the options to display) vs. automatic (i.e., the most popular choices show up by default). This choice allows restaurants to use the space as they see fit — and maybe highlight some limited-time holiday menu items.

Include Restaurant Gift Options

Holiday season is the time for gift-giving, and thus also the time for gift-buying. If a restaurant doesn’t include its holiday gift options on its online ordering menu, it’s passing up an enormous, timely opportunity to sell more inventory. 

First and foremost, restaurants can sell gift cards online. An extremely popular restaurant gift option, gift cards can be highlighted as a featured menu item leading up to Christmas, with restaurants making them available in pre-set or customizable denominations. 

However, restaurants can also promote the other inclusions in their holiday gift program, such as apparel, glassware or even cookbooks. While the restaurant’s merchandise store is the more appropriate place to sell these items, it’s smart to cross-promote on an online ordering menu with unlimited space — similar to the approach from Bubby’s in New York City. 

Bubby's Online Ordering

At the very least, this approach will make orderers more aware of the restaurant’s gift options as the holidays inch closer. And awareness is the first step toward a sale.

Highlight High-Profit Items

Similar to showcasing popular items, highlighting high-profit menu items is a core component of menu engineering. It doesn’t matter if the menu is online or printed — if a menu item is a high profit-driver, the restaurant should do whatever it can to draw eyes to it. 

For online ordering, this could include including high-profit items in the “Popular Menu Items” section, or even listing them earlier in each item’s section (e.g., high-profit apps are the first ones listed under the “Appetizers” section). 

Notably, restaurant specials go hand-in-hand with higher markups. For this reason, adding a prominent section to the online ordering menu for “Holiday Specials” can increase a restaurant’s overall profits in the month of December. 

Promote Online Ordering on the Restaurant’s Website

Diners visiting a restaurant’s website are already considering ordering — or even intending to order — from the restaurant. But why leave any room for doubt?

Restaurant websites have the opportunity to make it abundantly clear where and how to place an online order. The first way to do it is with a popup message that appears as soon as a visitor lands on the website — a tactic that PLNT Burger effectively employs on its site. While the popup below features an online ordering coupon for National Fried Chicken Sandwich Day, PLNT can easily swap it out for something more jolly when the holidays come around.

The website for PLNT Burger

A less-direct (yet still effective) alternative is to promote online ordering in the navigation bar for the restaurant’s website. That way, even if visitors exit out of the popup, they’ll still be able to place an online order at their convenience. Notice how Protein Bar affixes the online ordering option to the top of the page and differentiates the button with an eye-catching color that’s difficult to miss.

the website for Protein Bar & Kitchen

Offer Family and Bundle Meals for the Holidays

Some diners will be hosting multiple guests, which means they may need to feed a lot of mouths without having the foresight or party size to order catering. This is where bundled meals come in. Restaurants can combine multiple meals’ worth of food into one menu item to simplify ordering for larger parties and streamline operations for the back of house. 

As an example, The Meatball Shop promotes family meals on its website the same way it would a normal online ordering option — just with a clear focus on its family-sized benefits. 

And aren’t the holidays the time for family?

The website for The Meatball Shop

Automated Marketing and Repeat Rewards

Online ordering is so much more than a one-time transactional purchase. 

When optimized, restaurants can use their online ordering software as a marketing automation tool. Diners who complete an order online have the option to join the restaurant’s loyalty program in exchange for rewards on repeat orders. 

Meanwhile, the restaurant can use these email addresses to build a database of loyal customers to market to. Restaurants can use email marketing to make their patrons aware of any holiday deals or menu specials, as well as send festive online ordering discounts to increase holiday sales. Another tactic is to send automated emails to speak to specific customer circumstances, like sending a “We Miss You” email to anyone who hasn’t ordered online in two weeks. The tactic results in a 247% increase in repeat diners. 

graphical user interface, application

The primary benefit of this tactic is gathering insights. Managers can view engagement metrics for each campaign to see which messages, offers, subject lines and send times resonate most with their diners. These insights help restaurants group their customers together by similar buying patterns for more effective marketing, like office workers who order weekday lunches or families who regularly order pizza on Fridays. By sending the right messages to the right guests at the right time, restaurants can maximize their marketing efforts — and it all starts with an optimized, in-house restaurant online ordering system.  

Streamline the Guest Experience

During the hectic time that is the holidays, guests don’t have time for inefficiencies — especially when they’re hungry. 

Online ordering can’t be optimized without a true emphasis on the ease of ordering for guests. In that light, a restaurant’s online ordering system should offer the following benefits to orderers:

  • Multiple Payment Options. Guests should have the option to use a payment method that works best for them — whether it’s their credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay – and use it for a speedy checkout. 

  • Real-Time Menu Availability. Diners absolutely hate it when they place an online order, only to be contacted over the phone and told the menu item they ordered is out of stock. When integrated with online ordering, this feature will alert customers when an item is unavailable so they can make a separate selection from the start — saving them and the restaurant time.

  • Express Reordering. Once a guest has ordered from a restaurant online, they should be given the option to save their information for quicker ordering in the future. The result is saved payment methods, order history and a 25% reduction in reorder time.

Online Ordering Optimization? Check ✔

An optimized online ordering system will save time for restaurants and guests this holiday season — all while boosting revenue, order accuracy and customer satisfaction. It’s not too late to add the tools you need to end a difficult year on a high note.

BentoBox’s restaurant online ordering software is optimized for conversion and is built to drive more revenue for your restaurant without online ordering commission fees. As our gift to you, get a free demo of BentoBox and learn how to optimize your restaurant’s entire online presence.

See why 8,000+ restaurants worldwide trust BentoBox.

Book a free demo today.

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