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Why Restaurants Should Embrace Omnichannel to Drive More Sales

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To thrive, make it easy for customers to do business with you
By Christopher Sebes April 2018 Expert Insights

Today’s consumers want what they want, when they want it, and they don’t want to spend much time figuring out how to get it. That trend is driving what’s called omnichannel, a concept that has retailers obsessed. In the case of restaurants, it means providing multiple ways for your guests to order, pay for, and get, their meals while ensuring a consistent experience.

The explosion of mobile ordering, apps, takeout, and delivery demand and other factors are all driving the argument for omnichannel commerce. According to NPD Group, foodservice sales were flat or nearly flat during the third quarter of 2017, but traffic from mobile orders jumped 50 percent in the U.S. “Although still a small behavior, mobile ordering is growing quickly and has a huge runway,” said Bob O’Brien, NPD global senior VP for foodservice.

Creating an Omnichannel Operation

To win at omnichannel, your restaurant needs to harness technology in a number of ways.

The ability to easily process payments via several types of transactions—in person, over the phone, online, through mobile, in apps, at kiosks, if you have them—is one of the biggest musts for omnichannel operations. And being able to accept the customer’s preferred payment type, whether its cash, credit or debit cards, mobile payments or gift cards, is equally important, as most consumers have a strong preference. And if they don’t, they soon will.

Putting tabletop tablet menus into guests’ hands provides them more control over the experience. They can spend time perusing menu items, including ingredients and nutrition information as well as photos. They can customize their orders. Guests can add more items later without summoning a waiter, which accelerates service (and check averages). When equipped with payment capability, a tablet also speeds up closing out the check, allowing faster table turns.

Keys to Successful Takeout and Delivery

The growth in meal kit services and soaring demand for meal delivery have prompted many full-service restaurants to get into the delivery game. While that capability has long been a crucial element for pizza operators, many other owners don’t want to be in the delivery business.  Fortunately, third-party services such as DoorDash, Grubhub—even Amazon—have proliferated, allowing independent restaurants to give customers what they want while focusing on what they do best—prepare and serve food. Third-party delivery services can be integrated into a restaurant’s website. But to provide an excellent experience, it’s essential to ensure that orders flow into your in-store POS system. At the other end of the experience, make sure that packaging will reflect your brand and maintain food quality.

Delivery providers accomplish another goal of omnichannel: engagement. Their ordering website puts your brand in front of consumers who are mulling over their next meal delivery. The exposure can help drive new business from potential new customers.

Online or in-app ordering offers another strategy that allows guests to skip lines, saving them time and creating a more predictable work flow in your restaurant. Paired with curbside pickup or a dedicated, convenient takeout counter inside, these self-service orders can save precious time and provide a service guests value. But it’s important to make sure you can handle the demand seamlessly, or it will backfire.

Ultimately, omnichannel commerce is about capturing more of a guest’s dollar and improving loyalty. By satisfying consumers’ need for speed, convenience and consistency, your restaurant can profit.

Christopher Sebes has spent his entire career in hospitality management and technology.  He received a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management in England and managed hotels and restaurants on three continents including multi-unit restaurant operations in Europe and the U.S. He created the first Microsoft Windows point-of-sale company, Twenty20 Visual Systems, which he sold to Squirrel Systems. He went on to become the CEO of Progressive Software before founding XPIENT in 2004. XPIENT was sold to Heartland Payments Systems in 2015 and he was tapped to become the President of Heartland Commerce, a major player in restaurant and retail management technology. He is now the President of Xenial Inc., former Heartland Commerce.