Well-served customers are happy customers. You don’t want to keep them waiting for ages to get their food. Yummies at your restaurant can be delivered without delays or errors if you optimize the way orders are processed and that is by implementing online ordering for restaurants. 

We’ll talk about business process automation and an online ordering system that help boost the performance of restaurants, avoid staff turnover, reduce labor costs as well as introduce a technological touch that can create an alluring restaurant experience. 

Popular types of automated restaurant ordering solutions

Ordering is a vital part of a customer’s interaction with a restaurant. It’s usually at this stage that customers start forming opinions about your establishment: How good is the menu? How well are the dishes described? How fast can I order? Your goal is to make the best impression you possibly can. And here’s where online menu ordering comes in.

You can choose any type of online ordering system. Self-order kiosks work well in fast food, casual dining, and quick-service restaurants. These establishments offer tasty and affordable food and attract many customers. Self-checkout screens let people make orders without having to stand in long lines.

Tablet ordering is optimal for family-type diners, sit-down restaurants, fine dining establishments, and places with long wine lists. A restaurant tablet ordering system solves the problem of customer retention. Visitors don’t have to waste time waiting for a waiter to approach them with the menu or bill.

Mobile and website ordering is mainly for restaurants that sell food online. Such restaurant ordering solutions offer customers tools for reserving tables and pre-ordering food.

Text ordering works for any food service business, from fast food to fine dining. Customers can use chatbots to book tables or place orders in advance.

Now let’s have a closer look at each type of electronic ordering system.

Self-order kiosks

The average McDonald’s restaurant serves around 800 customers on a slow day, around 1,500 on an average working day, over 2,000 on weekends, and thousands of customers on the busiest days of the year (like Christmas).

What if McDonald’s didn’t implement self-order kiosks... Can you imagine the length of the lines and the service speed?

Most guests walk out of a restaurant at the sight of long lines. But they’re more likely to stay and become returning customers if they can order within a few minutes. Self-service food ordering kiosks — which may be floor-standing or wall-mounted — reduce the ordering time.

How self-service kiosks work

A self-service kiosk works in the following way: A restaurant ordering application is connected to a cloud server that stores the menu in a database and handles customers’ requests. An API allows the restaurant ordering app to communicate with the server.

The user journey when customers use a self-service kiosk looks very much alike in most fast food restaurants. First, the kiosk lets customers choose the language. Then it asks if they’re dining in or ordering to-go and sends them to the main menu.

innovative online ordering for restaurants
source: steelkiwi.com

Self-service food ordering kiosks let customers order and pay using cash-free methods. Plus, self-ordering kiosks allow visitors to customize orders. Thanks to this feature, customers can remove ingredients they’re allergic to or don’t like. They can even create new combinations from available ingredients.

In addition to the main benefit of restaurant ordering kiosks — eliminating lines — restaurant owners report:

  • Increased average order size
  • Increased sales
  • Reduced labor costs
  • Reduced theft
  • Better consumer experience

Popular food chains including McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Taco Bell, Diced, and Burger King are making the kiosk experience the norm. And though many kiosk features are the same, there are different rules for picking up orders at different restaurants. Let’s compare them.

At McDonald’s, table locators can be found by every kiosk. A table locator is a plastic triangle with a number on it. Customers need to pick up a locator and enter its number during checkout. Then they place the locator on their table and wait. With table locators, waiters can easily find customers to give them their orders.

Self-ordering kiosk systems at Wendy’s will ask for your name so you can track the status of your order. The status of orders is then shown on a screen above the cash register. When the status changes from “in progress” to “ready,” customers can pick up their food.

At Taco Bell, customers are asked to provide their name when placing an order and are called by name when their food is ready. Check out the short video below to see Taco Bell self-service kiosks in action.

KFS self-service kiosks
Source: Dribbble shot animation by Ben Breckler

Steelkiwi has been around for over eight years and has built a self-ordering kiosk system for the CanTho Vietnamese restaurant. We were responsible for the user interface design, developing an API for the kiosks, creating a PoS system, integrating payment terminals, implementing an admin dashboard, and so on. If you’re interested in creating this type of system for your restaurant, contact our team for expert support.

Tablet ordering

Tablet ordering systems are a newer and better version of traditional menus. After a customer places an order via a tablet, it’s automatically sent to the kitchen. Usually, there’s no need for a waiter when placing an order.

The benefits tablets offer are similar to those of self-order kiosks: reduced wait times, automated checkout, improved order accuracy, and the ability to customize orders. This type of an online ordering system for restaurants works better in fancier establishments.

Whether they run on tablets, iPads, or other portable mini computers, tablet-style ordering systems in restaurants can operate in several modes:

  1. Customer mode — For guests to browse the menu, choose items, customize them, and place orders
  2. Waiter mode — For wait staff to check order statuses
  3. Kitchen mode — For kitchen staff to see placed orders

How do tablet ordering systems work?

For a tablet ordering system to work, you’ll need a mobile ordering app for iOS or Android that’s designed for your restaurant. If you want to use different hardware devices in the same restaurant (for instance, Android kiosks and iOS tablets), you can develop a cross-platform application with Flutter.

The user journey with a tablet ordering system looks like this: customers choose a table and browse the menu. Then they place an order, customize it if desired, and pay the bill.

We suggest you develop a table ordering system that allows customers to pay using a credit card or phone.

With an automated ordering system for restaurants, the bill is usually digital. But some restaurants also offer the option of receiving a paper bill.

A tablet can also come with games for customers to play while they’re waiting. For example, Applebee’s tablets offer games that customers can fork over $1.99 to play.

Chili’s went beyond the menu screen. Their tablet ordering systems are developed to flash beautiful pictures of desserts in the middle of the meal. That encourages customers to make a fast decision about what they’ll order next. Now, Chili's is in negotiations with a few alcohol companies that are interested in advertising their drinks on tablets. For Chili’s, that’s another potential source of revenue.

Mobile and website ordering

You can easily add the ability to place and pay for orders on your restaurant’s existing website or via your mobile app. When ordering online, customers feel no pressure, which leads them to order more. Eventually, the customer experience is improved and your average order size grows.

When you’re considering developing an online food ordering website or mobile app, include these must-have features:

  • Real-time menu updates — Menu items are updated immediately so customers are informed of any menu changes.
  • Customer profile — Allows customers to save details of orders and create a list of their favorite orders. Customers can view order history and choose from multiple delivery addresses.
  • Advance orders — The ability to place orders in advance automatically increases restaurant sales. Many customers want this feature, but few restaurants offer it.
  • Table reservations — Allows customers to reserve tables and keeps customers in the loop with email notifications.
  • Push notifications — Cultivates relationships with restaurant customers. Notifications can include information on changes to the menu and upcoming events or discounts.
  • Feedback — Collect customer feedback and make suggested changes to improve your service.
  • Delivery — Add a delivery button to your website or mobile app to make the online ordering process even more preferable. This feature is a must for increasing sales.

How does online ordering through a mobile app work?

Once an application is downloaded to a mobile phone, the customer opens it and creates an account. They can then browse the menu and place an order.

Usually, mobile apps offer several payment options. Customers can also decide if they want their food delivered or if they’ll pick it up.

innovative online ordering for restaurants
source: steelkiwi.com

The Subway mobile app for restaurant ordering is an awesome example of an ordering app. It offers both basic features and extra ones. Users like the way they can customize their orders by picking and swapping ingredients, and checking what the sandwich will look like. Subway also offers various rewards that customers can earn every time they order. Finally, in the COVID-19 pandemic, the company introduced three options for getting the food — pick up, curbside, and delivery.

Text ordering

Ordering food by messenger is another way to create an online ordering system for your business. This option differs from ordering via an application — your customers can place an order through popular messengers such as Viber, WhatsApp, and Telegram.

You can also let customers use chatbots to order. Chatbots are a great way to provide a personalized customer experience. Since they don’t require human intervention, you don’t need to hire staff members to operate chatbots.

How does chatbot ordering work?

Most chatbots are built into messengers such as Slack, Telegram, Discord, and Kik. This option is becoming popular, as the implementation of a chatbot is more affordable than the restaurant ordering system development. Plus, many people are already using messengers. With chatbots, users can open a messaging app, choose a chat, and start ordering.

This is what ordering via a chatbot looks like.

innovative online ordering for restaurants
Source: steelkiwi.com

Some apps don’t offer payment and delivery features, so you can pay when picking up your order at the nearest location.

Many large fast-food chains are benefitting from chatbot technology, including Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. Their chatbots can accept orders and answer customers’ questions, which makes order processing more efficient and customer support available 24/7.

Get in touch with us and we’ll help you analyze your idea from a technical standpoint, advise you on how to make your app user-friendly, and show you how you can automate your business.

Check out our portfolio to see how we’ve helped our clients with business process automation.