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Product
Nov 30, 2022
4
 min read

To satisfy off-premise demand, restaurant brands have embraced delivery. But how do you effectively scale this channel? A multipronged approach is key.

Restaurant Delivery

To satisfy demand for off-premise dining, restaurant brands of all sizes have embraced delivery. But in order to effectively grow a delivery channel, you need a multipronged approach centered around optimization, education, and promotion that will appeal to existing and potential guests, as well as encourage repeat orders.

Here are eight ways to increase restaurant delivery sales through your brand website and app, as well as marketplaces and listings:

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1. Website and App Optimization

The first step to increasing delivery sales is to optimize your restaurant website and mobile app for conversion. In addition to being mobile-friendly, and quick to load, there should be a prominent “Order Delivery” button that’s easy for guests to find.

The fewer hoops guests have to jump through, the more likely they are to place a delivery order. So, be mindful of potential barriers to conversion, such as lengthy forms, limited payment options, account creation prompts, fees added at checkout, etc.

The Wingstop mobile app features a prominent Order Delivery button.

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2. Leverage Delivery Service Providers and Marketplaces

Brands can bypass the complications of managing drivers or contracts with multiple delivery service providers (DSPs) by leveraging an integrated delivery network. Using third-party delivery couriers to fulfill native orders from your website or app can increase guest loyalty while offering a direct digital experience wherein you own the data.

Additionally, through a single integration to multiple third-party marketplaces, brands can consolidate all online orders into one location (e.g. POS system, tablet, etc.), regardless of where they originated. This benefits everyone involved in the delivery process: guests receive accurate information, delivery couriers can execute more deliveries per hour, and restaurants stay in control.

3. Order With Google

Brands can turn Google Search and Google Maps inquiries into delivery orders with Order With Google. By accepting delivery orders directly through Google, restaurants can boost their ranking in search results, stand out from the competition, and reduce the number of steps to conversion.

Since new and existing guests likely already use Google every day, restaurant brands can (and should) meet guests where they are and drive delivery orders at the same time.

The Order With Google experience for Uncle Julio’s.

4. Menu Engineering

Restaurant brands should use menu item profitability, popularity, and lifetime value (LTV) data when designing their delivery menu. Through strategic placement of menu items and upselling, brands can positively influence guest behavior and, ultimately, increase sales.

A restaurant CDP is key to effective menu engineering because it enables brands to connect guest data from their POS, payment processor, online ordering platform, loyalty program, and more to a menu engineering tool. And, by unlocking LTV, brands can quantify the results of menu optimization.

Keep in mind that menu engineering is an iterative process. Regular testing and analyzing trends are key to continuously driving results.

5. SEO

According to Google Trends data from the last five years, the search term “restaurants near me” reached peak popularity in July 2021. To ensure that your brand ranks high in search results when people are looking for food nearby, prioritize SEO across all platforms.

For example, a Mexican restaurant brand that wants to increase delivery awareness and sales should incorporate relevant keywords such as “Mexican food delivery [name of city]” and “Mexican restaurant delivery near me” into its website, social media pages, digital ads, and third-party listings.

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6. Omnichannel Marketing

In-store and online restaurant marketing is critical for educating guests about delivery options and encouraging adoption. Each location should display prominent signage and a clearly marked pickup area for delivery couriers. Additionally, staff T-shirts, door decals, receipts (“Next time, order delivery at [URL]!”), bag stuffers and stickers can help spread the word.

With countless meal decisions being made online every second, restaurant brands should leverage email, SMS, social media, and geo-targeted digital advertising to reach a wider audience and boost delivery sales. Focus on the benefits of delivery (convenience, speed, ease of ordering, etc.), enable anyone to start an order with one click, and consider incentivizing guests with an introductory offer, such as free delivery or $5 off $20 on their first order.

7. Solicit and Engage with Feedback

In order to scale delivery, brands have to know what’s working and what isn’t. The best way to find out is to solicit guest feedback about the delivery experience proactively.

With automated surveys, brands are able to show guests that their opinion matters, quickly address issues, spot trends that could impact future sales, and optimize the experience for both first-time delivery orderers and repeat guests.

Monitoring and engaging with restaurant reviews is also important. If guests are complaining about the delivery experience on Google and the brand has not responded in a timely and professional manner, those reviews will negatively affect the brand’s reputation and likely dissuade first-time guests from placing an order.

Automated post-visit survey from Velvet Taco

8. Retention Campaigns

After a guest has ordered delivery once, it’s up to the brand to convince them to do it again. And considering that traditionally, the cost of acquiring a new guest is 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one, retention campaigns should play a big role in any delivery growth strategy.

Restaurant brands can motivate guests to order delivery again with personalized offers based on their order history, by promoting new menu items that complement their favorites, or by letting them know about the latest specials just before they make plans to eat. For more inspiration, check out these restaurant retention strategies.

It’s All About the Guest Experience

The most profitable restaurant delivery programs meet guests where they are and offer a frictionless, personalized experience—while also seamlessly integrating with the brand’s existing tech stack. 

Omnichannel marketing that educates guests about the benefits of delivery is essential for a successful launch, but the work doesn’t end there. To successfully scale delivery, brands need to continuously market the program to new and existing guests, analyze data, gather feedback, optimize, and test.

Learn about our restaurant delivery solutions, Dispatch and Rails, and ask us how we can help boost sales for your brand.

Photo Credit: Norma Mortenson from Pexels

Insights
Nov 23, 2022
3
 min read

In an effort to drive sales, some restaurant brands will try any (and every) marketing tactic. Consider doing this instead.

Restaurant Marketing, Restaurant Marketing Strategy

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Faced with a labor shortage and budget constraints, many restaurant brands are looking for a quick marketing solution that’s going to drive ROI. But in reality, what works for one brand may not work for another. Why?

  1. Your guests and their relationship with your brand are unique
  2. The most effective marketing campaigns are rooted in data

As tempting as it might be to test out every marketing channel and tactic at once to see what works, don’t try to boil the ocean. It’s the quickest way to overwhelm any team and, frankly, waste your time and resources.

Instead, consider narrowing your focus to one marketing objective.

Yep, you read that right—one.

Here are a few examples:

  • Move guests from one visit to five visits
  • Ensure every guest tries your most popular menu item within 90 days of their first transaction
  • Drive restaurant app downloads
  • Build up your SMS subscriber audience
  • Motivate online orderers to try delivery
  • Incentivize guests that typically use marketplaces to order direct

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Now you’re probably thinking, how do I pick just one objective when we have countless initiatives?

Start by getting your data in order.

Determine what restaurant data sources you currently have access to, including email opt-ins, online orders, POS transactions, loyalty members, CRM, etc. 

Next, it’s time to analyze. As you look at the data, ask yourself questions like, who are your guests? How do they behave? What is your average guest frequency? What is your most lucrative sales channel? Can you segment guests by lifetime value (LTV)?

By focusing on even one of these insights, you can figure out which marketing channel (search engine, social media, email, SMS, etc.) and strategy have the highest ROI potential for your brand. For instance, is your restaurant app more effective than social media for guest engagement?

If you can’t answer these types of questions because of a limited data set, a good marketing objective would be to connect more of your restaurant systems so that you have a holistic view of each guest. Cross-department collaboration will be key, so make sure your Marketing, IT, and Finance teams are looped in.

Remember, it’s impossible to create a marketable database and treat every guest like a regular if you have disparate systems and no shared understanding of who your guests are or how they behave.

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Once you’ve picked a channel and settled on a plan of action, start executing marketing campaigns. Here’s some inspiration depending on your objective:

  • Drive foot traffic to a slow daypart: Launch geotargeted Google Ads during those hours of the day, bidding on relevant keywords (e.g. Smoothies near me) and featuring an attractive offer.
  • Target cart abandoners with remarketing: Invite cart abandoners back to your website to complete their online order with personalized remarketing ads that follow them as they surf the web.
  • Gather guest feedback at scale: Collect valuable feedback to power your business decisions via automated post-visit surveys. Add a tasty incentive—like free chips and queso on their next visit—for good measure.
  • Grow your social media following: Launch an email campaign featuring your most popular dishes on social media with an invitation to follow along. Drive engagement by encouraging guests to use a branded hashtag on their posts for a chance to be featured on your feed.

After you’ve gained some experience and insight into what works (and what doesn’t) for your brand, you can graduate within each channel. Think of it as building blocks and treat each marketing bucket as a progressive opportunity. 

For instance, if your goal is to increase the number of direct online orders by driving traffic to your website, you could start by launching Google Search Ads targeting people looking for similar cuisine within 10 miles of your restaurant. Once you’ve honed in on the messaging most likely to convert window shoppers into paying guests, set up website retargeting to ensure your brand stays top of mind and invite visitors back.

Whatever your chosen marketing objective, make sure to share your plan—including what you’re testing and why—with your franchisees so that they’re aware and can provide support.

Ultimately, restaurant brands that take a data-driven, hyper-focused approach to marketing will see the highest ROI, not just in terms of sales, but also in terms of guest acquisition and retention. So the next time you’re tempted to do it all, think quality over quantity.

Contact us today to find out how Olo can take your restaurant marketing to the next level.

Main Photo Credit: Jason Goodman from Unsplash

Insights
Nov 16, 2022
6
 min read

Restaurant marketers are always looking for new guests, but we can't underestimate the value of current guests. Learn retention strategies for all stages.

Guest Retention, Restaurant Retention Strategies

Restaurants typically have a handful of loyal regulars who GMs and bartenders know by name, but behind the scenes, restaurant marketers are on a never-ending treasure hunt to find and attract new guests. While there are numerous restaurant guest acquisition strategies that marketers can leverage, it’s important not to underestimate the value of current guests. After all, research tells us that increasing guest retention rates by 5% increases profits by at least 25%.

Since retention is critical at all stages of the restaurant guest lifecycle, we’re breaking down some proven strategies, with frameworks you can actually use.

6 Winning Restaurant Guest Retention Strategies

1. Use Data for Good (Especially When It Comes to Your Regulars)

Personalization is no longer just a nice-to-have. Guests are beginning to understand the power of their data, and increasingly want brands to use it to serve their interests via personalized offers, experiences, and suggested products. Tailoring what you sell to a guest’s purchase history, preferences, and what they have engaged with is a crucial strategy to build restaurant brand loyalty.

Framework You Can Use

If you’re not already looking to retail for inspiration, start now, paying close attention to personalized marketing. When a guest on the waitlist leaves before being seated, treat it like an abandoned cart and send a strategic email to prompt them to return (stats suggest a 48% open rate for emails like these). Make like retail giants and bundle items—when a guest orders tacos, trigger a campaign suggesting the tacos are frequently enjoyed with an agua fresca and salsa trio. Best use case: A/B test different bundles to see what drives higher check averages and visit frequency.

2. Like Rome, Guest Relationships Aren’t Built in a Day

When it comes to those guests you’re just getting to know, winning second and third visits is a leading indicator of a “guest for life.” The means to that end is a structured cadence of personalized outreach—said differently, giving new guests more chances to engage increases your opportunity to build brand loyalty. And, consumer research shows that personalization increases visitor engagement by 55%.

Framework You Can Use

Build a scalable, repeatable framework for your new guests with a variety of ways to engage as they move through the lifecycle. Pay attention to what works, and tweak accordingly. Try this cadence:

First Visit/ WiFi Signup/ Online Order >> Welcome email promoting your insiders' club (the more tailored you can make this to their experience the better, e.g. drilling down by location visited or the channel via which they first made contact)

After Second Visit >> Let them know you’re listening with a triggered survey: “Hey Caleb, how’d we do? Would you recommend us to a friend?”

After 30 days >> Email campaign featuring occasion-based messaging such as “Did someone say Happy Hour? Right this way…”

After 3 months >> Email campaign featuring your most popular dishes on social media with an invitation to follow along and share: “Tag your posts for a chance to be featured on our feed.”

After 6 months >> Seasonal menu reset with an invitation to get involved: “Be one of the first to taste the new dishes on our menu at a special event for loyal fans …”

 

After 1 year >> Anniversary perk “Have this cake … on us. And yes, please eat it too!”

3. Go with the Flow (of Guest Frequency)

The Gartner Group found that the Pareto principle holds true with consumer behavior: 80% of your future profits will come from just 20% of your current guests. It’s worth putting time, effort, and resources into guest retention, but not equally for all guests. The key here is segmenting by value and analyzing each segment’s frequency. With that, you can allocate time and resources according to value, and build outreach aimed to increase their known frequency.

Framework You Can Use

Guests with a high check average may be occasion-based guests with a twice-per-year frequency for birthdays and anniversaries. Send them a personal invite to join for a New Year’s Eve toast or Mother’s Day brunch to increase their frequency to quarterly.

Meanwhile, a segment of high-value guests may have a lower check average and bi-monthly frequency. Aim to get them coming in once a month by sending them an easy-to-use offer that appeals to convenience.

4. Go Outside the Inbox  

To reach guests who have stopped engaging with your brand, try a structured cadence across multiple platforms. Research shows that companies using multiple channels to connect with guests increase satisfaction by 15-20% and boost growth by 20%.

Framework You Can Use

Build a cadence around lapsed guests that includes personalized email, targeted social, and paid search outreach. Keep your automated lapsed guest content up-to-date with regular maintenance. Every six months, pull the entire list and test new platforms. Make sure to track engagement so you know what works.

5. Optimize for Conversion

If you want guests to keep coming back, you need to make sure that all sales channels are optimized for conversion. Otherwise, they’ll choose a different restaurant that meets their needs.

Framework You Can Use

Online Ordering: How easy is it to place an online order and checkout? If your menu is difficult to navigate or the checkout process is cumbersome, for example, your cart abandonment rate is going to be high. Ensure that your online ordering system enables guests to place an order quickly and securely. Bonus points if they can easily reorder their favorite items.

Convenience is Key: Can guests pick up their order curbside or in-restaurant? Is delivery an option? The more handoff options, the more likely guests will follow through with their order and keep coming back. In fact, according to Olo data, brands that enable four or more handoff modes typically see a 12%+ increase in conversion rate.

Google: Can people join the waitlist, book a reservation, or place an online order directly from your Google listing? If not, that’s one unnecessary hoop for returning guests to jump through. Eliminate friction by ensuring your Google listing is fully optimized for conversion.

6. Tighten the Feedback Loop

While 72% of guests will share a positive experience, for every 26 unhappy guests only one is likely to say anything to you. Good, fast, empathic guest feedback management is crucial. In addition, being proactive about collecting feedback is a great loyalty builder—77% of consumers view brands more favorably if they seek out and apply guest feedback.

Framework You Can Use

Build trust with a multi-level feedback strategy. 

When a guest reaches out with valuable feedback in any way (third-party reviews, social media comments, survey responses), it’s essential to engage quickly. Acknowledge their experience and let them know from the beginning that you value their feedback, positive or negative. Take action to fix the problem. Say thank you. 

Continue to build relationships by proactively asking for feedback (automated post-meal surveys work great). When guests reply, thank them and reward them.

For the super loyalist, consider consumer panel special events. “You are an important part of growing our brand and your voice matters.” 

Take a moment for meta-feedback and ask how your engaged guests like to be contacted. Do they prefer a quick text survey, an email, a social form, or an in-person menu workshop? Are they okay being contacted after every visit, or do they prefer a couple of months between surveys? Make sure to contact them accordingly.

This is most effective if you have access to reviews from every source on one restaurant sentiment analysis platform.

In summary, unless you test and implement retention strategies to keep current guests, you’re missing out on the opportunity to maximize their lifetime value and revenue for your brand.

Contact us to supercharge your guest retention strategy and get started with restaurant marketing automation.

Photo Credit: Shirota Yuri

People
Nov 9, 2022
3
 min read

In honor of Veterans Day, we sat down with Zach West, leader of [email protected], to discuss why veterans are an asset to businesses and the importance of celebrating service members.

As a remote-first company, we work hard to keep our distributed team connected and provide an environment where employees can grow, learn, and celebrate their authentic selves. Our employee resource groups (ERGs) play an essential role in that effort by expanding our culture to be more inclusive.

[email protected] was one of the first ERGs to be formed, with the goal of connecting employees who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, their families, and nonveteran colleagues to foster a culture of camaraderie, offer support, and advocate for veteran recruitment, retention, and promotion.

In honor of Veterans Day, we sat down with the ERG’s leader, Zach West, Director of Customer Success Management and former Green Beret in the U.S. Army Special Forces, to get the inside scoop on [email protected], why veterans are an asset to companies, and the importance of celebrating service members.

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Tell us a bit about [email protected]

We have about 20 members, including 11 or so veterans. In addition to being a community and support forum, we’ve done a few events over the years, including interviewing a veteran business owner about his journey from the Armed Forces to running Southern Pines Brewing Company, and hosting a donation drive to benefit Razom, a nonprofit sending emergency supplies to Ukraine.

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Why are veterans an asset to companies?

People who are involved in civic organizations are doing something that's greater than themselves. They tend to walk away with a better understanding of how to operate as a team and stay focused on their work. That type of selflessness benefits businesses as a whole because people are committed to the cause and will look out for one another. Veterans come from a mission-first background, so we will do whatever it takes to accomplish the end goal, leading to more efficient and productive companies.

What are some challenges facing veterans in the workplace?

Companies often overlook veterans as an underrepresented community. In reality, veterans are a diverse and vibrant group whose members intersect lines of gender, sexuality, and ability. What ties us together is a shared commitment to service, patriotism, and volunteerism. Companies should lean in and learn from their veteran community through inclusive practices, celebration, and recognition.

How is [email protected] working to change that?

I want to make sure that our group is not just a support forum, but also focused on celebration. We highlight veterans in our company by honoring their service, engaging in conversations around current events, assisting non-profits who benefit places like Ukraine, and ultimately doing the best we can to create a welcoming environment.

Looking ahead, I’d love to see our company benefit the broader community, including hiring more veterans, partnering with other ERGs at Olo, and donating to a veterans-focused organization.

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How can nonveterans show their support on Veterans Day and year-round?

Simply by being involved in different veterans organizations or nonprofits. There are a lot of awareness and support runs/charity races that exist out there. If there are local events going on, just showing up to support the cause is great.

Head to our People & Culture page to learn more about our ERGs, what it’s like to work at Olo, and our current job openings.

Photo Credit: Benjamin Faust from Unsplash

Insights
Nov 2, 2022
7
 min read

The holiday season is one of the busiest times of year for restaurants. Follow these 13 tips to prepare for high-volume days and drive holiday sales.

Restaurant Holiday Sales

With the holidays right around the corner, restaurant brands of all types and sizes are gearing up for one of the busiest times of the year. To help you maximize revenue, guest loyalty, and employee satisfaction this season, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of winning strategies—from menu optimization to ticketed events.

When creating your plan of attack, consider the time investment, resources, value-add, and potential ROI—short-term and long-term—for your specific brand.

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1. Holiday Promotions

Get in the holiday spirit with an irresistible limited-time offer that motivates guests to take action. Fear of missing out (aka FOMO) can be a powerful tool.

Food For Thought: Give guests $20 off orders of $100+, free delivery with a purchase of $50+, or a free appetizer with their first online order.

Level Up: Generate excitement around the promotion on your brand’s social media channels via a holiday-themed countdown or photo contest that incentivizes participation and helps to grow your following.

2. Marketing

Launch an omnichannel marketing campaign across email, SMS, social media, and digital ads to inform new and existing guests about your holiday offerings. This multi-platform approach will increase your brand’s reach and help you meet guests where they are.

Food For Thought: On Dec. 23, ask guests if they forgot someone on their list and need a last-minute gift. Use this opportunity to promote your best-selling cookie cake, gift card, merchandise, etc.

Level Up: Leverage your restaurant CRM to segment guests—high-LTV, big spenders, churn risks, online orderers, etc.—and then personalize communications based on their order history and preferences. A tailored message, served at the optimal time, on a guest’s preferred channel is a recipe for marketing success.

3. Restaurant Gift Cards

Gift cards have been a staple in the restaurant marketing playbook for years, but demand has never been higher. According to research conducted by the National Restaurant Association in 2021, “62% of consumers hope to receive a restaurant gift card for the holidays.”

Food For Thought: Give guests the choice of purchasing a physical gift card that can be sent by mail or a digital gift card that can be sent electronically.

Level Up: Offer a “Give a gift, get a gift” deal to incentivize gift card purchases (e.g. Earn a $10 bonus coupon for every $50 spent on gift cards).

4. Retail Items

Retail can serve as an additional revenue stream, advertising vehicle, and method of strengthening guest loyalty during the holidays and year-round.

Food For Thought: Restaurant regulars go wild for branded merchandise like BBQ sauce, T-shirts, and tote bags. Not to mention, they pair well with restaurant gift cards. Put them front and center in your restaurant, on the website, and on social media.

Level Up: A wine or beer club with membership perks like exclusive events, discounts on food, and priority seating can provide a predictable revenue stream for restaurants. Plus, subscriptions make great gifts at any time of year.

5. Menu

Restaurant brands can put a festive spin on their menu with holiday meal kits, family bundles, and/or seasonal items such as hot drinks and other cold-weather favorites.

Food For Thought: Alleviate the stress of cooking for a crowd with “Thanksgiving-to-go” or appeal to your guests’ nostalgia (and tastebuds) with LTOs like hot toddies or pecan pie.

Level Up: Full-service restaurants can offer an exclusive, holiday prix fixe menu for guests that want an elevated dining experience.

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6. Online Ordering

Given how busy we all are during the holidays, online ordering is a no-brainer for maximizing revenue. Just be sure your digital order management solution can keep up. The right system will enhance front-of-house operations, streamline the order flow, and provide capacity management tools (e.g. throttling, item availability customization, lead time extension, etc.), so your team feels supported and can focus on guests.

Food For Thought: Encourage guests to order holiday favorites like honey-baked ham in advance. Then, recommend menu items that pair well or irresistible add-ons to upsell during checkout and increase average check.

Level Up: Provide a suggested tip during checkout to ensure team members get an extra boost during the holidays.

7. Multiple Handoff Modes

Consumer demand for convenience is at an all-time high during the holidays. Restaurant brands can ensure that every guest has access to their preferred method of ordering by enabling multiple handoff modes, including curbside pickup, delivery, and dine-in.

Food For Thought: According to Olo data, brands that enable four or more handoff modes typically see their conversion rate increase by at least 12%.

Level Up: By integrating third-party delivery couriers to your native online orders, you can grow guest loyalty while opening new revenue channels through a direct digital experience.

8. Catering

Holiday parties present a valuable opportunity to boost restaurant revenue via catering. With many businesses and families gathering to celebrate, brands should consider offering holiday packages for pre-order that meet the needs of guests and also increase brand awareness.

Food For Thought: Promote your Christmas feast or taco party pack—complete with utensils, napkins, plates, reheating instructions, etc.—on your website, social media channels, and digital ads.

Level Up: Create a catering-focused marketing campaign, including email, SMS, and/or digital ads, specifically targeting guests that have placed large orders in the past.

9. Reservations

Reservations play an important role during the holiday season when demand for dine-in soars due to cold weather and the desire to celebrate with loved ones. They can be a source of stress relief for guests who want to plan for an occasion and make guests feel special by eliminating the wait. On the flip side, reservations enable restaurant staff to better prepare for busy shifts and large parties.

Food For Thought: Boost reservations by enabling guests to book from any platform—your website, app, Google Business Profile, social media channels, and beyond.

Level Up: Paid reservations or prepaid bookings are proven to drive down no-shows. Consider introducing a nominal, nonrefundable reservation fee to improve guest show rates and generate revenue.

10. Ticketed Events

Build a community around your brand and maximize revenue at the same time by hosting holiday-themed ticketed events at your restaurant. These events can appear right alongside your regular reservations, piquing interest among repeat and new guests.

Food For Thought: Host an Ugly Sweater Party, Friendsgiving, or a cooking class geared toward achieving guests’ New Year’s Resolutions, and promote the event(s) across your marketing channels.

Level Up: Use your table management solution to create customized floor plans and table assignments before the event, and be sure to accept payments ahead of time to take the guesswork out of your guest list and drive down no-shows.

11. QR Code Ordering

QR code ordering can boost revenue by enabling guests to access the restaurant menu, order, and pay, all from their own mobile devices while sitting at a table. When guests order from a digital interface—without having to stand in line, wait for a server, or stress about indulging in add-ons—check averages and tip income increase.

Food For Thought: To encourage adoption, display eye-catching signage in the restaurant with straightforward instructions for how to order and pay at the table, and designate a team member to assist guests if they need help.

Level Up: Incentivize guests to use QR code ordering during the winter months with targeted marketing campaigns that feature a special holiday deal (e.g. Free dessert with your first QR code order).

12. Outdoor Dining

To extend the outdoor dining season and maintain a steady flow of revenue in winter, restaurants should think creatively about their physical space and offerings. Outdoor heaters, branded blankets, a thoughtful menu featuring warm drinks and hearty fare, and a little bit of ambiance (bistro lights, anyone?) can transform any restaurant patio into a culinary destination.

Food For Thought: Promote an outdoor Winter Ale tasting or turn the parking lot into a drive-in theater with a family-friendly menu.

Level Up: Add a fire pit or an Instagram-worthy backdrop—think flower wall, large mural, patterned wallpaper, or a neon sign—to attract guests and generate buzz on social media.

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13. Make Every Guest Feel Like a Regular

A lesser-known but highly effective way to boost restaurant profit year-round, but especially during the holidays, is by personalizing the guest experience. Brands can thoughtfully tailor every guest interaction, whether dine-in or takeout—no matter which team members are on duty—with an integrated tech stack that ties order history and other guest details in the CRM to the waitlist, reservations, order, and table management solution. In other words, make every guest feel like a regular.

Food For Thought: Alert managers about which table touches to prioritize during a busy shift or have a regular’s favorite drink prepared upon arrival.

Level Up: Send a targeted and timely SMS message to guests featuring an image of your new candy cane milkshake (or another seasonal menu item) that feels like it’s coming from a friend.

Contact us to discover more ways to maximize restaurant revenue during the holidays and year-round.

Photo Credit: Emilie Farris from Unsplash

Product
Oct 24, 2022
3
 min read

Find out how restaurants can leverage QR code ordering to optimize operations and create a seamless dining experience that benefits both guests and staff.

QR Code Ordering, Dine-In Ordering, On-Premise Ordering

The pandemic made QR codes ubiquitous, particularly in the hospitality industry. Contactless menus and payment quickly went from being a safety precaution to a staple at many restaurants.

While diners had to initially adapt out of necessity, many have come to accept and even embrace QR codes for their convenience. Now that dine-in is back in full force, restaurants can further leverage QR codes to optimize operations and create a seamless guest experience.

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What is QR Code Ordering?

QR code ordering enables guests to scan a QR code to access a restaurant’s menu, place an order, and pay for a meal, all from their own mobile devices. The QR code is typically found on a tabletop sign or sticker affixed to a table inside the restaurant.

With QR code ordering, guests have the flexibility to choose how, when, and what to order—without having to stand in line or wait for a server. Additionally, guests benefit from faster service, more control over order accuracy, the ability to easily add items to their meals, and quickly pay when they’re finished.

QSR and fast-casual brands like Nando’s offer QR code ordering inside some of their restaurants and the reception from guests has been overwhelmingly positive.

Olo QR Code Ordering for Restaurants
With Olo's QR Code Ordering, guests can view the menu, order, and pay with their phones.

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5 Ways Restaurants Can Benefit from QR Code Ordering

Though QR code ordering is a guest-driven dining experience, the technology can support restaurants in a myriad of ways—from financial, to staffing, to data collection, and more. Here are five examples that come directly from Olo data and feedback from restaurant brands that we support.

1. Revenue Boost

According to Olo data and industry data at large, check averages increase by $2-4, or roughly 12%, when guests order from a digital interface. Why? Because guests can spend more time perusing the menu, easily add and pay for items, and indulge in add-ons without fear of judgment.

As a bonus, generally, there are limited costs for restaurant brands to get started with QR code ordering (keep scrolling for setup details).

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2. Increased Staff Efficiency and Satisfaction

By eliminating unnecessary touch points between restaurant employees and guests, QR code ordering optimizes staffing needs. Fewer trips to and from tables mean brands have the freedom to reallocate employees to greet guests, prepare food, etc.

When guests have the power to determine exactly what and when to order, their satisfaction tends to go up, which can lead to an increased tip income of $1.50 per hour on average.

Higher pay, less stress, and the freedom to put in more face time with guests can boost job satisfaction and retention of restaurant employees.

Related: How To Prepare For Table Service 2.0

3. Improved Order Accuracy

Since QR code ordering puts guests in control of placing and paying for orders directly from their phone, communication issues with staff often decrease, and order accuracy increases. Fewer mistakes mean less food waste and a smoother experience for all.

4. Faster Table Turnover

Restaurant guests often wait anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes for their check to arrive at the table. It’s a common pain point that can easily be resolved with QR code ordering.  

When guests aren’t waiting for a server to order or pay for their meal, orders get fulfilled faster and there’s less delay for incoming guests. In other words, with QR code ordering, more people can ultimately be served—a win-win for the restaurant brand and its guests.

5. Data Collection

Restaurant brands that leverage QR code ordering can see up to a 5x increase in first-party data collection compared to traditional dining experiences. 

While historically dine-in guests have been difficult to identify and learn from, QR code ordering enables brands to better understand dine-in guests’ preferences and behavior, as well as grow their marketable database, by digitizing every transaction.


When brands analyze and act on those insights, they can create Digital Hospitality at every touchpoint and maximize lifetime value (LTV) through personalized service, 1:1 marketing, and more.

Nando's QR code ordering with Olo
Nando’s Peri-Peri promotes its QR code ordering experience at the door, table, and on staff T-shirts.

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Getting Set Up with QR Code Ordering

Unlike some restaurant technologies, QR code ordering is generally quick to stand up for brands that already have online ordering and can be very cost-effective. In most cases, no hardware is needed since the ordering platform is a guest’s mobile device. The only out-of-pocket costs include training employees, setting up QR codes at each table, and developing promotional materials.

To boost awareness, educate guests, and encourage the adoption of QR code ordering, brands should display positive, straightforward messaging in and around each restaurant. Eye-catching door and window decals, signs in traditional ordering areas, table displays, and even staff T-shirts or buttons, are great ways to get the word out at each location. And don’t forget about online—a restaurant website, social media, and email marketing are important channels for educating guests.

To find out more about QR code ordering and how it can support your restaurant operations, visit our Ordering page and contact us.

Photo Credit: Alba Lantigua from Unsplash and Blue Bird from Pexels

Insights
Oct 24, 2022
5
 min read

Learn what a Customer Data Platform (CDP) is and how it enables restaurant brands to leverage data across their entire business.

CDP, Restaurant CDP, Restaurant Customer Data Platform, GDP, Olo Guest Data Platform

Despite the last decade of focus on the topic, restaurant brands of all sizes still struggle to collect, analyze, and most importantly, act on guest data to grow their business.

Restaurants face a mix of challenges with their guest data that fall into a handful of categories:

  • Lack of Access: Data is stuck in archaic systems and some tech vendors block access altogether
  • Lack of Integration: Data can be accessed, but, no team has the time or technology to stitch it together (or systems that strictly unify data add another layer of costs)
  • Lack of Actionability: Integrated data isn’t being passed to the tools that Ops, Culinary, Marketing, and/or Finance teams can actually use in their day-to-day
  • Lack of Ability to Test or Experiment: Any combination of the above makes it nearly impossible to test and pilot new strategies—from menu engineering to online and offline restaurant marketing efforts

With the rising importance of technology, many brands were just waking up to the fact that they didn’t have the data infrastructure they needed to succeed.

Enter COVID.

Practically overnight, brands were forced to confront these obstacles as they had to digitize their business and, in many cases, adopt tech solutions that threatened to disintermediate restaurant brands from their guests. This set the stage for the next frontier of restaurant growth, specifically, guest centricity and the ability to build an on-to-off-premise experience that is seamless, personalized, controlled by the brand, and driven by data.

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Definition of CDP

Customer Data Platforms (CDP) exclusively serve the purpose of ingesting data, creating a single view of the guest, and piping that data to end platforms where it can add value.

So how does this new tech category fit into the restaurant tech stack? And is a CDP right for your restaurant?

Start by evaluating where your brand is today and then identify the data architecture that will serve your brand for the next decade.

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Signs You Need a Restaurant CDP

  • Data deserts: “I wish I could do X, but can’t get the data from A to B”
  • Manual workflows: “We will need another person just to analyze X data”
  • Tech-stack dependency: “We can’t implement X until we have Y in place”
  • Vendor lock-in: “We can’t afford to leave X—they just have too much control over valuable data about our guests”

Say Goodbye to Data Silos

Here’s the real revelation of CDP: it’s a single solution to ingest data from any source, merge that data to a single guest record, then send it to the right destination.

With a restaurant CDP, you don’t have to think about whether the vendors you’re working with will give you useful data—your CDP is there to ingest and make that data usable.

To help visualize this point, see the graphic below. While everyone looks at charts like this and gets excited about “dream scenarios” in the top right—without a clean, usable, data foundation, they’re just that...dreams.

Olo Restaurant Data - CDP

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Benefits of a Restaurant CDP

To determine what a restaurant CDP like Olo’s Guest Data Platform could unlock for your brand, start by mapping out your current tech stack, with a specific lens on data sources and destinations.

Sources are any vendor or channel that captures guest data. Examples include POS, WiFi, waitlist & reservations, loyalty, email/SMS, brand website, guest app, online ordering, restaurant payment processor, social media, surveys, third-party reviews, etc.

Destinations are vendors who will help you act on the data. Examples include email and SMS marketing, search and social ad platforms, business insights tools, and even data warehouses.

It’s worth noting that sources can be destinations as well. An example of this is enriching guest data back into your restaurant CRM to fuel more impactful, targeted search, social, and even email/SMS campaigns.

This data source/destination exercise will get you to somewhere like this:

Olo Guest Data Platform for Restaurants
How Olo's Guest Data Platform—a CDP purpose-built for restaurants—works

How a Restaurant CDP Works: The Loyalty Program Use-Case

Imagine you’re a restaurant brand years into a loyalty program offering, yet, your loyalty vendor’s messaging solution doesn’t fully meet your expectations. Or, you want to facilitate personalization based on more data than just what’s within your loyalty/offers solution.

Are you stuck? Marketing leaders at many brands have said they feel that way. But, that doesn’t have to be the case.

By adding a restaurant CDP to your tech stack, you’d be able to—in this example—ingest points, spend, offer, and redemption data back to a centralized guest record that can also include data from web, social, or on-premise interactions not captured by a loyalty solution. Data could then be pushed to the destination vendor best suited to meet your goals. The bottom line is that the added flexibility of a CDP ensures you don’t have to switch one vendor to accommodate another or to adopt a new strategy.

Further, you can push this singular, enriched guest record to a marketing execution platform of your choice. This unlocks the ability to build conditional messaging flows that drive guests further down the funnel to habituation, all based on their unique interactions with your brand.

It's Time to Harness and Act on Restaurant Data

To remain competitive, leading restaurant brands will create data architecture that puts an accessible guest data layer at its core—combined with modular, best-in-class applications to act on the data. This idea is not new to digitally-native companies, like e-commerce, that are disciplined at tracking every step of their guests’ journeys because the needed data architecture is already built into their platform and experience. Now is the time for brick-and-mortar businesses like restaurants to reclaim their guest data and put it to work.

Learn about our Olo’s Guest Data Platform, a restaurant-specific CDP, and contact us to find out how it can take your business to the next level.

Main photo credit: Lexie Barnhorn from Unsplash

Product
Oct 24, 2022
4
 min read

There’s a lot to consider before implementing a new restaurant payment stack. Learn the best time to upgrade and what to look for when vetting solutions.

Restaurant Payment Stack, Restaurant Payment Solutions, Olo Pay

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In an increasingly contactless world, payment processing for digital transactions has become a priority across industries. But for restaurant brands that have spent years bemoaning antiquated payment systems for their endless fees, security issues, and lack of tech integration, it can be a sore subject.

The truth is: A traditional payment processor simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Restaurant brands must have a comprehensive payment platform to streamline their tech stack, drive direct sales, and unify siloed data. 

But implementing any new system is no small undertaking. Budgets are tight, labor is strained, and yet, innovation is key to remaining competitive.

So when is the optimal time to upgrade?

Start by asking yourself the following questions.

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10 Things To Consider Before Implementing a New Payment Stack

  1. What are your current authorization rates? Have they been increasing or decreasing?
  2. What are your cart abandonment rates? Are they trending up or down?
  3. Which fees on your payment service provider’s statement can you not confidently explain?
  4. How do your payment acceptance costs vary from quarter to quarter?
  5. What are your current rates of fraud and chargebacks? Have they changed over time?
  6. What are your costs of chargebacks, won and lost?
  7. What are your administrative costs for handling chargebacks?
  8. What kind of payment tokens do you use and what is the cost?
  9. What are the costs of maintaining your payments platform as it relates to keeping up with new network rules and requirements? (PCI compliance, reporting, interchange changes, etc.)
  10. How is card life cycle management handled?

If your restaurant brand is consistently embattled by fees, struggling to manage chargebacks and PCI compliance, and/or experiencing high cart abandonment rates, it’s time to update your payment system.

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What To Look For in a Restaurant Payment Platform

A modern restaurant payment platform will not only simplify operations but also enhance the guest experience. It shouldn’t just solve existing problems, either; it should be future-proof to ensure that as you build out the rest of your restaurant tech stack, it will continue to meet your needs. 

To set up your brand for success, make sure your payment system checks all of these boxes.

Transparent Fee Structure

The cost of accepting payments goes beyond the processing fee and often includes other charges. Traditional payment processors will sometimes hide fees, overcharge for services, or charge for unnecessary items.

Hidden fees are often considered markup costs and can be charged on a transaction basis or monthly. They can include PCI fees, software fees, gateway fees, CPU fees, AVS fees, equipment costs, and more.

All of these fees are negotiable and should be reviewed prior to implementing a payment system.

Multiple Payment Options

To effectively drive sales, restaurant brands need to optimize for conversion. That includes offering a seamless checkout process with multiple payment options for guest convenience. 

Look for a payment platform that enables guests to pay with their digital wallet (Apple Pay, Google Pay) and save a card on file for faster checkout on subsequent visits. The fewer barriers—manual credit card entry, password management, etc.—the better.

Advanced Fraud Protection

As the number of digital transactions continues to skyrocket, restaurant brands need to be vigilant when it comes to fraud. Each restaurant transaction could be made by a real guest or a scammer.

While many restaurant brands are forced to purchase fraud protection from a company outside of their payment processor, a comprehensive payment platform will include it within their offerings and the upfront cost. 

A modern payment stack can tell the difference between scammers and actual guests by leveraging machine learning to catch fraud and accept legitimate transactions. While some chargebacks are unavoidable, the right technology will limit fraud to a bare minimum.

Full Integration

In order to truly know your guests, you need a restaurant tech stack built with systems that talk to each other. That way, you can collect, analyze, and act on unified data. If your payment processor, online ordering solution, CRM, POS, etc. do not share data, you’re not getting the full picture of the guest's journey.

By eliminating data silos, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of each guest, including their purchasing behavior, preferences, and long-term value to the business. So, before selecting a payment platform, ensure that it fully integrates with your existing tech stack.

Seamless Onboarding

One of the biggest challenges of implementing a payment platform is the amount of time and resources it takes for a successful roll-out brand-wide. Between staffing challenges and razor-thin margins, quick and painless onboarding is key to successfully standing up any new restaurant system.

When vetting payment solutions, find out what the onboarding process entails and approximately how long it will take—depending on the vendor, it could take days or weeks to set up a new merchant account—so you can anticipate the impact on operations and prepare.

Final Thoughts

While no single payment platform works for all restaurants, the right system will lay the groundwork for sustainable business growth while improving day-to-day operations for staff and the overall guest experience.

For example, since switching from a legacy processor to Olo Pay, our restaurant-specific payment platform, WaBa Grill has seen a significant reduction in fraud and fees, as well as an improved authorization rate that has resulted in additional revenue. Read the case study for details.

Before implementing a new system, it’s good to know what’s working and what isn’t with your current setup—and the direction you want to move in. Once you have a baseline established, you can better evaluate each vendor’s differentiators and how they can meet your brand’s needs today and in the future.

Learn about our comprehensive restaurant payment platform, and contact us to find out how Olo Pay can transform your business.

Download the Olo Payments Playbook
Click to download our Payment Playbook

Photo Credit: Pickawood from Unsplash

People
Oct 24, 2022
4
 min read

Get to know Priya Thinagar, Olo’s EVP of Technology, and what fuels her desire to help restaurants grow.

Team Olo

Inspired by Olo’s growth journey and steadfast commitment to helping restaurants do more with less, Priya Thinagar took on the role of Executive Vice President of Technology in late 2021.

Since joining, she has led our Product, Engineering, and Design teams to create best-in-class digital ordering experiences for off-premise and dine-in guests.

We recently sat down with Thinagar to find out why she chose to work at Olo, highlights from her first year on the job, the key to effective leadership, and more.

Why did you join Olo?

Restaurants are the stronghold of local communities. They act as impactful gathering places where people build relationships and make memories. But it's tough running a restaurant business—dealing with labor shortages, talent acquisition, and low margins. I thought of how cool it would be to help these local businesses thrive and do more with technology. Working in the intersection of two things I like the most, technology and food, is one of the reasons I chose Olo.

Additionally, as an aspiring entrepreneur, working in a founder-led organization meant learning from the best to focus on long-term guidance. A founder sees the company as their life’s work, so they are highly motivated to think about the long-term. I know from reading about successful founders that they have an owner’s mindset—speeding up decisions and a bias for action. Add a notch of purpose and you have this amazing formula that can drive individuals to impactful careers.

Lastly, when I started a year ago, Olo was going through a phase of intense scale. Having read “Blitzscaling” by Reid Hoffman and seeing the energy in fast-paced scaling to build sustainable organizations, I wanted to be at the center of the action-packed journey on this rocket ship.

Tell us a little bit about what you do.

I lead Product, Engineering, and Design for Olo’s core products and platform. Our mission is to remove any friction in the ordering experience, irrespective of the medium chosen to order. Our teams focus on reliability and scale, deeply embracing a data-driven culture to push our limits on being an elite organization.

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Looking back on your first year at Olo, what are you most proud of?

First of all, I’m proud of the Omnivore acquisition, where we saw the potential of the data and sync with POS which unlocks new product opportunities and a strong technical team. In the last few months, bringing the Omnivore data together with Olo’s rich order data, and being able to drive insights for capacity, has been fun to watch. The best is yet to come.

The second is Borderless Olo Pay—from ideation to minimum viable product (MVP) in less than two quarters of bringing together a team. We set a clear vision and focus for them and let them autonomously deliver. To see guests saving credit card information so they can checkout without friction across Olo’s network of restaurants has been rewarding.

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Looking ahead, what are you most excited about?

I see the potential of bringing the best guest experiences and operational excellence for our brands through our data science initiatives. We have seen accuracy in order promise times with just the order and make-time data. The possibilities are limitless. 

The next generation of guests is technologically savvy, prefers personalization, and expects brands to meet them where they are. With restaurants investing in digital enhancements to appeal to this hyper-connected guest population, I see a lot of opportunities for Olo to help our brands revolutionize their business through technology.

Name three things you love about working at Olo.

1. The problems we solve with a ground ball mentality—there is never a dull moment. 2. The pace at which we operate helps our brands solve complex problems in a timely manner. 3. And, most importantly, my team and the leadership on my teams.

What makes a great leader?

Great leaders make hard choices in order to enhance the lives of others around them. They also have a blend of humility and unparalleled will to lead others in service of a cause that is bigger than themselves.

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Any advice for aspiring women in tech?

My favorite woman leader, Eleanor Roosevelt, said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Remain positively curious and remember that the future is what you make it to be, so dream big.

To learn more about Olo and apply for one of our job openings, visit our careers page.