Setting up online ordering for your restaurant or cafe website

Following the shutdown of non-essential businesses across Australia, restaurants and cafes have found themselves in need of quick, reliable and cost-effective solutions to sell directly to their customers and remain in operation. And even after lockdowns have eased, there’s still an increased demand for online ordering in the hospitality industry.

For restaurants and cafes who have never done food delivery before, this can mean multiple frustrations and administration problems as they navigate their new normal. Some of these administration problems may include: 

  • Staff taking orders and credit card payments by phone, resulting in pages of hand-written orders. 
  • Mixing up customer orders.
  • Credit card numbers being written down wrong, or card information ending up in the wrong hands. 
  • Losing track of which customers have paid, and which have not. 

For customers who want to continue to support their local businesses, it’s difficult to find out which cafes and restaurants in the area are utilising a delivery service, let alone finding menus online. Many restaurants and cafes in Gippsland aren’t even on Google Maps, let alone have a website with the capabilities of online ordering and delivery.

If you are a cafe or restaurant owner, setting up online ordering and deliveries is the best way to continue to operate consistently throughout lockdowns and reach the widest range of customers even when business runs as normal.

How to set up online ordering yourself

There are an array of online ordering systems and restaurant payment technology, such as Menulog and UberEats, that you can set up yourself to enable you to make the switch to online ordering and deliveries. While these give you instant visibility and the ability to take online orders, these systems do charge high commission rates on each order – 14% for Menulog, which is on the lower end – which cuts further into the already low margins in the hospitality industry. This may still be worth setting up so that your customers are able to find you if they search for restaurants that do takeaway and delivery in your area.

Building your own website with an online ordering system lets you bypass the high commissions charged by Menulog and similar platforms, but takes significantly more work. You can build your own website using a website builder such as Squarespace or Wix, but if you’ve never built a website before, it will likely take you several days to a week of solid work and a significant learning curve. Additionally, you’ll need to need to invest time into choosing your preferred website builder tool, buying your domain name (eg., connecting the domain to the website, setting up the online store itself, adding your logos and menus, and getting your new website listed on Google. 

A high-quality WordPress website built for the long term

The other alternative is to ask a developer to build a website with ecommerce capabilities, or, if you already have a website, to help you add an online ordering system. One of the best options is a WordPress site that uses WooCommerce for the online ordering component. WordPress is the top platform globally for small business websites and is extremely flexible, allowing you to extend in future with the design and functionality that best suits your needs.

WooCommerce is an online store system which is also the industry leading solution in the field. It complies with all payment processing security requirements and is used for hundreds of thousands of online stores, including some handling millions of dollars worth of orders per month. Payment processing will be handled with Stripe, which can be integrated in future with Xero or MYOB to automatically import payments made via your website into your accounting system. This dramatically reduces transaction fees for your online orders, since Stripe charges a transaction fee of only 1.75% plus 30 cents per order, which is vastly cheaper than the 14% charged by Menulog. WooCommerce allows all online ordering functionality to be fully built into the website, even calculating delivery fees and allowing you to automatically charge customers based on whether they choose delivery or pickup when they order. 

Ongoing costs and comparison vs Menulog

While website development will cost you more than services like Menulog up front, you’ll find that if you’re processing a lot of sales, the cost of development and maintenance will cost you much less in the long term. If you make $5000 a month in sales, you’ll end up losing $700 of that to Menulog in their commission fees. Web development costs will vary, but after your website is established, you’re likely to only be paying a maximum of $100 a month in maintenance fees, plus the 1.75% plus 30 cents fee to Stripe, allowing you to keep more of the profit. Consider how website development works within your longer term budget when making the choice that’s right for your business – if you are able to invest in your own website up front, it’s likely to save you more down the track. 

If the cost of web development seems out of reach, consider looking into business grants that can help you fund this. There are a number of grants from state and local governments specifically to support businesses in digitisation and business development so they can adapt to COVID-19, including from Latrobe Valley Authority and City of Melbourne, so research current grants and opportunities in your region. 

It’s time to innovate and pivot your business to online orders, so that you can remain operational no matter what’s thrown at you.

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