Restaurant Online Ordering Vs. Call-In Orders

If you’re used to taking to-go orders for your restaurant over the phone, you may wonder why you’d need to adopt online ordering features, too — particularly if you enjoy a loyal customer base that has continued to order over the phone regularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, online restaurant ordering actually has lots of advantages that might not be obvious at first and are only becoming more important as time goes on. Those benefits include freeing up your staff’s time and even helping attract new customers.

That doesn’t mean you should ditch call-in orders entirely, though. It’s a good strategy to make sure that you have people available to answer phones

In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about how restaurant online ordering compares to restaurant call-in orders so you can make smart decisions about how to allocate your restaurant’s time and resources.

7 Reasons Why Online Ordering Beats Call-in Orders

1. Fewer Errors

When your restaurant staff takes orders over the phone and manually inputs or writes down the order details, there’s lots of room for error.

Employees may accidentally mark down the wrong size or choice of meal, misunderstand special instructions, or simply get the customer’s name wrong. Staff may also accidentally forget to do things like verbally confirm the correct pickup time, location, total price, or other details that might cause confusion and frustration. Even if your employees get these things right 99% of the time, mistakes that upset customers can result in plenty of lost revenue over time.

By contrast, when customers order online, they can see their order details and personal details for themselves and review them before they check out. There’s also no chance that handwriting or transcription problems will confuse the back-of-house staff, because everything is typed up and displayed clearly.

Because of all of these features, order mistakes are rare when you use an online ordering system.

2. Customer Convenience

With an online food ordering system, customers can easily place food orders with a smartphone even if they’re somewhere that’s not ideal for a phone call, such as riding the bus or caring for small children. They can order their food at their own pace without worrying about being interrupted. And many online food ordering systems allow customers to easily access their personal information, favorite orders, and order history once they’ve created an account, which means they don’t have to re-enter it again each time they order.

Plus, modern internet browsers can securely save people’s passwords and credit card info, so it has become almost effortless for your customers to log in and purchase food.

Once you consider all of those conveniences — especially compared to asking customers to verbally read out a 16-digit credit card number over the phone and repeat it if there’s a mistake (not to mention the privacy concerns this may cause when ordering   from a public place) — you’ll start to understand why so many people now actively avoid ordering their meals via phone call.

In fact, you may find that by embracing online ordering, you may be able to reach an entirely new group of customers who don’t feel comfortable ordering from a restaurant that doesn’t have online ordering features.

3. It Frees Up Staff Time

It might not seem like it takes your staff too much time to answer the phone to take customer orders. After all, each call-in order probably takes under five minutes.

However, when these calls come frequently, they can create an almost full-time job — and the calls usually distract from other work that your staff could be doing.

By contrast, online orders take up literally no staff time (outside of the occasional phone call from customers asking questions or following up on their online orders).

4. It Encourages Upsells

The food ordering software that customers use to make online orders typically recommends things like side dishes, appetizers, drinks, and desserts. These recommendations are paired with appetizing images, and they can pop up at just the right point in the ordering process.

That’s something that’s impossible to replicate when you take all food orders over the phone.

Asking your staff to recommend upsells and complementary pairings over the phone before a customer checks out can certainly be an option, but it requires more training time, adds even more time to the ordering process, and is more off-putting to the customer.

5. It Limits Close Interpersonal Contact

Many restaurants take orders over the phone, but wait to collect payment in person. This method risks no-shows and the loss of revenue inherent with those no-shows, but it also has new risks in the era of COVID-19.

Having been through the stresses of a pandemic so recently, people will continue to appreciate the chance to avoid close contact with others if it’s not completely necessary. They may also continue to want to avoid touching shared objects like pens, credit cards, and receipts.

Online food ordering systems make it easy for customers and employees to stay a safe distance apart. Customers can simply pick up their food from a designated pick up area within the restaurant, or pick it up at the counter without having to prolong the transaction and increase potential transmission risk.

Consider that even if you haven’t been particularly worried about COVID-19, the flu and other transmissible diseases can also have a significant impact on your bottom line. Each year, your employees get sick and spread germs to one another, causing scheduling and staffing problems that can go on to create management headaches and affect customer experience.

This is another good reason to encourage the kind of remote payment that’s inherent in the online food ordering process.

6. The Receipt Process is Streamlined

When customers order and pay online, printing receipts and collecting signatures becomes a thing of the past.

Although it may seem like a relatively minor step in the checkout process, online payment removes several small frictions at the point of sale that can make a big difference over time.

For example, you won’t have to stock pens, hand sanitizer, and receipt paper at the point of sale as frequently.

Customers will also appreciate that they have a secure, digital record of the transaction emailed to them so they don’t have to deal with a paper copy. And your front-of-house won’t miss the steps of passing pens and paper receipts back and forth.

Plus, because customers can see right away how much they paid when they check out online, there’s little chance that they’ll show up and dispute order details.

7. Loyalty Program Enrollment is Streamlined

Loyalty programs and other customer relationship management features make a huge difference in your restaurant’s ability to keep revenue consistent throughout the year.

If you can consistently collect your patrons’ contact information, you can reach out to them to let them know about special events, offers, and menu news throughout the year.

Although modern point of sale systems do sometimes allow customers to enroll in a loyalty program when they check out in-person, enrolling is practically effortless when customers check out online. They will have already filled in their personal and contact information as part of the order process, so opting in to be contacted about special deals is often as simple as checking an additional box.

Even a relatively small boost in the rate of opt-ins into the loyalty program can yield big returns over time.

Call-In Ordering Advantage: Covering the Phones is Crucial for Customer Experience

Regardless of how tech-savvy your customer base is or how easy you make it for people to order their food online, you should still make sure that the phone is always answered during business hours.

Some people will simply feel more comfortable ordering over the phone, and others will have to call in with questions that aren’t directly related to a food order.

It’s usually well worth making sure that someone is available to handle phone calls live, even as you encourage your customers to order their meals online.

Do You Have Questions About Online Ordering?

If you’re considering adopting a new online ordering system for your restaurant, we hope you consider us at Truffle POS.

Truffle POS for restaurants includes a full suite of online ordering features, driver delivery tracking features, and customer loyalty features. It’s affordable, easy to use and will grow along with your restaurant.

If you’re ready to learn more, you can either check our buying guide on the best online ordering systems or learn more about our online ordering system.