Online ordering: the asset that’s a burden, the blessing that’s a curse, the “Can’t live with it, can’t live without it” of restaurant life. There’s a lot to be said both in favor of and against putting one’s menu online, and particularly on third-party aggregation platforms like Grubhub and Uber Eats.
Except, not really — not according to Alex Canter, founder of Ordermark.
Canter says there are no good arguments against putting a restaurant’s menu out there, both online and with as many aggregators as possible — especially now that, via Ordermark, there’s a way to avoid the ever-growing iPad collection at the hostess table and all the extra training that goes with it.
“A restaurant that’s not considering online ordering is not going to be around in five years,” Canter said.
That’s especially true for smaller mom-and-pop restaurants, he said, as challenges such as increases in minimum wage make it harder than ever for businesses to maintain profit margins depending on foot traffic alone.
Canter predicts that more restaurants will be reducing their seating capacity to focus on delivery and/or introducing pared-down versions of their menu à la P.F. Chang’s offshoot, Pei Wei, a fast casual diner serving bowls that are similar in taste and style to the heartier fare at its sit-down restaurants.
As this shift takes place, Canter said that not making the menu available online is not an option. That’s how the upcoming generation of diners finds and acquires food.
“If your restaurant isn’t listed on the platforms,” he said, “it doesn’t exist.”
The Aggregator of Aggregators
Ordermark pulls orders from all the mobile platforms — of which there are over a hundred — and prints them directly to the kitchen in a uniform way, eliminating the gaggle of tablets that many establishments are now trying to juggle, one for every partner platform with which they work.
Canter, whose family owns Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles, said the ordering area used to be chaos. Every new partner platform brought more orders and more customers, but it also brought another piece of tech to the table and another round of training for the employees handling orders that would come from the latest tablet.
“It looked like a Best Buy,” Canter remembered. “We had nine tablets, two laptops and a fax machine. The staff called that area ‘the warzone.’”
In those days, he said, an employee had to monitor the tablets for incoming orders, then transcribe or enter them in the point-of-sale terminal to pass along to the kitchen, a process that was both time-consuming and error-prone.
“Everything out there was just making it more complicated for restaurants, never any easier,” he said.
That’s why, when developing Ordermark, Canter wanted to find a way to skip the part where some poor hostess or bartender has to rekey orders, instead sending them directly to the kitchen in a language and format the kitchen can understand — and most importantly, in the same format.
If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them
As any entrepreneur knows, the business is their baby. So, it makes some sense that many restaurateurs are hesitant to adopt online ordering.
Maybe they’re worried about their customers’ first experiences with the brand taking place in a car (Canter admits that was his biggest fear). Others may be paralyzed by the choices and simply lack guidance on where to start.
Still others believe having their own app exempts them from needing to partner with third-party aggregators. Why pay someone else a commission when they can bring in their own digital orders?
Canter said that’s the wrong attitude. The point of an aggregator (and what Ordermark aims to deliver as an aggregator of aggregators) is to take the problem of online ordering off the restaurateur’s hands and free them up to make great food, connect with customers and otherwise run a great business.
“Most restaurants don’t know how to handle this,” said Canter — and that’s not their job. “We’re here to give them not just a fulfillment tool that brings these platforms together, but also help with managing their presence on those platforms.”
Canter noted that his family’s deli learned the hard way about packaging and menu engineering — that is, which items don’t need to be listed on platforms — and that’s one bit of expertise he said Ordermark’s live account managers pass on to restaurateurs using the service.
Aggregators Win Too
By reducing tech components (Ordermark only provides the one: a tablet with an Epson printer created specifically for this purpose), Canter said Ordermark cuts back on training time and costs and helps streamline operations so restaurants can spend their time cranking out orders.
But one must not overlook the aggregators in this situation. They are, after all, powerful — if the solution doesn’t work for them, then it won’t go far across the rest of the ecosystem either. Canter said that, by signing new restaurants onto their platforms, Ordermark keeps the aggregators happy too.
In addition, just as restaurateurs are good at making food but maybe not so good at managing tech, the delivery service providers are good at providing a great customer service experience and maybe not so good at providing great hardware.
By taking the hardware piece off their plate, Canter said, Ordermark is helping aggregators be the best business they can be.