Whether it’s getting a ride, doing your grocery shopping, or watching a movie, these days it seems getting whatever you want, whenever you want it, is possible within a few touches on your smartphone. In routine everyday life, the on-demand economy continues to extend its reach.
There’s no place the on-demand nature of modern consumerism has been more on display than in the restaurant industry, where being able to seamlessly order food (pun intended) for delivery or pick-up has transformed the way people approach dining. Take me, for example – I know the exact point along my commute where I can place an order to have my breakfast arrive at my office at the same time I do. A decade ago, that sort of convenience might have been considered close to science fiction.
Over the last five years, big chains have found new ways to join the on-demand economy and give their customers the experience they want. The transition hasn’t been so easy for the little guys, however, with many independent restaurants viewing the age of instant gratification as an unneeded headache.
Rather than fighting the delivery app, restaurant owners can themselves reap the benefits of on-demand delivery without a costly investment by leveraging the technology and partnerships available to them through innovative point-of-sale (POS) providers.
The Delivery Revolution: Adapt or Close Up Shop
Resources just don’t flow as abundantly for the mom-and-pop diners, the hole-in-the-wall BBQ joints, or the quickserve coffee shop around the corner, as they do for the major chains.
This isn’t just for food service either. Even family owned pharmacies like MG Pharmacy, a drugstore that’s been in business for over 30 years in Phoenix, Arizona, have been hit by new technology. Apps like capsule which deliver prescriptions straight to your door give these small independent pharmacies more than a run for their money. MG has found a unique way to adapt, by marketing to their local community and adopting a retro 50’s aesthetic that has attracted locals to their shop. But what about the rest of the small independent businesses in the country?
All over America today, there are small restaurants that operate in a manner pretty much indistinguishable from the way they did twenty years ago. Owners open in the morning, close down at night, and spend their free time prioritizing between sleep and a million other matters related to their business.
As Domino’s gears up to accept pizza orders that can be delivered by drones, many independent restaurant owners remain stuck on square one, faced with a few unattractive options. They can take one of three routes:
- Pay the high costs of adding proper online ordering capabilities.
- Relinquish control of their customer experience and pay the high commission fees to other online ordering services.
- Have no online presence at all.
Could these restaurants get by without adapting? Certainly not in the long term. Consumer demand for online ordering services for food take-out and delivery only continues to grow. According to market research firm NPD, 1.39 billion phone delivery orders were placed in the U.S. in the 12 months ending in May 2010 – which dropped to about 1.02 billion by May 2015. However, online orders more than doubled during that same period, increasing from 403 million to nearly 904 million.
NPD also found that demand for delivery – outside of pizza, no less – has increased by 33 percent since 2012, and the total U.S. food delivery market could grow to as much as $210 billion over the long term, according to Morgan Stanley Research. That’s a lot of ramen.
The problem this creates for smaller independent restaurant businesses is two-fold: they are missing the opportunity to get a piece of the growing online ordering pie – while the share of the pie they do have continues to shrink.
Democratizing Delivery – How ShopKeep is the Solution
Caught between a rock and a hard place, how do small restaurant business owners keep up with their larger industry counterparts without having to sell an arm, a leg or their soul? The answer lies in their “source of truth” – their point-of-sale (POS), where the most important functions of their business takes place.
In the last decade, new technologies, evolving consumer behavior, and a host of other factors have demanded that today’s small businesses catch up to the technical capabilities, savviness, and data-driven intelligence of the same goliath, multi-billion dollar companies that have long pushed them off of Main Street.
As a result, many have adopted shiny new tablet-based, cloud-connected POS solutions – such as those provided by ShopKeep. These new technologies have broadened the scope of the role played by the POS beyond what these business owners could have ever imagined – but that doesn’t mean the technology providers behind them shouldn’t keep using their imagination.
Beyond tracking inventory, managing employee activity, and analyzing business metrics, imagine if a POS solution also enabled a small restaurant business to take online orders, accept online payments and fulfill deliveries, without the complications and hefty costs. Now that’s an attractive prospect.
ShopKeep recently acquired online ordering technology ChowBOT with that exact vision. As specialists in serving the needs of SMBs, our modus operandi has always been to deliver technology that solves problems independent business owners do not have the money, time, or resources to address. We plan to integrate ChowBOT into our POS platform to help our quickserve and full service restaurant and bar customers immediately close that online ordering gap.
It used to be that all a neighborhood’s favorite family-owned restaurant had to focus on to be successful was making delicious Bolognese sauce. However, today’s time-starved consumer increasingly prioritizes convenience over quality. If they can’t place the order from the phone and have it handed to them curbside outside the restaurant, they’ll probably choose a place that does offer those services – even if the sauce isn’t as good.
But, by leveraging the right POS technology platform, that same Italian restaurant can sync their menu (including the delicious sauce) to their own individual mobile site, accept orders and offer curbside pickup or leverage third-party on-demand delivery service providers as needed to manage food deliveries. All this without having to navigate online ordering themselves or taking a big bite out of their wallets to establish an online presence – now that’s amore.
The Future is Here – POS Solutions Are Critical
We often talk to merchants who are deeply resistant to change. I get it. Technology can be intimidating, and familiarity breeds comfort. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for old-school charm, but charm runs short when a restaurant’s customer base starts dwindling.
The bottom line is that small restaurant businesses need to offer customers the same on-demand options that major restaurant brands and franchises do, for the sake of their bottom line. Even in the face of an inevitable transformation in the restaurant industry, it can be difficult for the “little guys” to gather the resources to remain competitive. Still, that doesn’t mean can’t succeed – not if their POS providers have a say.
On-demand delivery is more than a trend, it’s the future – and if you haven’t noticed, the future is here. Customers are demanding a seamless experience, and it’s in restaurant owner’s best interest to lean on POS providers to help evolve their businesses. A recent study by Bain & Company found that when a restaurant offers the option for customers to order online, they are all but guaranteed to not only grow their customer base, but increase customer retention as well.
As technology continues to play a larger role in the operations of small businesses, the POS is evolving to support merchants in new and unique ways. Advanced technologies have the potential to change the future of restaurants, which should be exciting for both consumers and business owners.
Equipping independent restaurants with their own online presence to meet the needs of the on-demand consumer will simply be another tool among an arsenal afforded by POS solutions of the future. Regardless of the obstacles they see in keeping up today, these small businesses will be just fine – because innovation at the POS will ensure that any little coffeeshop can see itself become the little coffeeshop that could.