The world of online ordering is constantly changing and evolving, now more than ever in the context of the Coronavirus pandemic. With restaurants getting shut down and people spending most of their time at home in lockdown, online ordering has seen staggering growth and might surpass its projected revenue of $136.4 billion for 2020. As a result, more and more restaurants are looking for online ordering systems that can fulfill their needs and allow them to deliver food quickly and safely.
I've been keeping close track of the changes undergoing online ordering and food delivery and I want to delve into some trends I've noticed that were jumpstarted by the need to change our eating habits in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Let's begin!
To motivate people to order from them more often, a lot of restaurateurs have started offering restaurant promotions. One of the most popular ones is free delivery, usually for orders over a certain total order value. This motivates customers to support local businesses and also helps restaurants stay in business.
Here is a list of restaurants that offer free delivery during the Coronavirus pandemic.
In an effort to show their gratitude to essential workers that are facing this pandemic head-on, many restaurants have started programs that give them free food. These initiatives genuinely help overworked, exhausted medical personnel, and they also bring great publicity to the restaurants.
These are all of the restaurants and cafes where essential workers can get free food/coffee.
Yet another way for restaurants to stay in business and sell more food online has been through meal kits that customers can put together themselves using the ingredients provided.
Sure, if you're not a master chef, the meal might not end up looking or tasting like a restaurant-quality meal. Still, this is a good option for customers who want to have something to do, either by themselves or with their family as a group activity. Meals kits are more about the experience than about the food.
In an attempt to quench people's thirst for human interaction, Chipotle has started hosting a series of virtual lunch parties featuring celebrities. How? Via Zoom, of course. Frisch Big Boys has started selling essentials like toilet paper and bread next to their usual restaurant menu.
These chains aren't the only ones who have noticed the need to diversify their business during these trying times. Being able to deliver food is great, but if customers see you are striving to make their lives better and easier, they will appreciate you even more.
Take the example of Kroger who wanted to do something nice for its Ohio-based employees so they ordered pizzas to feed 12,000 of them from 68 grocery stores. The order was placed at Donatos, and it was the largest order the restaurant ever got. So large, in fact, that it required 62 of their restaurant locations to fulfill it.
The lesson here? In times of trouble, we are all in this together. In the future, we might see more and more partnerships and collaborations between restaurants, grocery stores, cafes, and any type of establishment within the food and beverage industry, even if the brands might be rivals on paper.
You might have noticed your favorite restaurant sharing the news that they are abiding by the latest safety regulations and cooking food safely and responsibly. While this is something that should always happen, it has never been advertised as much as now, when everyone wants to know the people who are in charge of cooking their food respect all safety and hygiene regulations.
As a direct response to the people's concern, restaurants and food establishments are putting it all out there and becoming 100% transparent regarding their safety standards on their websites and social media profiles.
This is a trend that will probably continue beyond the pandemic as well as restaurants learn they need to build a restaurant website and turn it into their eatery's virtual business card.
Instead of your typical at door delivery, restaurants are introducing fulfillment options that limit social interaction even more. One such example is contactless delivery where the driver is instructed to ring the doorbell and leave the food at the door, where the customer can safely pick it up. Another option is curbside pickup where you can go pick up the food yourself, but instead of entering the restaurant, someone will bring it to you curbside.
These two options usually come with the choice to pay online as well, so you can respect all social distancing rules and keep yourself safe while ordering food online.
Not all restaurants are enjoying the rise in popularity of third-party delivery apps, particularly small, family-owned places who cannot afford to pay their extremely high commissions. Regardless, these apps are becoming more popular than ever. This was to be expected since ordering more often also means you crave more variety, which is precisely what they offer.
The sad reality is, though, that these third-party platforms are eating small businesses alive. So much so that restaurants have specifically asked customers to delete these apps and to start ordering directly from them.
Chatbots - the restaurants' ally in the fight against Coronavirus. If owners can't afford to hire employees to talk to customers and take their orders, they can use chatbots instead.
Chatbots can recommend specific dishes and take orders for delivery or pickup. The process is streamlined, so restaurants can end up accepting more orders in one day than they did before.
Naturally, a chatbot can't replace human interaction (just yet) for customers who prefer to call a restaurant to place an order. However, most people, especially the younger generation like to order food with the push of a button, so chatbots might be just what they need.
In any other context, the changes brought upon the online ordering industry would have been seen as a blessing. Ultimately, despite the fact that restaurants are forced to adapt to new circumstances and have to work hard to survive, the long-lasting impact of these trends started by COVID-19 will be a positive one.
Have you noticed any other online ordering trends triggered by the pandemic we're in? I'd love it if you could share them with me!