Order & Pay for restaurants
An order & pay system is designed to further improve what fast casual restaurants already do really well. If your restaurant involves a high throughput; if it involves meal customisation; if it involves multiple orders over the course of one sitting – an order and pay system could be right for you.
If you’re not sure, it’s generally possible to divide the benefits of order & pay systems into three categories, and to see whether they apply. Done right, a mobile ordering menu can increase the size and volume of orders; they can improve operational efficiency; and they can also transform elements of your experience and your venue.
All of these are contingent on choosing a good order & pay system.
Happy spending via restaurant Order & Pay systems
We’ve covered the question of whether Order & Pay systems increase spending in detail elsewhere. But let’s double click on some of the ideas in the case of fast-casual and understand why it is that they’re successful.
The re-invention of the menu
Different menus can change how a customer conceptualises their dish. They might also permit customers to think differently about the cost of what they’re eating. This means that getting a menu right is a key commercial exercise for restaurants – it’s your final chance to frame your food and experience to a customer before they buy.
In recent years, novel menu formats have become common in casual dining chains – ”step 1, choose your main…” / “do you guys know how it works here?” / “build your own burger”. Even where non-a-la-carte ordering styles match the tradition of the cuisine being sold, they’re successful because they encourage sales. More than that, they push happy spending, defined as greater spending which the customer doesn’t regret.
So how do we apply that idea, and why does a digital menu help?
The gamified digital menu
Order & pay systems take menu engineering further and boost orders in some ways which feel natural with no additional effort. First, modifiers and side orders are simply and easily suggested to users along with each menu item they select. Meals with lots of customisation options, and which pitch sides as a potential “add on” to their best-pairing mains, reliably sell more. Why not add a “make it bigger” option, an option with extra cheese, or a well-paired side for just an extra £3.99?
Customisation options can add more than just the easy upselling of a good waiter – they “gamify” the meal-building process. This works in concert with appetising pictures and other techniques to make the choosing process fun. And you can conceptualise sides as part of your dish, not an optional add-on for the very hungry.
Pictures don’t work on physical menus. In part, this is because the kinds of materials which print appetising pictures are different from those which feel premium to touch. The skills to make something look good on paper are considerable versus an online template. Digital menus are much more insulated against that. You can have a good looking menu which shows your customers their food – and gets them ordering more.
In time, digital ordering systems will be able to use live data in order to encourage spending. StoreKit Order & Pay, and some of our competitors, are already menu engineered to the extent that our analysts and designers have focused on and optimise for conversion. Eventually, it will be possible to do this dynamically – so that data can inform the structure of your menu, based on order-boosting considerations, or internal considerations like what’s fresh and needs to be sold today.
Always there and in control
The second innate reason that digital menus can boost spending – before we get to operational boosts, like throughput – is that users are more in control of their buying decisions.
Perhaps this sounds fussy. If a customer wants something; they can choose it – but there’s pressure applied even in with the best staff who put customers the most at ease.
First, time pressure. The waiter has to be elsewhere and you need to remember your whole order. The fact that digital menus generally increase baskets through added sides shows this – in the moment, customers might remember their main but forget their side. Privately, they will at a tick more leisurely pace over their basket, and increased dwell time on the menu translates to bigger baskets, more sales.
Then, there’s time pressure in the other sense – what if a customer wants a side mid-meal? What if they have ordered and something suddenly occurs to them? Perhaps they would just let it slide – and the constant availability of an order & pay system means that people are more able to order more when they feel like it.
The re-invention of payments
Ordering is a mix of pleasure and pain. The pleasure is described above – seeing what you’re about to eat, weighing up the different options, building a fantastic meal, and making it yours. We can maximise this with a digital menu.
The pain is about spending. In sit down restaurants, this usually involves bringing a ceremonial booklet and asking the waiter to pay twice – once for the bill, and once for the machine. It is a highly painful journey with lots of steps which actively draw out the pain of payment. Casual dining – where you pay up front – is generally less painful but could still be done better. In the case of canteen or bar orders, the payer often has to memorise the whole order, repeat it to the staff member, and then hear the price repeated back to them.
With a good order & pay system, you can build your basket, look at the figure once, and then tap pay and use Apple pay to very simply and easily spend. You never have to get your wallet out. You never have to stand up. You never have to flag anybody down.
Bigger and more spaces
In Stansted airport there’s an enormous Wetherspoons – it has over 400 tables which extend over six or seven rooms. Prospective customers stand and monitor tables in the lower rooms like cars in a packed car park, waiting for this or that family to leave. But if you walk far enough in, you can find a spot. In fact, Wetherspoons runs the biggest dining venue in the airport, and the reason is the Wetherspoons app. With a digital ordering system, Wetherspoons can just get more food to more people in more rooms than anybody else.
(The place I’m describing is hell, but it’s an extremely profitable hell if you happen to own Wetherspoons.)
Big restaurants don’t need to be hellish, though. Perhaps a better example of expanding space possibilities is casual restaurants with pleasant non-economic space around them. A restaurant on a riverbank. Cafes on the edges of large country estates. Restaurants which serve next to friendly neighbouring entertainment businesses – sports venues, fairgrounds, and more. There are examples of businesses which share tables for multiple food propositions – mini-markets like BoxPark or Mercato – which would suit an order & pay system.
Some of StoreKit’s Order & Pay customers include entertainment venues, which gives you a sense of how powerful this effect can be – opening up their seats as places to take drinks to in the interval. In the future, we hope it will affect the size of new restaurants planning to open from day 1 with StoreKit Order & Pay, as it makes large restaurants practical.
Running smoothly with Order & Pay in restaurants
No more waiting
You can do larger spaces with the same wait staff. If you’re not expanding your space, your waiters will find themselves with more free time once Order & Pay is introduced.
Set against the cost of saved labour, StoreKit Order & Pay is much cheaper than free – and you may simply choose to hire fewer waiters in the next hiring cycle. But lots of restaurants use the opportunity to use the same number of staff members to invest in their experience. After all, time saved taking orders is time you can allocate to being hospitable. Asking how a customer’s meal is; explaining how things work; recommending popular dishes. Freeing your waiter from the transactional duties of taking orders and payment, they can focus on the very essence of the role – your hospitality as a business.
It’s also time saved from a customer standpoint. When they want to order, they may do so immediately – no waiting for the attention of this or that waiter. When they want to pay, they don’t need to go through the payments palava:
Asking for a bill. Receiving a bill. A moment of gender politics depending on the exact location the bill is placed on the table. There’s been a mistake – asking for a bill again. Receiving a bill. Asking for a card machine. Here comes the card machine. Yes, pay separately. Recite the first amount. Pay. Recite the second amount. Pay. Finally, leave…
Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just go?
No more queues
Many casual dining restaurants choose the wooden spoon table number system. Others are canteens where it’s not practical to have waiting staff. In both of these, you sit at a table rather than queue at a bar – so, no more queues.
“No more queues” is so obviously a good thing that it scarcely bears writing about – but it’s worth spelling out exactly how good. It’s a kind of quadruple good. First, unless you’re the kind of brand able to use a queue to demonstrate desire (well done), for most restaurants, people turn away when they see a queue, and you can retain that extra business.
You can fill the extra space created with seats, raising your capacity. It improves the customer experience. But it also means that people order more, because they feel less pressured in the moment that they order. When there are lots of people waiting behind you, you say what you want, and you take as little time to do it as possible. And then you sit down.
Lower table service price threshold
Further to this, an order & pay system can “lower your table service price threshold.” That sounds like jargon, and it is, but it does mean something specific.
Whether you’re full counter, wooden spoon, or full service often depends on the price of food you sell. Cheap food suits a high throughput and counter-based orders. A £100 meal spend certainly justifies the extra comfort of orders being taken from and to a table. You could afford to invest in a highly skilled waiter in a luxe restaurant; if they’re going around taking £2.00 coffee orders, it might not be a viable role, even on minimum wage.
Since the labour cost accrued in table service is lower with an order & pay system, it makes sense for cheaper items to be served to tables and still be economical. So, £2.00 coffee is fine to do at the table, because the waiter is only taking out the goods to them.
Choosing an order & pay system
Simplicity in UX is extremely important – low friction is table stakes. StoreKit Order & Pay has no app, no download, no signup, no “make an account”, no friction. It’s a QR code menu – so customers scan a printed QR code, order, and then they pay. You’ll always know where you are, and it’s never more than one tap from the basket. Using progressive web app technology, we’re able to achieve the same performance stats as apps – ask one of our sales team for more details on the specifics of what we mean by that.
We believe in simplicity in pricing. So, no commission, no monthly fees, no surprise bills, and no third party processors. We set payment-only pricing at a flat rate for every card.
Order & Pay is more than just a conversion machine. It’s an expression of everything that makes your restaurant yours. There’s a balance here – design principles, a clear UX hierarchy, and careful study of what makes people convert – that can actually help your self-expression, just as an artistic form can focus the boundaries of your creativity. But that form should also be expressive. Make sure you can tweak the colour scheme, and add food images to show everyone what excellent food yours is.
StoreKit believes in a “best of breed” approach – software which integrates and works in concert with other software in your restaurant stack. Ensure that your mobile ordering software can integrate with your point-of-sale so that you can understand your whole business across all the different touchpoints: delivery, reporting, inventory, and more.
You can check out our guide to restaurant management software for comprehensive advice on putting your software stack together.