January 4, 2017 |

The Online Game

By Scott Anthony

If you still are resisting online ordering, you’re making a big mistake


“My phone’s ringing and my wait staff does just fine taking orders, so why add online ordering?” It’s a question I’ve heard numerous times.

The Big Three pizza chains process nearly 15 percent of all of the pizza industry revenue via their digital platforms. In the last 10 years, the pizza industry has been reshaped by technology deployed by major chains and new independent ordering platforms that are readily obtainable.

“But I’m not a ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ kind of business. I like the personal touch and talking with my customers.”

Okay. But you also like staying in business, right?

Operators in rural areas seem to manifest a reluctance to change for varied reasons. While this is understandable, famed Hungarian businessman Andy Grove observed that “Complacency breeds failure.” It’s time to get over yourself.  That line of thinking was valid a decade ago. I asked my married daughter, a Millennial, if she ever ordered dinner online. The answer: “Absolutely!” Today, online ordering isn’t about copying industry leaders — it’s about giving customers an ordering option they desire. Think of it like accepting bank cards: 20 years ago I could run my business without that payment option. Today, I’d never make it. The consumer has spoken. Digital and online ordering is growing 300 percent faster than dine-in ordering. The revenue flow is dramatically changing. If you want to benefit, you need to differentiate yourself from thousands of unarmed and technologically un-savvy independent pizzerias.

You can’t afford not to offer online ordering. With advancements in technology and the various venues offered today, online ordering is cost effective. Set up fees average $700, and most ordering platforms then have a monthly service fee ranging from $35 to $100. You spend money to make money. Scott Chapman, owner of two Great Scott’s Pizza locations in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, notes this: “Average online order is about 10 percent higher than on the phone. Less coupons used, less mistakes in order input.”  Industry wide we see average orders up 15 percent.

Most POS systems offer an integrated online ordering platform, and for an additional charge, mobile applications.  Mobile apps are a little more expensive to set up, but ask yourself when was the last time you saw a person without a smart phone? Nearly two-thirds of Americans are smartphone owners, up 35 percent over 2011. And for many these devices are a key entry point to the online world for research, job searches, entertainment and purchasing. Seven percent of Americans are considered “Smartphone-dependent”, with younger adults, a target demographic of our industry, falling into that category.

Having your online ordering platform integrated with your POS system adds additional benefits to a business. Once the order is placed online it will immediately import into the point of sale database, print a kitchen ticket or display the order on a screen. It is as if the order was entered by an in-store employee. This solution increases efficiencies and reduces labor costs. Steve Hitchcock, owner of Soda Creek Pizza in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, adamantly says that he “would not consider going any other way. Integration allows you to capture thousands of e-mail addresses, which you can communicate with directly for free going forward.”

Periklis Anastasakis of Famous Pizza in Bethel, Connecticut, adds: “Our POS has it integrated, and it becomes a bigger percentage of our business each day. So it is definitely worth it on that alone — plus the decrease in labor and mistakes makes it a no-brainer.”

Other benefits to note are an increased ordering frequency by offering another way to order and preventing telephone hold times.  If the online ordering platform is not integrated into the point of sale, you run the risk of not seeing the order come in via email or fax.  There will also be a delay in the order preparation, because now the order must be entered manually into the POS by an employee.  You also run the risk of mistakes in order entry or prices not matching.

If you have not embraced this technology yet, consider these points when selecting an online ordering provider:


  • POS integration, mobile applications
  • Charge per order
  • Higher credit card processing rates
  • Email list ownership
  • PCI compliance
  • Multilingual options
  • Online sales data
  • Facebook integration
  • Easy menu editing

I came across an interview I did several years ago and this quote really stuck out to me because it is still spot-on today: “I already had my POS in place. So once I learned that online ordering would be integrated with my POS, it was a no brainer. No faxes, no re-entering orders, no middle man.

Online ordering sets my store apart from the competition. In my small town, only the Big Three offer technology this advanced. So for a small town operator to be on that playing field is a huge distinction.”

SCOTT ANTHONY  owns Punxsy Pizza in Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania. He is a marketing consultant and yearly speaker at International Pizza Expo.