Lessons in Digital Ordering

So, it's 2020. Lockdown is (mostly) over and digital ordering is becoming increasingly commonplace. Whether ordering a Happy Meal on a touchscreen Kiosk or a Starbucks latte via Click & Collect, it's likely you've tried out ordering digitally, one way or another. Go back five years however, and digital ordering was not just unusual, it was unheard of. It was in this world that we founded the Vita Mojo restaurant, the first cashless, cashierless, exclusively digital-ordering QSR in the UK. For years, our chain of three healthy restaurants provided a live research and development laboratory in which the Vita Mojo Operation System (VMOS) could evolve. It was during this period, running our restaurants side by side with developing our software, that allowed us to learn firsthand what makes restaurant technology work, and what doesn’t.

Fast forward to today and VMOS is powering the digital transformation of the hospitality industry. Our system is supercharging leading restaurants, coffee shops and pubs including Leon, Tonkotsu and YO! Sushi, but the fundamentals remain the same.

Here are 5 of the top lessons about digital ordering from those early days which remain just as true today:

 

1. Customers Spend More if You Let Them

One of the often unexpected consequences of digital ordering is that customers actually order more. We see this consistently, first in our restaurants and now those of our clients. When using Mobile Order & Pay or Click & Collect customers spend up to 39% more than when they order via a till or POS. Why? Firstly, they can more easily explore the full range of options available via an intuitive, touch-screen app, but also because they don’t feel the pressure of a queue behind them or busy floor staff hurrying them to make a decision.

A good digital menu must be simple to navigate and help customers easily explore all of their options. The Vita Mojo ordering system is designed with both a clear user interface and intelligent upsells. If a customer is ordering brunch at Boston Tea Party, for example, then after they select their bacon bap they scroll down and see options to add avocado and extra bacon. Sure, why not? Then, at checkout they might get a recommendation to add a smoothie and decide to treat themself. Suddenly, their order value has almost doubled. Because they were guided through their options in a natural flow and didn’t have to worry about Karen secretly judging them for the extra bacon, they ordered the breakfast they really wanted and spent nearly twice as much.

 

2. Different Customers, Different Order Channels

Selecting digital order channels for your restaurant depends on understanding your customer - their priorities, their habits and their needs. The Vita Mojo restaurants in the City of London had limited square footage. Self-service Kiosks allowed more customers to order simultaneously, reducing the EPOS bottleneck, increasing speed and efficiency as well as raising peak throughput. 

For regulars who knew in advance what they wanted to order, our mobile Click & Collect app enabled them to select their meal in advance from their desk. However, first-time customers, and irregulars, were more likely to come into the restaurant and order at a kiosk than to plan ahead and use Click & Collect. 

Adoption of mobile ordering apps is now far more developed due to Covid-19, but nonetheless, businesses such as Leon find that Kiosks are a convenient ‘gateway’ route for onboarding customers to try digital self-service ordering for the first time. Offering the right variety of order channels ensures your business can be both accessible to new customers and convenient for your regulars.

 

3. Follow the Data

The Vita Mojo restaurants were successful in part due to the customer experience, but it was the rich data which provided constant feedback and kept the business on track. With this, we could easily spot which menu items were doing well and which were due for a refresh. We identified our busy periods which informed our labour forecasting. We even tracked kitchen prep times to ensure that order fulfilment was up to scratch, and spot any operational bottlenecks keeping our hungry customers waiting. Operating an effective business is all about knowing and meeting the needs of your customers, but in the fast-paced marketplace of today, this can be hard to keep up with. A digital ordering system which doesn’t give you easy and holistic visibility of your data is a serious missed opportunity.

When customers sign up for Mobile Ordering it is also an easy opportunity to onboard them into your marketing database. Our clients today still find this invaluable for building those all important customer relationships, getting that brand exposure and ultimately increasing return visits. Through our integration with leading CRM providers, your digital ordering solution can also seriously turbo-charge your email marketing efforts.

 

4. Integrate. Integrate. Integrate.

Does your Gran hate the internet because she tries to Google something and accidentally writes a Facebook status? Technology is only useful when you know how it works and when it actually works together. One of the earliest, and most painful, lessons we learnt in our restaurants was that managing your digital technology and data without the right integrations is a HUGE pain.

First, what is an integration? Integrations are like piping. Your piping needs to be designed so that data can flow easily from one section in another. When two systems store their data very differently, they need someone to come in between and build a connector which translates the data from one format into another.  Otherwise, one of your staff members will be doing this manually. Like trying to have a conversation in two different languages without a translator in the middle, life without integrations can be pretty miserable.

We built Vita Mojo OS with an end-to-end approach, to make management of your digital ordering channels as simple as possible and joined-up with your back-of-house functions. It’s essential that restaurant managers can easily oversee their operations without hours of copy-pasting between spreadsheets. We are always looking to grow our tech ecosystem by integrating with service providers including Toggle, Airship and Yumpingo, and give our clients the most convenient and seamless service possible.



5. It’s All About The People

One of the greatest lessons we learned from building our software, rebuilding it, and improving it again and again… is that you never get things right the first time and it’s having a great team behind you that makes all the difference.

There is always a learning curve that comes with bringing new systems into your business, and restaurant technology is no exception. Every business has its unique DNA and finding the solutions that are best for you takes some trial and error. Even more than great technology, it's the relationships, support and communication which can make or break this process.

That’s why at Vita Mojo we take client relationships seriously. Really seriously. Every client has a friendly account manager dedicated to getting to know your business inside out. They create a bespoke solution, unique to your business needs, and support you with any necessary staff training and implementation. Some of our clients start out with just one or two ordering channels while others go for the full tech suite. Whatever pace you want to move at, our team will be there every step of the way, sharing our experience and insight, and supporting you to find your ideal digital solutions.

There are digital ordering systems on the marketplace which might be cheaper in the short term, but we hear it time and time again from our clients that a partnership with Vita Mojo is worth every penny.