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The Future of Local Restaurants

Thursday July 16, 2020 - David Gaskin

In this “new normal” that we all currently find ourselves in, the foodservice and restaurant industry is getting hit particularly hard. Nearly half of independent restaurants are forecast to close, says Restaurants Canada, if revenue doesn’t increase over the next few months.

Restaurant owners, without precedent or preparation, are urgently trying to follow safety protocols in order to protect their patrons as well as their businesses from insolvency.

Now, with everything moving towards online, it’s no wonder that so many restaurant owners have questions about online ordering systems.

One thing is clear though: the world’s never going to be the same. And that’s okay.

With change comes opportunity and for businesses able to embrace change and remain agile and flexible despite the uncertainty, the future looks bright.

So how do local restaurants keep pace with new demands for contact-less convenience without overwhelming their staff, crew, or their pocketbooks?

This article aims to shed some light on this new reality and suggest some ideas to put restaurants squarely on the path to recovery.

The new reality

More than just a health crisis, COVID-19 has shown just how intertwined public health is with the economy. Here in Canada, we’ve been able to contain the virus well enough to begin allowing for reduced-capacity dining in much of the country.

While this does offer some hope for restaurants, the reality is, life is not going back to normal anytime soon, if ever again, so to survive and thrive in this new reality, it’s much better to be proactive rather than reactive when approaching decisions.

Restaurants need to realize that they are now running e-commerce businesses and they need to act accordingly.

Collin Wallace, former Head of Innovation at GrubHub

Before COVID-19 hit, restaurants did not need to rely on online ordering for their main source of revenue. To supplement their income and to meet the growing demand for online delivery, many restaurants partnered with 3rd-party delivery services like Skip the Dishes, DoorDash, and UberEats.

Unfortunately, and as restaurant owners already know, these services charge per-order commission-fees in the ballpark of 10-35%, and as one local restaurant owner attests, using these services as a means of delivery just isn’t sustainable.

Many restaurants have to pass those prices onto their customers just to make a profit, and to top it off, these services usually cause more headache than their worth because these gig-employees aren’t really connected to your business, so mistakes happen, things get overlooked, and the care just isn’t there.

Most consumers prefer to think and buy local and 70% of consumers say they would rather order directly from their local restaurant instead of ordering through a 3rd-party service like UberEats, so why not give them that option?

A commission-free online ordering software is an affordable, practical solution that can end up paying for itself after about 7-11 orders placed, the rest is pure profit going back into the business.

Online Ordering Systems

Online ordering has been growing steadily since the pandemic broke because it offers both the convenience and necessary safety to allow people to order food online.

Online order sales volume since the pandemicImage source

On the flip-side, new research shows that consumers are increasingly cutting back on dining out due to COVID-19.

Online ordering was already gaining popularity before the pandemic but now more than ever, it’s essential that restaurants implement online ordering as a way to stabilize operations and grow other streams of revenue.

To the younger generation, your business is virtually invisible if you’re not online. Beyond improving efficiency and reducing waste and errors, offering customers the convenience of online ordering, say psychologists, results in 20% larger order sizes overall.

Online ordering creates the bridge and allows restaurants to pivot to new online streams of revenue. More specifically, a good online ordering system allows restaurants to offer pickup and curbside pickup, contactless dine-in and table service, and can even take the place for coordinating and executing delivery in-house (albeit you have to supply the drivers!).

What’s more is that a good online ordering software comes with built-in customer analytics, marketing, and customer loyalty tools to help increase loyalty among existing customers and generate more engagement and return business from new ones.

The best businesses pay attention to or even obsess about customer data because they know it’s the key to driving value and increasing revenue.

Technology innovation is further strengthening our brand, improving our efficiency and in-store execution, increasing our profitability and most importantly, enabling us to deliver an elevated Starbucks experience to our customers, particularly to Millennials

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on how in-house online ordering has helped see a 12% increase in profits

All of this can be easily and intuitively managed from a centralized browser-based dashboard that can seamlessly integrate with existing POS systems.

For customers, they receive a branded mobile app experience – in the browser, without any download – that allows them access to a restaurant’s menu and provides for secure, PCI-compliant online payment. Paired with a scannable QR code that can be on the outside of the establishment, passers-by can quickly scan and instantly load the menu on their phone.

If you aren’t already online, now is the best time to get started.

Taking Delivery In-house

As we’ve already seen, third-party delivery services like DoorDash and Skip the Dishes have been shown to provide spotty service and ultimately don’t offer a sustainable solution for restaurants that want to deliver because of their high commission fees.

This lack of accountability and profit margins don’t just hurt the restaurant but can hurt customer expectations as well. However, delivery and the convenience that it provides is not going away.

Convenience is currently the most important factor influencing the food industry, say scientists. And there is nothing more convenient than a restaurant coming to you!

“Millennials want a good experience. They want efficiency and they want to order online. You have to adapt to them. Restaurants can’t be scared to use technology because it’s something that can only benefit them by saving time and eliminating errors.”

Kenji’s Ramen

So for restaurants that want to provide delivery, thankfully, now is the best time to do it and online ordering technology exists that can make supporting in-house delivery a snap.

For example, you can easily set up delivery zones, minimum order sizes, and delivery charges from the central dashboard and manage all your delivery orders in one place.

Some restaurants are re-positioning their furloughed waitstaff as delivery drivers as a creative way to save jobs and meet the demand.

What’s more is that studies show that customers who order online takeout or delivery are more likely to reorder within 60 days than walk-in customers so it’s more important now than ever, for restaurants to corner their delivery processes.

Pizza joints and Chinese restaurants have been doing it for years. Why can’t you?

Sanitation Protocols

Ever since COVID-19, safety is top of mind for restaurant-goers, especially as restaurants start to slowly re-open; 76% of respondents to a recent survey about restaurant sanitation procedures said cleanliness and food safety will matter to them more after COVID-19.

As a restaurant operator, it’s a good idea to demonstrate to your customers and people passing by that you are taking safety and sanitation precautions seriously; this silently communicates care and responsibility, not just for the restaurant’s wellbeing but for the wellbeing of its patrons.

Your takeout and delivery customers are your most loyal, so take visible steps to show them you care and by offering curbside pickup, contactless payment, leave delivery orders on the porch, minimize direct communication, and other safety best practices.

As we’re all figuring this out and people’s knowledge and perspective on safety, illness, and the novel coronavirus evolve, the fact of the matter is, customers are looking at eating out a lot differently these days.

These precautions may not always be here but for the time being, go the extra mile to show your patrons and staff that health and safety are top of mind, and your profits will reflect that.

Go Green

Today’s consumers are more value-driven, health-conscious, and connected as ever, with an abundance of choice, high expectations, and less time and attention to go around. 

That said, now is a great time to go green (if you haven’t already) and make a value-driven switch to environmentally-responsible packaging. It makes sense now, particularly, because restaurants can expect a steadier and greater need for takeout packaging in the years to come.

Importantly, this helps the environment but it also lends itself to the values and belief systems of an increasingly health-driven and environmentally-conscious younger generation, and sentiment can drive brand loyalty.

If you haven’t already, decide to make a switch to environmentally-friendly packaging and material that you can rely on and feel good about in the future. Your customers will thank you!

Conclusion

COVID-19 is going to be here with us for the foreseeable future. For restaurants to survive and thrive, they will need to adapt to new technologies like online ordering systems to reduce costs and bring popular processes like delivery, in-house.

Restaurants will also have to recognize that the mentality around eating-out has changed and with that, the behaviors and demands of customers are now more squarely focused on online ordering, and contactless takeout and delivery.

By focusing on providing value and engaging in sustainable and health-driven practices like proper safety protocols and environmentally-responsible packaging, restaurants will develop stronger loyalty and customer engagement that can see them through these uncertain times.

Native, Hybrid, or Web: What’s best for Online Ordering Apps?

Thursday August 6, 2020 - David Gaskin

As restaurants look to make a bigger push towards online ordering due to Covid-19, many owners and managers are left wondering about the best way to integrate mobile online ordering into their restaurant and day-to-day operations.

What kind of app is best for an online ordering system, Native, Hybrid, or Web App? Does the POS system I’m using support online ordering and can I use that instead? Will the online ordering system be commission-free?

Do I even need an App when software already exists that does the same thing? Is the decision I make affordable, flexible, and sustainable for my business going forward?

This article endeavors to answer all those questions.

We’ll start by taking a quick tour of the different types of Apps; we’ll look at the costs involved in developing an app, both in terms of time and money; we’ll also discuss POS systems, online ordering software as an alternative, and look at the toll commission fees can take on restaurants if they’re not careful.

Let’s go.

What’s in an App?

Most restaurants are using some kind of point-of-sale (POS) system to manage and track their day-to-day business operations; some of these systems offer support for online ordering, so if that’s you, best you look into that first and see if your service provider – just make sure that it’s not commission-based (more on that later).

For those restaurants that either don’t use a POS system or their current system does not support online ordering, they are left with two main options:

  1. Develop their own Mobile Online ordering App
  2. Integrate an existing Online Ordering App

With so much jargon flying around, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by it all, so let’s quickly take a look at the 3 major types of Apps – then we’ll take a look at what existing solutions exist.

Native Apps

Native apps are so-called because they are written in a particular code language that is “native” to one particular platform, usually either Android (Google) or iOS (Apple).

Native apps tend to offer the most responsive “app” experience on mobile devices; this is, in large part, due to the fact that the native code language “speaks” directly to the device’s hardware – there is no middle man – so to speak.

Native apps have the unfortunate characteristic that they cannot share codebases, so to develop an app for both Android and Apple devices, you need to develop two separate apps. This effectively doubles the cost of development.

Native apps won’t work directly on desktop computers either because Android doesn’t speak the same language as Microsoft’s Windows, for example.

Native apps tend to provide the best performance but they are the most specialized and resource-intensive to create.

Web Apps

Web apps differ from Native apps in that they are applications that run in a web browser as opposed to on a device’s hardware.

They are written in common web languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and because they are web-based, any device with an internet connection can access them directly, without any download from an app store.

Web apps are able to communicate with native device features such as microphone and camera, push notification, Geo-location, speech recognition, touch gestures, vibration, offline storage, and much more.

Web apps are criticized for not delivering the same “app-like” experience as a Native app, though some would argue the difference is negligible.

Hybrid Apps

Hybrid Apps, as the name suggests, blend the Native features and functionality of a Native app with the broad accessibility and flexibility of a Web app.

Image Source

Hybrid apps, similar to Web apps, typically use common, cross-platform coding languages and open-source tools to allow for writing one code-base that can be shared across platforms and “talk to” both Google and Apple devices with little code modification needed.

Also similar to Web apps, Hybrid apps are also web-based instead of hardware-based, so broad accessibility is available via an internet connection.

Hybrid apps, more or less, straddle the line between performance and accessibility.

Online Ordering Software

Before we look at the cost comparison between apps, it would be wise to consider online ordering software alternatives.

If you didn’t want to spend buckets of cash and wait weeks and months to develop your own online ordering mobile app, there are commission-free online ordering software solutions available that can see you taking orders online in less than a week – all you need is a website.

Similar to Hybrid and Web Apps, most online ordering software is web-based and easily accessible from any mobile or desktop device; they can be branded to your restaurant and, with a QR code on the exterior of the restaurant, passers-by can, in seconds, bring up your online menu.

This is the future of restaurants.

On the software’s back-end, there are extensive features like order tracking, delivery management, loyalty programs, customer analytics and marketing tools, multi-lingual support, and much more.

Since adopting online ordering software along with these built-in tools, many restaurants are seeing a huge increase in revenue.

Online ordering software can even stand on its own as a POS system, with strong back-end administrative tools for managing and tracking inventory, sales, orders, and so on. Alternatively, integrating with an existing POS is easily done.

All payments are done securely through a payment gateway like Stripe or PayPal and some online ordering software offers flat-rate commission-free pricing structures, or at least a pricing cap on commissions so that the software quickly pays for itself in a matter of orders.

Online ordering software offers a quick, powerful, and affordable alternative to developing a mobile online ordering app from scratch.

App Cost Comparison

At the end of the day, apart from offering customers a great user experience each and every time, time and money are going to factor heavily into what decision you make. Minimizing costs as much as possible and staying flexible and agile is a smart strategy when faced with much change and uncertainty.

With that in mind, let’s look at some actual financial numbers when it comes to developing an App.

Just like most things, the devil is in the details. As all applications are unique, it’s impossible to say, absolutely, the cost to develop one but in general, app development takes somewhere between 6 weeks to 12 months and can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to multiple hundreds-of-thousands.

For our purposes, we’ll say the bare minimum cost to produce an app is $25k, capping out at $100k, and it will take no longer than 6 months.

App TypeCost (in CAD)Time to DevelopCost Amortized (over 1 yr)
Native
(1 app, 2 app)
25k-50k, 50k-100k
(avgs: 37.5k, 75k)
6 wks – 6 mos.$3,125/mo. (@ 37.5k / 12)
$6,250/mo. (@ 75k / 12)
Hybrid25k-50k6 wks – 6 mos.$3,125/mo. (@ 37.5k / 12)
Web25k-50k6 wks – 6 mos.$3,125/mo. (@ 37.5k / 12)
Online Ordering SoftwareUp to $500 one-time set up,
$115 per month
3-5 days$136/mo. (@1,630 / 12)
(1,630 = 115*12+500/2)
All prices in Canadian (CAD)

Looking at the table above, we can see that the cost of developing an App is in the tens-of-thousands of dollars and will cost thousands of dollars a month to offset the cost of development. It will also take up to 6 months to complete development.

On the other hand, by going with an existing online ordering software, both time and cost are reduced dramatically, from tens-of-thousands of dollars to a couple hundred a month, and from 6-months to develop to a few days to be ready to receive orders.

Now, let’s take a quick detour and look at the price of commissions.

Commissions or Subscription Pricing: What’s the difference?

Restaurant managers and owners are well aware of the impact 3rd-party delivery services have on a restaurant’s bottom line but how does that compare to online ordering?

Let’s take a simple example:

Assuming Restaurant X grosses 10k in sales in any given month, applying a reasonable and industry-average per-order commission rate of 5%, restaurant X pays $500/month in commission fees.

This can quickly balloon as online order revenue increases, even with reduced commission rates, as this table demonstrates:

Monthly RevenueCommission FeeMonthly Cost
$20k5%$1,000
$50k2.5%$1,250
$100k1.5%$1,500

On the other hand, subscription fees can often make more sense for volume-driven businesses.

Taking our previous example with the online ordering software at $136/mo, the price for one year would be $1,630.

Compare that to annual revenue of say 100k at a 5% commission rate and that is $5000/month paid in commissions. That’s more than 3x more expensive than going with a subscription-based software.

That’s why, when I speak to restaurant owners about this, I often recommend that their online ordering software be subscription-based versus commission-based. Even with commission-caps, restaurant owners are still paying more than they need to.

Incidentally, incorporating their own commission-free online ordering software in-house, restaurants can eliminate commissions levied by 3rd-party delivery services like DoorDash and UberEats on takeout orders – that is, before implementing their own delivery crew and eliminating those third-party services altogether!

Conclusion

While developing your own branded online ordering app is certainly possible, for restaurants facing the challenges of COVID-19, investing heavily in time and capital may not be the best idea at this time.

A better approach may be to leverage existing software that can be set up and integrated fast with existing operations, is web-based and branded to the restaurant, is affordable, looks and feels like an App, and comes with tools designed to help grow online revenue.

In this way, restaurants can have their online ordering system up and running in days – not weeks and months – allowing them to focus on the business of business and not developing apps.

Thanks for reading.

The most resilient jobs during COVID-19

Wednesday July 1, 2020 - David Gaskin

The social distancing and quarantine measures mandated by many governments around the world have significantly reshaped the way we live our lives. Upwards of 125,000 Americans and over 500,000 thousand people worldwide have died from the virus, and many more are suffering as the economy continues to take a downturn.

But you should know that some jobs have not only survived the pandemic but have thrived. In this guide, we’ll examine some of the most in-demand and critical jobs during COVID-19.

Software Developers

Software developers design, develop, test, and maintain the software, programs, and applications that hundreds of millions of us use each day.

Now, they are needed more than ever as many companies across the world are transitioning to being online. These businesses will need expert websites, marketing strategies, and technical expertise in their corners to help meet the rising ubiquity of digital software.

Before the pandemic, a company’s website may have played just a complementary role in a business’s overall strategy; nowadays, a website is a primary touch-point for customers, many becoming the main point of sale for online transactions.

Not only that but with the number of people working from home, there has been increasing demand for internet usage and networks. And let’s not forget restaurants, retail shops, and supermarkets that are seeing an increase in online ordering.

Overall, software developers were already in high demand before the outbreak but this increasing usage of online technology is underscoring the need for them now.

Healthcare Professionals

It’s no surprise that healthcare professionals are on this list; after all, they only do the unimportant task of saving our lives, right?

In fact, people are starting to consider healthcare professionals as the heroes of this century. They are sacrificing their own lives and mental wellbeing in the hopes of saving many others, with many being put into traumatic situations themselves, dealing with the ugliness of this disease.

Doctors, nurses, medical assistants, personal care aides, psychologists, social workers and the rest – all of them are essential for the overall human health and well-being of their communities, neighbors, and loved ones – and with the pandemic, they are the ones on the front line every day.

It will be the healthcare professionals who find a vaccine for this disease, if possible, so it is one of the few job fields that is not only going to survive the pandemic but gain more respect and support from society in general.

IT Support

With social distancing and quarantine measures in place, many people are working from home, forcing a major segment of the work-force to become acquainted with their hardware (devices) and software platforms like Zoom and Slack.

Those who are stuck at home – but not particularly working – are spending all this extra time on social media, streaming movies, playing online games, or learning a new language, which only generates more of a demand for online jobs and support.

Major online tech companies are hiring feverishly, trying to get ahead of the digital demand that they see ahead of them and this incentivizing is creating more opportunities for those in IT support.

If you were ever looking for a flexible job, telemarketing and IT support roles are looking for the help!

Digital Marketing

I’m sure most people have spent more time procrastinating on their smart devices in the last few months than maybe in the previous year! But it’s hard not to when you have all this extra “sitting around” time.

This increase in free time has resulted in a huge increase in time spent on the internet and digital marketing platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Google, and others. Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar business, a restaurant, or virtually any other kind of business, now could be a great time to consider implementing a new digital marketing strategy.

This transition from traditional marketing to digital has only been underscored by COVID-19, which means now is a great time to start thinking about a career in digital marketing.

Wrapping up…

The pandemic has disrupted the economy across the world and the job market has had to adapt to these new social norms. Some jobs will suffer in light of this upending of the economy but other job industries will thrive.

Software developers, IT support, and digital marketing are a few of the sectors that represent great opportunities for employment as well as flexibility and job security, as more people are using the internet to perform life’s essential activities.

For health professionals and frontline workers, jobs in healthcare are needed more than ever and continue to prove vital for helping to stem the tide of this disease and return the job market to a place of more stability.

WordPress Security Tips in 2019

Monday August 19, 2019 - David Gaskin

Link to article: WordPress Security Tips (2019)

We often hear about the troubles with WordPress, how insecure it can be to hacking incidents and so forth.

As a web developer, this, unfortunately, becomes a topic of conversation with many of my clients, or at least those who agree to build there web foundation on top of WordPress.

Although there are other ways to harness WordPress without all the headaches and worries of keeping it secure – I’ll write about this in a future post – but I wanted to point you to a recent article I wrote for Soho Victoria, a small business community website, that covers the truths about hacking, WordPress, and where small businesses fit into all of this.

If you’re a WordPress user and owner of a small-to-medium sized business, you’ll definitely want to check out WordPress Security Tips (2019).

I’d love to hear your feedback or comments, so feel free to post them here or on Soho Victoria!

‘Thin Content’ (and How to Avoid It)

Wednesday June 12, 2019 - David Gaskin

The first year I had my website I hardly got any people contacting me.

After 1 year of writing good-quality content (2 if you count the 1st year I put it off) and doing some basic and advanced SEO on and off my site, I started to see an increase in the amount of traffic I’d get to my inbox.

From time to time, I get approached by entities looking to work together to get the word out about their products or ideas. This is all fine and dandy if both parties get something out of the deal but every once and a while you have to question whether the other person is holding up their side of the bargain.

I want to talk about a recent experience I had with someone wanting to contribute a post to my blog. The idea being that in exchange for a link from my website, a guest writer would contribute a useful article to my blog.

Continue reading “‘Thin Content’ (and How to Avoid It)”

Content “Rules” for Social Media – Here’s Your List

Tuesday September 18, 2018 - Guest Post

If you are a social media content manager, you understand the challenges of creating and producing quality content. You must know your audience intimately; you must communicate with that audience on its terms; you must entertain, educate and inspire; you must motivate followers to take action and to share.

It’s a tall order. But know this: you are up to this challenge, once you understand some very basic “rules” of social media content creation.

Continue reading “Content “Rules” for Social Media – Here’s Your List”

The Top Local SEO Strategies in 2019

Wednesday August 22, 2018 - David Gaskin
the most important local seo tips in 2018

The world is getting smaller, especially online.

In fact, location is becoming so important that on many devices, you can’t turn device-location-awareness off!

It’s no secret that AI in search and Voice-Assisted technologies are becoming a mainstay in the digital era but what does this mean for local SEO today? And how can local businesses succeed while the landscape continues to shift under our feet?

Continue reading “The Top Local SEO Strategies in 2019”

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