If you’re still thinking long and hard about entering the $61.5 billion catering market, you should think again. Catering can drive strong business results, and online ordering, in particular, can turbocharge your entry into catering.

How? Well, according to recent research, one-third of catering customers place their orders online and more customers are expected to follow. As you can see, if your catering company doesn’t offer online ordering, you’re missing out on a third of your potential market. Think about how that can add up over time.

If you don’t have online ordering for your catering business, it’s a good moment to pause and consider its benefits. Here are some of them:

Reach and Retain More Catering Customers

In our current climate of busy work schedules, catering customers expect businesses to make it easy to place last-minute orders. Regardless of how you feel about that, most business catering orders are placed at the last minute: 38 percent are ordered just hours before they’re needed, and 69 percent need to be filled within a day. Today’s catering customers don’t have time to fill out an order form and wait 24 hours for a reply. And they don’t want to hear “please hold.” To meet your customers’ needs, your restaurant needs the flexibility and instant transactions of online ordering. With online ordering, your business has a better chance to compete.

Save Time and Money on Restaurant Labour

When you power your catering business with online ordering, your employees spend less time walking away from their main duties to answer the phone. Because catering orders are more complicated than takeout, your employees can spend a lot of time on the phone taking down those orders. This isn’t good for restaurants, which rely on highly efficient staff. But with the help of online ordering, you can improve your employees’ efficiency and cut down on labour costs.

Improve Order Accuracy

A lot of details get lost in translation with phone orders. But when you offer online ordering, customers can manage and adjust their catering orders easily, which can reduce errors. Plus, restaurants can avoid the heated “he said, she said” exchange and check the system if there’s a difference of opinion. In the long run, this can save time, money, and headaches.

Prevent Common Mistakes

For some customers, scheduling a catering order can get quite complicated, especially when dealing with large group orders, dietary restrictions, and budgets. Unless you have well-trained staff members who can answer all their questions, a lot can fall through the cracks. When catering customers make a mistake, this can be frustrating for both sides. Fortunately, some online platforms are specifically designed to support customers in the complicated aspects of ordering catering. For instance, some online platforms feature automated calculators, menu labels and fields to make customization easy. Plus, at checkout, the website will remind customers if there’s too much food in their carts—or not enough—so that things go smoothly.

Improve Your Customers’ Ordering Experience

Online ordering contributes to a great customer experience, with features like 24/7 customer service and digital support. It can strengthen customer affinity with your brand and build customer loyalty, too. Whether you choose to work with a third-party vendor or hire an agency to build an in-house ordering system, make sure your website is mobile-friendly and easy to navigate. Also, look at other features of the system: Does it offer behind-the-scenes customer support, which may help encourage customers to place orders on your website? Are there other added features like rewards points? Customers love that sort of stuff. In the end, a better experience can help you build loyalty and sales.

Capture Data

Data solves a lot of mysteries, like who your catering customers are and what they prefer to order. In knowing this, you can enhance the customer experience, improve your marketing strategy and bolster sales. If you want to leverage data this way, online ordering systems allow you to capture and store your customers’ email addresses, phone numbers, order preferences, and more. Use this information to market directly to your customers through email and text, based on what they frequently order. You can even use data to craft and deliver a personalized customer experience, which pays off in the medium and long term.

Despite these incredible benefits, not every restaurant that could use online ordering does. So, consider moving your catering order system online. Your customers will love you for it. If you’re interested in a third-party platform to give your catering business a competitive advantage, learn more about Deliver by Linkeo today.