Recently, one of iMenu360’s competitors closed up shop and thousands of customers were forced to change service providers. Luckily, the owner of this company was a respectable operator and informed his customers in advance. With so many depending on online ordering, thankfully his clients were given enough time to migrate to other systems. However, even with advance notice, the process was nerve wracking for many of their clients and in some cases there was a period of time in which they did not have online ordering.
Why am I telling this story? I have been in the restaurant business for almost 30 years and working in the online ordering space for almost 15 years and the adage “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side” has never been truer. I have seen online ordering companies come and go at light speed. While it is tempting to look for a partner that offers many features at dirt cheap prices, I have learned and seen first hand, that this model is doomed to fail.
When choosing a partner, it is important to look beyond the appearance; you need to investigate “under the hood”. The most important part of any online ordering system is the engine and how it is maintained and protected. Certainly, a restaurant owner wouldn’t always know what to look for but someone who has years of experience does. When choosing an online ordering system, it is important for the system to be very reliable and able to handle an increase in capacity as volume grows. Some other points to be on the lookout for (that iMenu360 does already):
1) A system that has is established and has been thoroughly tested. iMenu360 has been developing its product for almost 10 years and I assure you that the system in year one was far less dynamic and reliable as the system is today.
2) A system that has servers in multiple locations in secure facilities. So many start-up systems are using servers in offices as opposed to using heavy duty servers that are in locked down facilities in secure sites. Not only should your online ordering provider be using one of these facilities for their servers but a second site should be in place as a backup.
3) Data Backup. It is critically important that the data coming into the facility is backed up frequently. Additionally, the backup of the data needs to be handled offsite. There is no point in backing up only onsite because if there is a catastrophe at the office, that data would also be lost
4) 24 hr. monitoring. At 2am Sunday morning, if the system crashes, is there a team in place to get the software back online?
5) Live customer service. When you need help is there some there to assist?
Online Ordering is becoming a significant part of your business. When I started taking online orders 15 years ago I did not fully understand what was needed to have a reliable system and the product I was using crashed frequently. This created nothing but lost sales and tremendous frustration for my customers and anxiety for me. Experience has shown me those new players to this space who offer products at cut-rate prices inevitably fail. While the car may look great sitting on the lot, it truly is the engine that will determine how long the car can run without costing you significantly on the back-end. If online ordering is an important part of your business, make sure you have a partner that is well established and has invested in the infrastructure needed to ensure stability to your system. Otherwise, the small savings you generate in the short term will rapidly disappear when the systems start failing.