Fast-casual chains lead the restaurant industry when it comes to offering online ordering tools, according to a new study by Cornell University. Nearly half, or 48.5%, of the fast-casual chains surveyed by Cornell researchers offered online ordering, compared with 23% of chains across all segments, according to the study on online, mobile and text ordering trends in the restaurant industry. Quick-service restaurants had the second-highest rate of adoption of online ordering technology, at 22%, the report found, followed by casual-dining operators, 18%, and midscale full-service chains, 8.9%. None of the fine-dining operators surveyed by Cornell offered online ordering.
THE UPSIDE OF ONLINE ORDERING The study’s authors, Cornell professor Sheryl E. Kimes and graduate student Philip F. Laque, said online ordering offers sales opportunities for restaurant chains. “Over 40% of U.S. adults have ordered food online, and restaurants using electronic ordering report increases in both average check and order frequency,” they said. “Setting aside customer expectations, the advantages of electronic ordering — improved order accuracy, improved productivity and enhanced customer relationship management abilities — will probably offset the costs and operational challenges for most restaurant types.” Possible operational challenges include the potential for online ordering to contribute to the overwhelming of the kitchen during peak hours, Kimes and Laque said. TECH DEPLOYMENT RATES, UPSELLING PRACTICES Among the surveyed chains, pizza chains, with a 60.7% adoption rate, and sandwich purveyors, at 61.9%, were the most likely to offer online ordering. Mexican-concept operators, at 44%, were not far behind in their rate of adoption, according to the study, followed by Asian or noodle bar operators, 33.3%, and chicken concepts, 30.8%.
About 36% of restaurant chains surveyed maintained an upselling screen within their online ordering interfaces. The study found 75% of the midscale full-service chains surveyed included such suggestive selling screens, compared with 50% of casual-dining operators, 30% of fast-casual chains, and 27.7% of quick-service players. ONLINE PAYMENT, DEVELOPMENT CHOICES AND FACEBOOK TOOLS According to the study, 47% of the surveyed chains gave customers the opportunity to either pay online or at the restaurant, 32%permitted only online payment, and the remaining 21% did not offer online payment options. While about 80% of the fast-casual and quick-service chains that offered online ordering supported online settlement, just 40% of casual-dining chains with online ordering granted that option, the study found. Of the surveyed chains, 34.2% with online ordering capabilities relied on custom-built systems, while the others used the systems or services of third-party vendors. While 96% of the surveyed chains had Facebook pages, only 3% permitted consumers to order food from those pages, according to the study. [Source: Research conducted by The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University. 21 Mar. 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2011.]