How to Delight Your Restaurant Customers Online

Often, restaurant owners are hesitant to adopt new technologies because they are afraid of losing their special touch. Dining at a restaurant isn’t just about good food, it’s also about the dining experience.

When it comes to online and mobile ordering, it is possible to recreate the in-store experience–with a little creativity. The first step is to create a plan and enable your staff to delight your customers.

Here are a few tactics you can use:


1. Personalized Messages on the Takeout & Delivery Containers

For take-out orders placed online, unboxing and serving the food is an experience. It’s part of the meal-time ritual, and it allows customers to bring a bit of your restaurant into their own homes.

How do you recreate that special touch from a server if a customer is eating at home? By including written messages and notes with their order.

It could be a simple “Thank you for ordering from us” written on a paper menu. It could be a note telling your customer how much you appreciate their order. It could be a doodle of a cat on the inside cover of a pizza box.

No matter what the note says, it shows that your team cares.


2. Use Your Customer's Name at Pick-Up

Don’t let your customers turn into order numbers.

A good online ordering site or mobile ordering app will collect your customers’ first and last names. Take the time to write the names on delivery and takeout bags rather than order numbers.

Referring to your customers by name—even when they aren’t there in person—humanizes them. Over time, your staff may come to recognize that Andy orders the same thing every Thursday night. And without ever having spoken to Andy, they get to know and care about him. Empathy and customer care are then built into your business model. Order numbers can’t do that.

On the other end, think about Andy's experience. Andy knows his takeout bag is for him. When he walks up to the counter, he isn’t checking his phone for an order number. He isn’t just another order on a Thursday night. He’s a regular, and he can grab the bag with his name on it.


3. Let Your Customers Make Special Requests During the Order Process

How easy is it to add a note to your online ordering site, or save a preference in your mobile ordering app? If your customers have a special request, do they have to call in?

Allowing your customers to make special requests, and fulfilling them, makes them happy. It shows that you listen to the needs of your customers and that you want to go that step above.

A great example is adding special pick-up information when placing an order online. A local Vancouver sushi place allows its customers to add special notes at the end of the order. You can specify if you need the order wrapped in separate bags, or if you want order items labeled. You can even ask them to bring the PIN Pad and order outside for you to pay and pick up.

This simple thing added to their online menu has made that sushi restaurant a neighborhood hit. Every evening, people and their dogs wait outside on the sidewalk to pick up their orders. The staff brings out the order, a PIN pad for payment, and a dog treat.


4. Sending Push Notifications with Personalized Messages and Suggestions

A mobile app for your restaurant allows you to go beyond the limitations of online ordering, and engage with your customers. Your customers can not only place their orders but also can opt-in to receive push notifications from the app.

When used properly, push notifications can allow you to communicate with your customer. You can send order updates, and let customers know when their order is ready for pick up. You can let customers know about a new menu item. You can notify customers about your weekly coupons.

The key to a successful push notification campaign though is segmentation. A good app will allow you to see:

  • which customers order which menu items the most,
  • customers that order more often for lunch versus dinner,
  • or customers that order for pick up versus delivery.

If you’re bothering customers with notifications that aren’t relevant, they’ll change their settings. But, if you’re sending out relevant coupons, promotions, and information, your customers will keep coming back to order more.

For instance, if you know that certain customers order lunch at least once a week, you can send out a push notification with your weekly specials. If sent at the right time, this can drive lunchtime orders throughout the week.

If you know that a certain segment of your customers orders every Monday night, why not surprise them at 5 pm on Monday with a coupon code? This might not increase your orders, but it will make your customers happy.


6. Make Your Customers Feel Like They Belong to a Club

Restaurant loyalty programs are great for a lot of things. One of the best features is the ability to make your customers feel like they belong to a special club. A loyalty and rewards program that your customers access online makes them feel included. They can check their rewards points, check the next level that they need to achieve before they can get their prize, and check previous orders.

If you have special offers only available to your loyalty members, let them know through an email or your app.


7. Ask for Feedback, and Act on It

All your customers have some feedback for you, whether they tell you or not. Often, only customers whose emotions are running strong will call you or leave a public review of your restaurant. But often, those customers are the minority. To understand how your customers perceive you and to improve your restaurant, you need to request feedback.

Whether you send an email, SMS, or ask within your mobile ordering app doesn’t matter. What matters is that you send out a survey that is easy to respond to. Take all responses seriously, and respond to each one.

If you receive positive feedback, then a simple thank you message will do. But, if you receive negative or constructive feedback, you should consider what your restaurant can do to fix the underlying issue.


Make your customers feel welcome at your business by doing the little extra things that delight them. With these tactics, you can engage your customers, even when they aren’t in your restaurant.