Times are tough for F&B owners in Singapore. With dine-ins temporarily out of the question, F&B businesses need to rely on takeaways and online food orders. With the drop in sales, some establishments may even go out of business. Of course, if there’s any group of business owners that have got the guts and tenacity to withstand adversity, it’s F&B business owners. Here’s a list of 9 great strategies that you can use to improve your online delivery sales.
#1. Cultivate a strong social media following
The best food is pointless if you don’t run great marketing campaigns to advertise it. Use the following platforms to promote your business:
There are two ways to leverage social media platforms to grow your brand presence: i) paid advertisements, and ii) organic content.
Paid advertisements: These are simple to use. Create some slick advertisements, write some good copywriting, and then pay to boost your ads. I’ve found sites like Canva to be a lifesaver when creating ads. They have lots of pre-designed templates specifically for F&B businesses, so you can create beautiful looking advertisements with minimal skill, effort and time.
Organic content: Running an aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed is an excellent way to get people to know about your restaurant. Lots of people share posts that they find on Instagram. If you can make your dishes look beautiful and Instagram-worthy, then you can build a serious following on Instagram. Just ask yourself this: when was the last time you saw a delicious dish on Instagram, and thought about trying out the restaurant that posted that picture? This is an extremely cost-effective way to get more online orders. Building an organic following takes longer than running advertisements, but it costs a lot less, and in the long run will help you build a sustainable source of regular customers.
Here are some excellent examples of Instagram feeds by F&B businesses:
Burnt Ends (50.2K followers at date of publication)
Ryo Sushi’s Instagram (6.1K followers at date of publication)
Tiong Bahru Bakery’s Instagram (25.8K followers at date of publication)
As you can see from the images above, the owners of these F&B businesses put in great effort to ensure their social media feeds are aesthetically pleasing. Everything from the lighting, camera angles, to food presentation are well choreographed to produce maximum salivation in the viewer. It’s a good idea to invest effort into making your food Instagram-worthy, and also learning how to take such photos. You should also remember to post regularly. This sounds really basic, but so many F&B owners get caught up in the daily grind of running their business that they run out of steam to post on social media. They end up not building a very large following, which limits their ability to truly scale in the long-run. Your organic social media following is going to form an important part of your long-term customer acquisition strategy, so pay close attention to it!
#2. Engage food bloggers and micro-influencers to hype your food
Food bloggers are a great way to drum up publicity about your F&B business. Top bloggers like Seth Lui draw over 750,000 visitors every month. Of course, such prominent food bloggers charge high rates for a post. In 2015, it was reported that the cost of a Seth Lui sponsored post could go up to $10,000 (and that was in 2015!). If you don’t have such a high budget, you can look for food bloggers that are less prominent.
Another great option to consider is hiring micro-influencers on Instagram. These are influencers with fewer than 5,000 followers on social media. Micro-influencers have enough followers such that your business can get relatively good exposure, but because they don’t command a huge online presence, their rates are a lot more affordable. Typical rates for a micro-influencer with around 5,000 followers can range from $100 to $200 for one sponsored post. If you add up 10 micro-influencers, that means you can reach 50,000 people for only $1,000 to $2,000 – much cheaper than the cost of engaging a prominent food blogger.
#3. Have a great online ordering system on your website
When customers are casually browsing your F&B website, they may see a dish they like and want to place an order for it. Having your presence on food ordering apps like Grab is fine, but it’s an extra hurdle for the customer if they’re already on your site. Hungry customers want to give you their money to eat your food – why not make it super-easy and fuss-free for them?
If your website can accept and process online food orders, it’s very likely that you’ll see a higher volume of orders. Website orders open up another great sales channel for your business. Plus, you don’t have to pay commissions if customers order directly from you! Food app platforms charge a relatively hefty commission rate (20% or more) on each order, so having customers buy from your website directly will increase your margins quite significantly.
Broadening your sales channels and reducing sales friction is the core philosophy that the world’s greatest E-Commerce companies practice. For instance, Amazon pioneered their “One-Click” checkout system so that online shoppers wouldn’t have to go through the usual multi-step checkout process. They could just buy in, well, one click. It’s helpful to adopt this same philosophy of making sales as easy can be for customer. Allowing customers to easily click and order directly from you is a fantastic way to capture more sales from hungry diners browsing the web.
Implementing an online ordering system:
There are many tools that you can use to take online food orders. One of the most popular among F&B owners is Shopify. Shopify allows you to sell your food products on your website, and easily accept credit card payments. Credit card processing fees start from 3.2% + $0.50, which is in line with what most online payment processors charge. They offer a 14-day free trial so you can test drive the system before you feel like it’s worth investing money in.
Designing your online menu:
Having an online menu that is crisp, concise, easy to read, conveys all the necessary information, and comes with a clear CTA is exceptionally crucial. This online menu can be anywhere, be it on your restaurant website or the various restaurant delivery service providers. Since you know that most of your restaurant delivery orders come from these online channels, what stops you from optimizing your online menu? To know more, read how you can optimize your online restaurant menu to augment your online orders and your restaurant delivery.
Once you’ve got your online ordering system set up, you’ll need to start thinking about the logistics of getting your food delivered. With so many large logistics companies around, this is pretty easy. You can use 3rd-party services like Lalamove to pick up your orders, and send them to your customers. Your diners will have piping hot food at their doorsteps, and you’ll close another sale. This eliminates the hassle of hiring your own drivers, or even delivering food yourself.
#4. Put your F&B business up on major food delivery platforms
Most online food orders are made from apps like Grab. If you want to increase your online orders, you’ll need to let customers order from you within these apps. Make sure that you put your business up on the major food delivery platforms. The key ones that you should have a presence on are:
Pro Tip: If you’re selling online (and particularly if you’re selling on multiple platforms), you should integrate your online orders with your POS system. This will be important to keep track of all your orders. Try services like iChefPOS, or Eisol. The great thing about many of these integration services is that you can apply for government grants to subsidise up to 80% of the integration software costs!
#5. Incentivise repeat orders with an online loyalty programme
Loyalty programmes are a great way to incentivise existing customers to order from you again.
Here are some quick ideas for loyalty programmes:
- A free meal item (e.g. side dish, main dish, drink, dessert, etc.) on every 3rd order
- 10% off birthday month orders for loyalty card members
- A free meal upgrade on every 3rd order
- 10% off for orders above $50, 20% off for orders above $100
- Free mug or tote bag on every 5th order
- 15% off for customers who make 5 orders within 1 month
It’s especially easy to implement a loyalty programme with online orders. You can easily track all the clients who’ve purchased from you before. You can use loyalty tracking software like Advocado. You can qualify for a PSG grant of up to 80% of the software cost with Advocado.
#6. Implement a Cloud Telephone System
Have you ever called in to a business expecting to speak with a customer representative immediately, only to hear the flat, disappointing beep of an “engaged” tone? When customers call your F&B business, they expect to have someone speak with them the first time they call. It’s really frustrating to have to call back multiple times, trying to elbow your way in because so many other people are calling at the same time. Not only are experiences like these bad for your brand image, it’s also likely to cause you to lose revenue. Customers that can’t get through to your phone won’t place their orders with you.
The solution to this is to sign up for a good Cloud Telephone system. When a client dials in, but the line is busy, the Cloud Telephone system automatically transfers the call to the next available person. Your main phone can be manned by your cashier, if you have one. If your cashier is busy, any calls can then be transferred to a phone held by another member of staff, or to your phone. This way, you can have multiple phone lines ready at a moment’s notice to take multiple calls. You also don’t need to shell out money to pay for 3-4 separate phone lines. It’s a simple, cost-effective, efficient way to manage phone orders.
Here’s a list of some popular Cloud Telephone providers in Singapore:
#7. Install a live chat function, and (potentially) hire chat agents
Customers may have questions before they place an order with you online. For instance, some customers may have queries regarding delivery times. Others may want to customise their order. Others may have certain dietary restrictions. Regardless of the actual query, some customers just need to speak with someone, and feel assured that their needs can be met before placing their order. To meet such needs, and reduce the stumbling blocks in the customer’s way before they order, you should have a live chat function on your website.
There are many live chat tools that you can use. One very popular tool is Tawk.to. This is a free live chat tool that allows customers to chat with you (or your employees). The great thing about Tawk.to is that it provides you the ability to hire “live chat agents” to speak with your clients. These are real people, and rates start from just $5/hour. All you need to do is brief these chat agents about your business, your menu, what you offer, etc., and they’ll be well-equipped to speak with your clients online. If you’re shorthanded but find yourself receiving lots of online enquiries, this is an affordable way to serve your customers quickly.
#8. No spills – pack your food securely
Nothing’s worse than an order that comes with the food spilled all over the packaging. Even if you thought you’d already pressed the lid on tightly, containers can come undone during bumpy delivery rides.
Make sure that you use good tupperware to deliver your food. Ensure that the edges are tightly sealed all around. Consider securing each container with some rubber bands, as an additional safety measure.
You can also consider moving away from plastic containers, and investing in paper packaging to be a little more environmentally friendly. Depending on the kind of F&B business you’re running, paper packaging can also be a useful marketing tool for you. You can highlight this as part of your F&B business’ marketing strategies to attract eco-conscious diners, who care about the kind of packaging that their preferred food establishments use. Forbes reported on a survey that showed 88% of consumers want to patronise brands that make a difference in society.
For instance, if you’re running a trendy café with a large customer base of millennials, using paper packaging can help your customers feel good about patronising your restaurant. In such cases, it certainly isn’t just an additional deadweight cost. It elevates the image of your brand above competitors who don’t take such environmentally-conscious steps, and makes your customers feel good about supporting you.
#9. Make sure that your food is delivered hot
It’s not a very good experience to receive cold food. In fact, it’s probably going to get you some bad reviews. You can forget about repeat orders. Unhappy customers may even badmouth your business to their family and friends. If you’re delivering cooked food, make sure that you insulate your food properly. If you’re serving hot drinks, make sure you use well-insulated takeaway cups. If you’re serving chilled desserts, make sure you include some cool gel packs to keep everything nice and cool.
#10. Email your existing customers to order online
If you have a database of existing customers, running an email campaign is a cheap and easy way to get more online purchases. Not all F&B owners will have email databases of their past diners, but for those who do, this is a great way to get the word out. Tell your clients about your fancy new website, how they can now order from you online, new dishes you’ve added, any promotions you’re running – really, anything under the sun to convince them to buy online from you.
If you don’t already have an email database of customers, now’s the time to start building one. It’s never too late to start building your own rolodex of clients. When clients order online, ensure that you collect at least their emails, as part of their personal contact info. This way, you’ll be be able to start building a relationship with them over time. You can send them messages on the latest promotions. If you know what dishes they like (e.g. from pas orders), you can send them discounts for those particular dishes to entice them to come back. If you collect information about their birthdays, you can also send them customised birthday offers. The possibilities are endless.
Emails are really a great way to keep your brand top-of-mind with customers, and to share news about your business with them. Try a service like MailChimp, which is one of the world’s the most well-known email marketing tools. It’s free to use, for up to 2,000 email contacts. Running well-planned email marketing campaigns at regular intervals is critical, given how saturated the F&B market is. You want to use every channel at your disposal to be front-and-centre in your customer’s mind.
Restrictions on dine-in have made it difficult to run F&B businesses. With the right marketing tactics, F&B businesses can improve their business prospects. Try these strategies out, and see if they help to increase your sales. While you’re busy trying to improve your revenue, don’t forget about protecting your business! You’ve invested lots of capital and time into starting your F&B business. It only makes sense to protect it against risks like food poisoning lawsuits, fires, worker injuries, and more. Provide offers the easiest and quickest way for F&B owners to protect their business.
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