The new social order: how restaurants are catering to demand

9/15/17 8:06 AM Natalie Appleton


It's kind of funny now, to think about the way we used to order pizza.

Find the phonebook under the sofa or above the fridge. Flip to the back to the phonebook to find the pizza places and their menus. Walk to your rotary telephone in the kitchen. Dial the number, fingers dusty with the inky scent of the yellow pages, give your order to the kid on the other end of the phone, tell him your address and give him directions.

Check to make sure you have cash—you had to have cash. About an hour later, the kid’s beat-up car pulled into the driveway, quarters and bills shifting in his fanny pack, and the doorbell rang.

Today, that entire process has been truncated to a third of a second, the length of time it takes to tweet an emoji on a smartphone.

Forget ordering on the website or on the restaurant’s app. A new wave of innovative restaurant chains are using social media to allow customers to order and pay for their food, from home or their table.

While the logistics may sound daunting, the adopters say it’s paying off in big slices—every third of a second.

The hungry people behind social ordering

They’re a demanding lot, our customers. They don’t just want exactly what they want, and in minutes, they want to buy it without their fingers having to leave that white glowing rectangle attached to their wrists, or without even having to leave Facebook.

And so, the digital restaurant ordering industry—just like the online staff  scheduling software industry—is growing, exponentially.

“Today it’s a moble-first mentality with mobile ordering now surpassing desktop ordering,” says a QSR Magazine article about 2017’s soon to be ‘indispensable’ digital ordering trends.

“Consumers are interacting with restaurant technology 50-plus percent more today than they did two years ago.”

So, what are the savviest of fast food and fast casual restaurants doing to cater, literally, to that demand?

Standout restaurants doing social ordering

The restaurant: Domino’s.

Do you still remember a seven-digit Domino’s number from when you were a kid and there was a magnet on your fridge? Chances are, you do. This international pizza chain has long been at the forefront of marketing innovation, and they continue to lead the way today.

The channel: Twitter  

How it works:

In the US, guests simply have a to register their Twitter handle on their Domino’s Pizza Profile, which includes their favourite pizza and their contact. From there on out, all they have to do is tweet #EasyOrder OR they can simply tweet the pizza emoji to Domino’s Twitter handle.

 dominos screenshot.jpeg

The customer then gets a direct message so they know their order has been confirmed. The pizza is then sent to the address saved in the customer’s Easy Order profile.

The good, the bad, and the critics’ opinions:

Ordering really doesn’t get any easier than that,” says Huffington Post writer Jared Shimoff, in an article about restaurant ordering trends. “Although, by design, this type of functionality is very limited.

Because customers can only order one, pre-set meal, the feature is really only ideal at restaurants with very basic menus (i.e. pizza chains).

For the small sub-set of customers that take advantage of this feature, it’s the ultimate convenience and may be adopted more, but don’t expect it to be wide-spread among other restaurants or adopted by most customers.”

Which brings us to our next restaurants, and its social ordering technology.

The restaurant: Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Burger King  

The channel: Facebook messenger

How it works: In 2015, Facebook opened its chat app to businesses and then began allowing restaurants to build bots to accommodate social ordering.

Taco Bell calls its bot, driven by the technology of Slack, ‘TacoBot.’ All customers have to do is send the restaurant a message asking for a soft taco. Employing its artificial intelligence, the restaurant then recommends menu items, answers questions and more.

It can even coordinate group orders for everyone in the office. Plus, TacoBot’s kind of funny, employing phrases like “Right on” and “You’re missing out, but it’s up to you.”

 Screenshot 2017-09-01 10.17.16.png

The good, the bad, and the critics’ opinions:

“TacoBot is the next best thing to having your own Taco Bell butler… and who wouldn’t want that?” said Lawrence Kim, director of digital innovation and on-demand for Taco Bell, in a news release announcing the launch of TacoBot.

Facebook itself appealing to its hungry masses in the US by helping people order food from their own app “without having to navigate away to a delivery service or a restaurant’s own app or website,” writes Sarah Perez in a Tech Crunch article.

Earlier in 2017, Facebook announced select users would see the new option as “Order Food.” It’s easy to spot: On desktops, the icon is a colourful hamburger; on mobile devices, the hamburger is blue and white. Food can either be picked up or delivered via or Slice.


photo courtesy of Tech Crunch

The restaurant: Starbucks

The channel: The Starbucks app

How it works: There’s a pretty good chance that if you’re a coffee aficionado alive and living somewhere in North America, you or someone you share a bathroom with has used the Starbucks app to order and pay for a cup of java—even tip the barista.

This channel isn’t exactly new, but we wanted to include it because it’s been around just long enough to have some measurement and insight about how well the app is working—possibly to its detriment.

 Starbucks app screenshot.png

The good, the bad, and the critics’ opinions:

According to a Fortune article about online ordering, Starbucks’ app has been so popular the loyalty program now has 13 million active users in the US and nearly 20 per cent of peak period transactions coming from Mobile Order & Pay.

“But the digital evolution hasn’t always been smooth: Mobile ordering has become so popular that crowds mass during peak times, discouraging walk-in visitors.”

Knowing the impact of digital pay technology is key; so is knowing when your peak periods are and how to best staff them to boost profits. Read our post How Ameego Predicts the Future: Introducing Our New Advanced Forecasting Capabilities.

Other digital ways to pay that are gaining traction

It’s not surprising the 18-34 crowd is driving the demand for social ordering and other digital ordering trends. QSR Magazine says that set wants to see these kinds of payment options “in mobile payments, pay-at-table options and digital wallets.”

 Google wallet.png

Apple Pay, as we know, is gaining traction as more vendors accept this as payment over cards and cash. Payment can be received without contact (ie servers don’t need to walk around with the debit machine); Apple devices communicate remotely with POS systems.

Google Wallet, for example, facilitates email and phone number money transfers, and the recipient doesn’t even need the Wallet app.

PayPal. Once relegated to the likes of shoppers on eBay, restaurants are now finding ways to incorporate PayPal and cater to consumer demand for mobile payment options.

The hitch with these systems, of course, is that your POS system needs to be able to accept these new forms of payment. Happy beancounters, happy customers, happy business, right?

Don’t forget about happy staff. Online restaurant scheduling software that allows you to create and communicate the perfect schedule in seconds shaves time and keeps your team in good spirits.

Book your free no-obligation Ameego demo today!

Topics: Restaurant Sales and Labor Forecasting, Guest Experience