While there is no shortage of vendors willing to help operators get up to speed with online ordering, the restaurant industry has been slow to tap into social networking as an additional outlet for such orders.
This is despite the fact there are more than 750 million active users on Facebook, and nearly 7,000 food and beverage industry brand pages on the social network.
Cleveland-based ONOSYS, a provider of mobile and online ordering systems, is trying to leverage the site's popularity to boost restaurant business.
The company's newest online ordering platform allows customers to place food orders on a brand's Facebook page instead of having to go through the brand's website. This type of platform already exists in the retail space as some big-name brands such as Nine West have long featured online ordering through their Facebook pages.
"The entire goal with this capability is to convert Facebook 'likes' into loyal customers," said Stan Garber, co-founder/partner, ONOSYS. "The addition of Facebook ordering gives a restaurant an extra avenue for online sales as well as the opportunity to engage new and existing customers and build loyal fans from the millions of Facebook users."
Whether the solution will resonate with restaurant fans is yet to be seen. The application is currently being rolled out to ONOSYS clients, which include Papa John's International, Panera Bread, Charley's Grilled Subs, Jersey Mike's, Topper's Pizza, Schlotzsky's, Ghengis Grill and Panda Express.
The integration will be up and running for several of those brands in the fourth quarter and into early 2012, according to Garber.
ONOSYS extended its ordering capabilities after realizing how much time and money its clients spend on marketing to their customers specifically to try and get them to join their Facebook pages.
The application gives those guests yet another reason to 'like' a restaurant, Garber said.
"It's super convenient for the guest and makes the ordering process even faster," he added. "Ordering food from a restaurant's Facebook page without ever leaving the site is the ultimate in customer convenience and accessibility to the brand."
How it works
Customers can begin a new order or log-in to repeat a previous one by accessing the "Order Now" tab which ONOSYS adds to a restaurant's Facebook page. They are then guided through the ordering and check-out process, just as they would on the restaurant's primary online ordering site.
For brands adopting ONOSYS' new platform, all ordering channels – Facebook, website, mobile – are tied together, helping customers easily repeat previous orders, delivery locations and credit card information.
To drive Facebook ordering sales, restaurants can offer special coupons and time-sensitive promotions exclusively to people who have 'liked' their page. At the end of the checkout process, the user is also prompted to update their status – sharing with their friends what they ordered and from where – adding a viral marketing component.
ONOSYS' online ordering Facebook integration can be developed for the brand's corporate Facebook site as well as localized franchise pages. A flat fee is being charged for a restaurant's corporate page, and a small monthly fee is being charged to individual (franchise) locations.
Will it affect primary websites?
Garber said the application is not meant to be a website replacement, but rather a supplement.
"Most restaurants consider their social media channels an extension of their website and they are already driving visitors to these pages for product news, promotions and offers," he said. "Getting guests to place food orders through a Facebook page and then sharing that news with their social network is equally impactful as them ordering through the brand's website."
Nor should the integration of the ordering tool harm the experience of the Facbook page. Because the application is displayed as its own tab on a brand's Facebook page, it's not expected to distract from the main forum.
"Rather than busying-up the page, it actually maintains organization and enhances social media marketing messages by directing people to that tab to order instantly," Graber said.
More Facebook ordering solutions on the way?
ONOSYS says it is the only company to launch a fully integrated Facebook ordering platform so far, meaning start-to-finish restaurant ordering without ever leaving the social networking site.
Another vendor, Exit41, offers an "online ordering" tab for its restaurant clients (which include Ruby Tuesday's and le Madeleine) through Facebook, but order placement and menu browsing actions kick back to the company's website. Still, Exit41's launch in November 2010 unveiled a demand for the option.
"We have to create an awareness in the mind of the consumer that it can be used as another channel to order," said Exit41 CEO Joseph Gagnon. "What we want the restaurant to be able to do is give their customers the ability to choose whatever interface their customer wants to use in that moment (to order)."
Read more about online and social initiatives.
Photo provided by benstein.
Alicia Kelso has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.