* In choosing to use a third-party online order platform, you need to weigh up the obvious benefits with the cost to your business in the commissions taken
* You should also consider purchasing a tailormade delivery app for your own business as this will deliver greater profits than going with a third-party alternative
* Given that some potential customers exclusively use third-party platforms, you can’t capture their business unless you’re listed
* We provide some questions which are useful to ask in making your choice of third-party providers

THE SMARTPHONE REVOLUTION has placed online ordering literally in the palms of your customer’s hands, so it’s no wonder so many competing operations have sprung up offering to provide you with orders and encouraging you to sign up to their platforms.
From the online order pioneer Menulog to more recent competitors such as Deliveroo and newest entrant Uber Eats, there are various platforms you can choose from, but all share the same basic design.
Orders are delivered to your business via an online link to your computer or POS system where they are automatically printed out. You confirm the order, estimate cooking time and then start preparing the order for either customer pickup or delivery by either your own or a third party driver.
Your online order platform will typically collect the payments and direct deposit the funds (minus their commission, which may go as high as 30 per cent of your sale depending upon your business rating on the platform) into your nominated bank account.
The obvious benefits to these platforms — your staff doesn’t need to take the orders, freeing them up to spend more time on cooking and serving other customers; you eliminate the risk of taking down credit card numbers incorrectly over the phone, and so on — need to be weighed up with the cost to your business in the commissions they take.
The other consideration is that third-party platforms and apps are no longer the only game in town. You can now purchase a tailormade smartphone delivery app for your own business, which is clearly your best choice in terms of profit retention.
However, the fact remains that there is a significant proportion of potential customers who primarily, if not exclusively, use one particular third-party app to search for restaurants and takeaway food, and if your business isn’t listed on that platform, you’ll miss out on their business.
Another benefit to using a third-party platform is that a high volume of regular orders can see you bumped up to a favourites list, which improves your business rating and gives you increased exposure and publicity. This is good for your business as it can incentivize staff to deliver consistent quality and short waiting times on orders, all of which result in positive reviews.
So how to decide which online ordering platforms are the best choice for your business? Increasingly food businesses are signing up with more than one, but with so many fly-by-night players that have come and gone, you may prefer to restrict your third-party presence to the ‘big players’. In any case, here are some questions to consider in making your choice:
* What do they deliver in terms of building your brand presence on their platform and directing potential sales your way? For example, can they recommend your pizza business to potential customers based on their profile data showing that these customers order pizza regularly, or that they order from other businesses in your local area? What additional opportunities do they offer to make your brand prominent on their platform (eg favourites list, ratings system?)
* What initiatives do they have in place to encourage repeat orders? For example a loyalty reward scheme such as offering customers their xth order free, or an introductory order at a discounted price (to encourage trial of different outlets).
* What do they offer your business in terms of value-added tools? For example are you able to view your orders in realtime? Can they provide a breakdown of your most popular items sold?
* Do they provide additional marketing support? For example, do they offer a complementary website for your business or an app which enables you to create e-newsletters or email blasts to send to customers?
* Do they require you to sign a minimum term contract, undertake a trial period or pay set-up costs? You need to know exactly what you’re up for when you sign up and that there will be no surprises.
Online ordering