It’s been a tough go for Canadian restaurants. Between the various shutdowns, lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, restaurateurs across the country have once again demonstrated the resilience of the hospitality industry and its passion to serve diners, even from behind computer screens.
The restaurants that had already embraced third-party ordering and delivery apps prior to COVID-19 were well ahead of the game, while others had to play catch-up. The pitchforks for third-party apps slowly lowered as restaurants now realized that in the pandemic era, third-party apps had switched from a necessary evil to simply a necessity.
Below are the top 5 apps for restaurants to thrive in the era of take-out and delivery.
The love-hate relationship in the industry for third-party apps has always been a dicey one, but UberEats demonstrates its value through its ability to capture diners en masse. Its extensive network of drivers allows restaurants to reach diners who would otherwise be beyond their geographic reach.
It also has one of the most robust built-in marketing capabilities with several options to entice new diners and retain existing ones – free delivery, discounts and even loyalty rewards. In addition to these “anytime” promotions that restaurants can customize, UberEats has a stream of regular in-app marketing campaigns that restaurants can opt-in to. It also uses machine learning to suggest menu items for the end-user and has great DRIP campaigns to re-engage lapsed users and target loyal ones with personalized discounts. The ability to integrate an order food button on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook also makes it easy for customers to satisfy cravings with ease.
UberEats’ marketing capabilities are both varied and often. The trade-off? UberEats cannibalizes the diner-restaurant relationship which means restaurants have no idea who their diners are beyond the ability to respond to reviews.
TouchBistro is a Toronto-based point-of-sale (POS) company that acquired YP Dine and with it, a suite of products that range from reservations, loyalty, delivery & take-out.
Those who are already customers of TouchBistro POS (which are quite a few Canadian restaurants) can opt for the TouchBistro Dine add-on which is fully integrated into the POS. The takeout and delivery function allows diners to order directly from a restaurant’s website and the sale is logged directly into the point-of-sale which eliminates the need to manually punch in online orders at the end of the day for an accurate daily sales report.
TouchBistro Dine will soon be launching robust marketing capabilities as well as a full-blown loyalty program that can be redeemed for delivery & takeout. The current loyalty program is for in-restaurant redemption only. Soon, restaurants will be able to download customer lists to connect with their diners with email marketing and offers.
TouchBistro Dine charges a flat $50 licensing fee and does not charge commissions.
Tock was co-founded by industry veteran Nick Kokonas from the famed Michelin star restaurant, Alinea. When restaurants were forced to close, the company quickly created Tock To Go, essentially taking their core product and rejigging it to offer takeout and delivery.
The first thing that comes to mind is the calibre of restaurants that are featured on Tock and the premium aesthetic of its user interface. Restaurateurs who are on the platform do notice a more affluent client list and the platform excels in delivering dining experiences. It has allowed restaurants like Alo (Toronto, ON) to continue to offer its tasting menu experience from the comforts of home.
The platform charges a 3% commission per order which pales in comparison to its more expensive counterparts like UberEats, Skip The Dishes and DoorDash. The only caveat is the lack of a delivery fleet at your fingertips which means restaurants can offer pick-up only or otherwise employ their own fleet of delivery drivers.
Ambassador is the brainchild of veteran restaurateur Nav Sangha. The Toronto-based app has now expanded into Alberta, British Columbia and select US cities.
Ambassador’s web app allows restaurateurs to own their takeout and delivery experience via a Smart Cart (aka a pop-up widget) so that customers can order directly off a restaurant’s website.
In Toronto, there is now also a supported delivery option within a 5km radius of a restaurant for a flat fee of $8 per order for restaurants that don’t have their own drivers.
Thinking ahead to the future, one of the most unique features of Ambassador is the contactless payment & in-store ordering feature which will allow for staff to “deliver to table” when restaurants re-open. The app’s other features include a virtual waitlist and digital gift cards.
There are no fees or commissions, just a flat monthly fee of $99. What makes Ambassador stand out from the rest is also its customer service. Unlike some of its larger competitors which direct you to bots or lengthy customer escalations experiences that seldom yield a solution, the response time is quick and more often than not you get a direct response from Sangha himself. How’s that for hospitality?
A lot of restaurateurs have converted their restaurants into bodegas, bottle shops or introduced prepared meals either to replace their regular restaurant menu or to act as an extension of its existing offerings. For this kind of set-up, Shopify has the best user interface for a more retail-centric business model including discounted shipping rates with Canada Post.
The e-commerce blends seamlessly to allow customers to shop directly from a business’ website. The suite of marketing tools such as creating an account and subscribing to save allows businesses to capture customers and create targeted email campaigns at each step of the buying process – such as an abandoned cart, or loyalty.