How e-commerce can create a new income stream for your restaurant

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As life returns to normal, restaurants face another set of interesting decisions. Admittedly, the priorities are still takeout, delivery and welcome back to diners in the restaurant.

The new question on operators’ minds is: How can we continue to increase our revenue and profits in today’s environment and with our existing employees? One option has all kinds of potential: E-Commerce! It simply requires adapting simple, affordable technology to existing employees and some creativity.

We look at this opportunity for many Imperial Dead Customers across the country, we have seen that online selling is a solution that can work for any restaurant/food service operator of any size. E-commerce has exploded as a sales tool and the food industry is part of this trend. Revenue from food sales from e-commerce, including restaurants and specialty processors, has doubled in the past three years. It has become a lifeline for some operators during the pandemic lockdowns and remains a vital source of revenue.

The e-commerce program also checks both boxes as you look to attract new customers and maintain your relationship with that longtime guest. Targeting existing customers who love your items, from secret sauces to signature desserts, is a great way to keep in touch with customers who can’t visit your traditional establishment but want to enjoy your food at home. This was effective not only during the pandemic, but also to reach loyal customers who live in other parts of the country.

The great thing is that you probably already have most of the tools needed to make this new software a success including your existing social media channels, your own website, and adding a simple online store to support this new revenue stream.

Now you are asking yourself what are we going to sell on our new e-commerce platform. This is what makes this a win-win, as you already produce most of these products for everyday use in your restaurant, fast food and delivery programs. The variety of items that can be sold online is amazing! Sauces, sauces, seasonings, and seasonings are available to order from restaurants across the country. Many come with recipes so customers can create a restaurant experience in their own kitchen. For decades, items including deep-dish pizza from Chicago, Danish Kringle from Wisconsin, key lime pie from Florida, and cheesecake from New York have been available to order online.

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I know you are worried that your employees are already suffering from burnout. The nice thing is that you can start with an external e-commerce service partner like Goldbelly. Then you build on this platform with the help of the person who runs your website, social media and marketing.

Aggregators such as Goldbelly and Tastes of Chicago provide a one-stop shop for consumers looking for regional specialties, gift basket sets, and hard-to-find dishes. For the operator, they offer services ranging from marketing to fulfillment to payment processing. There are also niche websites that offer products that cater to people with dietary restrictions and preferences where chefs, bakers, and other producers can market their wares to a specific audience. All good options to explore!

Let’s focus next on how to start the program. If you have a database of existing customers and their email addresses, you can launch an email campaign to promote your fee and attract them to your website. Signing up for text messages is another way to promote sales. People eat with their eyes, so make sure your photography is excellent no matter what digital marketing tools you use. Take the time to showcase your products, use video, and get creative.

The next step is to create a loyalty program and/or subscription program to boost repeat sales. Gift cards sold online are another great way to increase revenue. Make sure your website is easy to navigate and the checkout process is simple. Additionally, social media platforms are an excellent way to showcase your product. Instagram, Facebook and anywhere else your target customers are, is where you want to advertise and publish content.

Browse several e-commerce platforms for one that meets your needs. There are many options today including Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce, Squarespace, Volusion, and custom platforms. Depending on your size, budget, and in-house skills, you can find the best solution for you.

Remember, whether you decide to launch this with your own platform or find a marketing partner to get you started, choosing the right packaging is essential. Our Imperial Dade experts can simplify the process and help you select the right menu items for e-commerce sales. This includes the selection of packaging for products as well as packaging for shipment.

Choosing the right packaging is key. Let’s say a restaurant has a signature cheesecake that they want to offer for online sales. The package needs to protect the product and maintain the quality during shipment. The answer might be a heavier corrugated box along with the decoy wrap instead of the traditional bakery box used in retail sales.

Another example is the meal kit, with each item individually wrapped. An example is the ribs with barbecue sauce and a side of potatoes au gratin. Containers may need to withstand freezing or reheating in the microwave or oven. In this case, labeling each item with the instructions is important to ensure a positive customer experience. Operators can include a QR code that links them to a short video showing the chef talking to them during the reheating process and thanking them for their purchase.

To ship perishable items, you’ll likely need an outer shell with an insulated liner, a metal bubble wrap, or a rigid foam box that creates air space to help the product stay cool. Ice blocks or dry ice may be required. We also recommend printed tape to seal the box, sealing the box with tamper evident branding. For high volume customers, the shipping carton can be customized to create a pleasant experience when the shipment arrives, especially when the item is a gift.

We are happy to help you get started with this new and exciting opportunity. We have clients ranging from fine dining to fast food restaurants, gourmet markets to bakeries, who have enjoyed success selling their products online, directly and through aggregators.

Schedule an appointment to review the packaging with one of our experts. Discuss the items you would like to display for e-commerce sales. We will recommend product packaging, shipping and testing to ensure quality. Then, we can process custom print items to aid brand recognition. Put our expertise to work for your new e-commerce business.

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