The COVID-19 pandemic was extremely disruptive to the restaurant and c-store industries. Consumer behaviors toward dining and restaurants shifted quickly at the pandemic’s onset in early 2020, and even as pandemic restrictions begin to ease, consumers don’t appear keen to revert to their old ways. .The Order & Delivery Report 2022, which details this trend and the data surrounding it. This blog and the ones that follow will highlight findings from the Paytronix Order & Delivery Report 2022, as well as shed new light on recently acquired data.
Certain habits appear to have changed permanently. Customers clearly want to place orders digitally, a technology trend that picked up steam just as the pandemic took hold. Third-party ordering services have become a restaurant and c-store fixture, and savvy brands have both embraced these technologies as well as tools that allow them to simplify operations.
A Shift in Ordering Behavior
While on-premises ordering is resuming, it is still far below pre-pandemic levels. In the meantime, digital ordering continues to prove a rewarding investment for restaurants and c-stores, thanks in part to how easy it is to complete a digital order today. Paytronix data shows that digital ordering will continue to exist alongside in-store options, perhaps for good.
The graph below tells the story of 25 brands who operated continuously during the pandemic. The first graph represents their in-store sales while the green shows digital orders. In-store sales remained down 42% from their peak in January 2020; digital orders were up 113% during that same time period.
The nature of digital orders has changed as well. While delivery was king before and during the height of the pandemic, more recent data indicates that takeout orders now dominate online orders, with numbers even higher than they were pre-pandemic. Takeout jumped from approximately 35% of orders in January 2020 to a majority in March of 2022, a trend that appears to be increasing. Meanwhile, curbside pickup, which received a lot of attention during the early days of the pandemic, has all but disappeared.
Adapting to third party delivery
Now that it’s clear these third-party services have staying power, vendors are taking back control with tools such as Paytronix HandoffSM, a system that takes orders from third-party marketplaces and automatically inserts them into a point-of-sale system, eliminating the need for “tablet farms”. It also allows restaurants and c-stores to make changes to their online menu and propagate those changes to all third-party delivery services. This gives brands the flexibility to customize offerings and pricing, as well as ensure that the services have the most current menu.
While there are clear advantages to partnering with third-party delivery services, there have been some growing pains as well. During the height of the pandemic, it was normal for a restaurant
or c-store to have multiple tablets cluttering their order counter to accommodate the various services they were utilizing, a system that could quickly become confusing and overwhelming, contributing to the stress of burned out and overwhelmed staff.
Third-party delivery will continue to be a viable channel in the future. Even if restaurants and c-stores are successful at converting third-party delivery customers to first-party delivery customers, third-party services will continue to play an important role in a customer acquisition strategy. Success in today’s “new normal,” means embracing new sales channels, and new technology.