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7 Things to Consider to Successfully Transform Your Restaurant into an E-commerce Business

Apr 26, 2024 | Blog

The online world is continually evolving and requires companies of all industries to adapt. The restaurant industry is no exception, and having a strong and approachable online presence is no longer optional. As a restaurant owner, you can take things a step further and leverage online shopping trends for your benefit. By transforming your restaurant into an e-commerce business, you’ll be positioned to reach a new, even wider audience than ever before and have the ability to boost your revenue beyond what your local market can offer. 

In this article, we’re highlighting seven key considerations to guide restauranteurs in starting an e-commerce business and answer questions like:

  • What do e-commerce brands need?
  • How do I choose the right packaging and delivery options?
  • What platform is best for my business?

1. Define Your E-commerce Brand Identity

Your brand identity should showcase the core essence of your restaurant. Ask yourself, “What makes your establishment unique?” and determine the experience that you wish to provide customers whenever they order from your online store. 

Your answers will guide the visual identity of your website, product packaging, and more, and your brand voice should be amplified in all your future communication with customers to ensure they have a memorable and enjoyable experience with your e-commerce business. 

2. Determine Your Online Menu

To build your online menu, evaluate your restaurant’s data and let traditional menu sales inform your decisions. By doing this, you’ll help ensure that the items you’re offering online are ones that your customers actually want. On the other hand, don’t shy away from trying new things. Your customers, especially new ones, may surprise you. For example, G&M Restaurant did not consider adding steak to their online store for a long time. They assumed the novelty was crab cakes and good steak is not as hard to get nationwide. However, after several customer requests, they tried it. Steak was added to their online store, and now it is the second best-selling item. In trying new items, just be sure to track sales, customer feedback, and associated costs to evaluate the success of new offerings. 

Once your online menu is finalized, you should use clear and concise descriptions to showcase the unique details of each menu item, including ingredients, nutrition facts, and more, and you should plan ahead to organize your products in ways that will drive traffic to where you want users to go. 

3. Choose the Right Platform for Your E-commerce Business: Is Shopify Right for Restaurants?

There are numerous e-commerce platforms available these days, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. To choose the right one for your online storefront, consider factors like ease of design, options for scaling in the future, fees for transactions and plug-in or app subscriptions, and the ability to track inventory and order fulfillment. Popular options for restauranteurs include Shopify, BigCommerce, and Squarespace.

But don’t think that you need to find an out-of-the-box, turn-key, solution. E-commerce CMS platforms each have their limitations on how they operate. Custom-built solutions in Magento or WooCommerce might be the better fit for your organization. They require more maintenance, but they are not limited by the functions of the platform. Custom developments can make your store uniquely your own. 

If you’re working with a marketing agency like Sinuate Media, you can offload some of the technical and design considerations to your marketing team. You can also request their professional recommendations for the right-fit platform for your e-commerce business. 

4. Invest in High-Quality Packaging: Shipping Food is No Walk in the Park

The importance of packaging for restaurants shipping products online can be easily overlooked, but it shouldn’t be! The packaging materials you choose impact the first hands-on interaction your customers have with your e-commerce business. When selecting your packaging, opt for materials that are high-quality, sturdy, well-designed, and reflect your e-commerce business identity. Not only should packaging materials align with your brand’s identity, but they should also be trusted to get products to your customers safely and in one piece. 

From an operational standpoint, you must consider how your packaging will support streamlined order fulfillment. For example, if you want to encourage bulk orders, you must ensure that your packaging supports this. You may be left with a headache and many wasted boxes without proper consideration. 

5. Prioritize Delivery and Fulfillment in Your E-commerce Business

Timely delivery is crucial, especially if you’re shipping products fresh. To meet food safety requirements of shipping perishable items, consider the following:

  • Your packaging should include ice packs to maintain a cold temperature until delivery. Your containers should also properly seal products to maintain quality.
  • You will need to offer either overnight or expedited shipping to preserve freshness.
  • Your shipping costs will be significantly higher than non-perishable goods. You must analyze how this will fit into your cost structure or determine if your customers will be willing to pay higher shipping rates.

Before you launch your business, decide whether you’ll handle deliveries yourself or if you plan to partner with a third-party delivery service, like FedEx or UPS. Various factors can influence your decision, including national vs regional reach, shipping costs, and more. 

6. Embrace Digital Marketing for Your E-commerce Business

Building brand awareness online is essential to your success, so don’t forget to invite people to the party! Leverage social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok to show your products and share positive customer reviews. You may also opt to run advertising campaigns on these platforms and Google to reach new audiences.

Another key component of your e-commerce business is email marketing. By building a list of engaged customers over time, you will be able to connect directly with them on a more regular basis, offer incentivized promotions, leverage email automation, and build brand loyalty. You will also see a direct impact on your revenue. For example, one of our clients saw upwards of 7,000% return on investment in 2023 on email efforts alone! 

7. Continuously Learn and Adapt in Your E-commerce Business

To maintain a competitive edge once your restaurant is online and out in the world, you must stay on top of the latest trends and technologies that can help elevate your e-commerce business. Be willing to adapt your strategies based on customer feedback, and changing market conditions, and run A/B tests to optimize your website for meaningful conversions.

To hear more insights directly from a restaurant owner who successfully launched an online store for his restaurant, watch this full Recipes to Revenue episode.

Are You Ready for the Next Step?

The cost of building an e-commerce business can vary depending on the platform you choose, website development needs, marketing budget, and packaging choices. Before taking action, consider all your options within the context of what you’re willing to spend over the next year and use this as guideposts while making decisions.

You should also know that building a successful e-commerce business takes time and dedication, and success often doesn’t come overnight. Consistency in branding, quality of products and services, and ongoing marketing efforts are key.

By carefully evaluating the steps outlined above, you can build a thriving online presence that complements your physical restaurant and expands your customer reach. With the right approach and team supporting your efforts, you can turn your restaurant into a successful online brand that serves loyal customers for years to come.





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