There’s a lot of online ordering software claiming to work for catering. Caterers buy it and end up disappointed when they find out it can’t do basic things that are critical to their business.
The goal of this list is to help you learn from the mistakes of others so you don’t end up wasting your time on the wrong software.
1. Control Dates When Orders Can be Picked Up or Delivered
One of the biggest failures of online ordering software is they don’t let you control the dates clients can choose for their delivery or pickup order.
There’s no point in having online ordering if you have to keep calling clients back to tell them you can’t fulfill their order.
Make sure your software let’s you:
- Control Days and Times clients can choose (i.e Mon – Sat 11AM to 6PM; Tuesday weekly meals)
- Use Specific Times vs Windows of Time (i.e order will be ready between 11AM – 12PM)
- Block Specific Dates & Times you aren’t available
2. Enforce Catering Policies During the Ordering Process
Worried about last-minute orders or changes?
Many caterers have a false-belief that online ordering will be like a firehose of orders they can’t control, and end up with a bunch of pissed off customers you’ll have to turn away.
To avoid this, your software needs to bake your catering policies right into the ordering process:
- Enforce a Lead Time or deadline for clients to submit orders or make changes so you have enough advanced notice
- Require a Minimum Order Amount to make sure clients order enough for delivery vs pickups
- Automatically charge a Cancellation Fee if clients cancel after your cut-off time
- Calculate Delivery, Service & Credit Card Fees at the time the order is placed
3. Confirm or Reject Orders
Still worried about a huge, last-minute order for tomorrow sneaking in?
Then your software needs to give you a way to Confirm or Reject orders.
That way if you can’t fulfill it, simply reject it.
You might be thinking: “What if the client’s credit card was already charged? Won’t they be annoyed and I’ll have to refund them?”
Read the next section to see how to avoid this…
4. Control When Credit Cards Get Charged
Most online ordering software will charge the customer’s credit card as soon as they place the order.
This could be bad for catering orders if:
- You may need to review the order to make sure they’ve ordered enough food
- You want to upsell them
- There’s a change in headcount the week of their event
To avoid annoying clients with returns, make sure your system gives you full control over WHEN the credit card gets charged:
Lets you choose when to charge the credit card (i.e do it manually vs automatically; immediately when order is placed vs before/after their event; )
Ability to charge Deposits
- Save Credit Card for future orders
5. Take Holiday Orders And Normal Orders At Same Time
Most online ordering software isn’t smart enough to treat holiday orders differently than your normal catering orders.
- Thanksgiving Menu is ONLY available for Thanksgiving orders (not normal corporate lunch orders)
- Start taking orders in early October with a deadline of the Friday before Thanksgiving at 5pm
- Clients can only choose Pickup/Delivery for Thanksgiving Day 10am – 2pm
- Thanksgiving orders must be for a Minimum of $120, or Guest Count of 12 people
Caterers need a software that lets you have a different set of menus, dates, policies etc for your Holiday vs Normal orders.
6. Let Clients Make Changes On Their Own
We know it’s a huge pain in the ass when clients ask you to make changes when you’re busy.
That’s why your software needs to give them a way to login to make changes or cancel their order WITHOUT having to call you.
BUT, the software should also enforce a cut-off time to prevent last minute changes, as well as charge a fee for late-cancellations.
7. Date-Specific vs Normal Menus
Besides the typical “Choose 2 meats & 2 sides” per guest, make sure the menu lets you:
- Use Date Specific Menus (i.e Weekly Specials, Taco Tuesdays, Holidays)
- Hide “Special Instructions” so clients can’t make substitutes
- Enforce a Min Qty for the item
- Upsell chafing dishes, utensils & other things clients always need
8. Download Kitchen Prep Reports
Most online ordering software assume their job is done after the credit card gets charged.
That means they can’t tell you how much food your kitchen needs to prepare for any given date.
You end up spending hours going through each ticket calculating everything by hand.
Make sure your software lets you download this info in just a few clicks.
9. Offer Rewards & Amazon Gift Cards
ezCater has been able to take so much market share because it incentivizes customers to keep coming back with rewards and Amazon Gift Cards.
It’s hard for anybody to compete against them unless they can offer the same.
Make sure your software has a way to let customers earn rewards and redeem them for food or Amazon cards.
10. Flat Monthly Pricing, No Commissions.
If you’re sending clients to 3rd-party catering sites like ezCater, you’re giving up a huge cut of your profits just to have convenient online ordering.
Make sure your online ordering solution is COMMISSION-FREE, only charges a flat monthly price, and you 100% own & control it.
Also make sure you have the ability to cancel any time so you aren’t locked into a bad investment if things don’t work out.