Restaurants Turn to Online Ordering, Social Media to Boost Sales

Where was the last time you spoke on a phone to place your to-go order? 2015 maybe? In recent years, online ordering has exploded in popularity as more and more restaurants allow their customers to bypass lines or not leave their house altogether when they find themselves succumbing to hunger pangs.

As technology improves, the cutthroat food industry is becoming ever more competitive. With platforms like Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc getting into the game, getting food from restaurant to table is becoming a race to make the ordering process easy and fun more than anything else.

Who's Playing the Technology Game?

No longer is it required to have your wallet on you when you want to stop for a bite to eat. Last month, TGI Fridays jumped on the online bandwagon and began allowing their customers to pay their bills using their Amazon accounts.

TGI Fridays, in particular, is coming into the competition with added pressures. This 52-year-old chain is facing a decline in interest for casual-dining by the U.S. customer base.

As they are backed by the private equity firm Sentinel Capital Partners, the restaurant has set its sights on partnerships with both Facebook and Amazon to drive online orders and keep patrons loyal.

Pizza chains too are getting innovative. Firms like Pizza Hut and Dominos are employing chatbots on Twitter and Facebook to try and determine if customers want to order one of their favorites or simply see the latest deals. 

Papa John's International Inc., who has an incredibly successful online ordering system, even decided to declare itself an "e-commerce company" this month after delivering surprisingly strong results. Digital orders now make up over 60 percent of Papa John's sales.

Domino's too began accepting orders over Facebook in June. Customers responded enthusiastically to this new ordering option.

Not Everyone is Ready to Make the Switch

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However, not every restaurateur is ready to make digital inroads. McDonald's Corp., for example, is the world's biggest restaurant chain. However, it has only begun shown interest in digital ordering insofar as to partner with Uber Technologies Inc. to build out its "McDelivery" program

The UberEats app runs the program where hungry people pay a booking fee of around $5 for an Uber driver to deliver the much-anticipated burger and fries.

Although the future of food sounds promising, mobile ordering does not come without its headaches. Starbucks, for instance, has an order ahead app which has become so popular that it's creating new traffic patterns in Starbuck's stores. Now customers are bunching up at the pickup area rather than in front of the cash registers. The coffee conglomeration has been working to fix the problem this year.

It remains to be seen how online ordering affects the food industry at large.

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