Surprising Finds in Cornell Study on Restaurant Online Ordering

By Jennifer Wiebe

A new Cornell University research study on "The Current State of Online Food Ordering in the U.S. Restaurant Industry" gives new insight into the value of online food ordering for restaurants and their customers.

The study of 372 U.S. restaurants of all sizes that accept takeout orders found that 26.9% offered online ordering. For pizza companies, the percentage was higher, at 48%.

In an interview with the study’s author, professor Sheryl E. Kimes of Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, Nation’s Restaurant News managing editor Alan J. Liddle noted some surprising results. Contradicting claims frequently cited by online ordering service providers, the restaurateurs in the study noticed only slight increases in order size. Instead, they noted a considerable increase in order frequency: "most commonly for takeout orders (42.5%), but also for delivery (28.5%) and catering (14.2%)."

The increase in overall sales through online ordering seemed to come not from higher check averages, but from an overall increase in volume. According to this study, "restaurants using online ordering reported more frequent orders and increases in group and catering orders because of the ease of placing an order."

Interestingly, in the restaurateurs’ comments on the benefits of online ordering, higher check averages and marketing benefits ranked far below other factors such as labor savings and order accuracy.

For Kimes, the most surprising find was the belief of many of the restaurateurs who did not offer online ordering, that customers prefer to talk to someone at the restaurant. In fact, Kimes says, the consumers surveyed in this study, and in an earlier study in this series on online ordering, clearly preferred not to talk with staff at the restaurant. In fact, the primary reason consumers chose online ordering over a phone call was because the web interface gave them more control over the order process.

By the way: About half (49.6%) of the restaurants in the study reported having their online ordering system directly integrated with the POS. It would be interesting to know the impact of that integration on a variety of factors: from order frequency and average check to labor savings and order accuracy.

What’s been your experience?


Posted on Mon, Sep 19, 2011 @ 09:09 AM.
Updated on October 29, 2019 @ 7:10 PM PST.

Posted by Jennifer Wiebe

An occasional contributor to On Point, Jennifer led the marketing team at SpeedLine from 2002 to 2018. She loves books, yoga, playing at the beach, and commenting on bad TV with her family.

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Tags: Online Ordering, Pizza Industry

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