This threat to restaurants keeps coming back.

A new study by the NPD Group, as reported in FastCasual.com and Supermarket News, predicts that within the next decade the market for prepared food and ready-to eat meals will increase more than 10 percent, compared to a 4% increase for commercial foodservice.

Supermarkets, convenience stories and even drug stores will be taking a bigger chuck of the traditional restaurant business.

Clearly these are restaurant customers who are interested in convenience. The key to not losing business share is to be more convenient. Online ordering can be a valuable ingredient in your marketing toolbox to reach these customers.

Some of the benefits of online ordering over ready-to-eat meals at retail outlets:

Selection: Ready-to-eat meals rely on a limited selection to appeal to all customers. Online ordering allows your customers to tailor their meal  from your menu.

Freshness: Ready to eat meals are typically prepared days in advance. Even hot food in the supermarket deli has been on display for hours, and picked over. Restaurant meals are fresh and cooked to order.

Time: A meal that has been ordered online is ready to go. Customers only need to park, walk into the restaurant and walk out of with their purchase. A ready-to-eat meal means negotiating a crowded supermarket parking lot, finding out what selection is and is not available, standing in the check-out line and then getting out of the parking lot.

Online ordering is the boost you need in the ever-competitive food service industry.

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