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Many restaurants have a philosophy about using multi-restaurant online ordering portals – they grit their teeth and do it.

Most of the time restaurants allow themselves to be listed on portal sites to get any exposure they may bring.  According to a Cornell Hospitality Report, though, “nearly half of the consumers on multiple-restaurant sites (47.1%) said they clicked over to the restaurant’s own website to order their food” once they found a restaurant they liked. That’s good news for restaurants using NetWaiter – it can, not only save the restaurant a lot of money, but also allow the restaurant to interact with their customers directly, rather than be ‘commoditized’ on a restaurant portal.

The bottom line – portals can charge some outrageous fees.  According to a recent piece in Gourmet Marketing, a well-known portal site they investigated “keeps their contract terms behind close(d) doors, and the rates vary by restaurant. This incredible lack of transparency shortchange(s) restaurants… It gives restaurant owners little room to compare in competitive markets, especially as many times restaurant owners are bound by a non-disclosure agreement.”

The article notes that fees can range from 11% to as high as 20%.  In addition, restaurants don’t directly receive money from incoming orders – they have to wait for the portal to send them a check (minus their fees).  Not only that, as one restaurant owner admits, portal sites also use a restaurant’s customer list against you.  “I never see a report of who ordered through the portal,” he said.  “I’m sure they are using my customer information to market themselves to other restaurants.”

The message to restaurant owners is simple – if you use portal sites to help promote your restaurant, you should be very aggressive about converting those customers to your own online ordering site.  Rather than pay huge fees to a portal, customers that order directly from your site will allow you to extend your brand identity to them, receive payments directly, and capture your own customer information.

To capture those 47.1% of visitors that would rather order directly from your website, you need to make sure your ‘Order Online’ link is prominently displayed on your homepage.  Additionally, you should inform guests that have already used a portal to order from your restaurant that you have your own online ordering system, guaranteed to be up-to-date with the latest offers and menu information.  Including a flyer with each portal order or offering a first-time discount for using your system are good ways to make sure their next order will be “NetWaitered” from your restaurant.

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