Online ordering portals like hungryhouse.co.uk are increasingly important for restaurants, as Chuk Ikeh from Tandoori Magazine finds out.
As technology continues to advance at an astonishing rate - affecting many aspects of consumer lifestyle - various industries and businesses are racking their entrepreneurial brains and flexing their financial muscles to find effective and relevant ways to keep up and, more importantly, keep their customers happy. It is something that has not gone unnoticed by restaurateurs, including those in the Indian sector.
Andy Varma, of Varma restaurant on the King’s Road in London, has recognised the significance and the potential of the online community to the success of his business, particularly with regards to his takeaway service. The result of this foresight has seen Varma’s delivery service Vamaji go from success to success.
“It was extremely important to set up an online service” says Varma, “because people are becoming savvier when it comes to IT and the convenience of online ordering. We have identified that people are engrossed in social networking and want to eat something, too, so we’ve made it very easy for them”.
Shane Lake, co-founder of online takeaway ordering portal hungryhouse.co.uk – which featured as one of the pitches on series five of popular TV show Dragons' Den and serves around 120 Indian partner restaurants - agrees that convenience is one of the driving forces of the success of online ordering. “We already knew that the Internet was big, but there wasn’t really anything that provided a service where you need the order to be dispatched on the same day.”
Indeed, for both companies, the introduction of an online ordering service seems to be proving a very good idea.
“Although the preferred method of ordering is still the personal method, online ordering has increased from 2% of all takeaway orders to 15%, which I think is very good,” states Varma.
Lake concurs, saying: “Right now, 20% of takeaway customers prefer to order online instead of using traditional methods. Only about 5% of takeaways are taking online orders right now – so those that are, are cleaning up!”
Though traditional methods of takeaway ordering, such as telephone and personal visits to restaurants, have not completely been ousted by the strong online arm, people are increasingly choosing PC’s and laptops as their preferred tools for fast meals.
“Many young people prefer ordering online simply because they find it easier and more relaxing to sit in front of their computer than to search through the junk mail and make an expensive telephone call. Ease and relaxation fits perfectly with why they are getting a takeaway in the first place, and that’s why online ordering is becoming so popular,” suggests Lake.
However, the added efficiency and flexibility that an online option gives to a restaurant’s takeaway service does come at some cost.
“It was quite expensive,” explains Varma, “It cost about £10,000 to set up our interactive website because we wanted to make it as user friendly as possible.”
It is no wonder that portals such as hungryhouse.co.uk are proving more and more popular among restaurants wishing to add that online element to their functions.
Lake says “Having your own website is expensive; the typical set up costs would be in the region of £2000, but there are all sorts of added costs such as EPOS systems, hosting, internet connections and training staff. That’s before you’ve thought of paying companies like Google for your internet advertising.
“Partners of “hungryhouse.co.uk” don’t need to worry about any of those costs. We don’t charge anything for set-up, or to be listed on the website - so straight away you save something like £2000."
Monetary issues aside, it is a common consensus that online ordering will become an integral component of takeaway services in restaurants, something that hungryhouse.co.uk and Vamaji both foresee and plan to capitalize on.
“There are numerous other enhancements that we have planned for our service. Safe to say that technology will continue to play an increased role within the restaurant industry, the end result making our restaurant customers lives easier,” adds Lake.
Varma concludes: “Online commerce is the way the world is going and this is the best way to do it.”