Restaurants would be wise to keep up with the surge of digital-ordering platforms.

In the clash of competitors battling for leadership of the online-ordering frenzy, foodies and lunch lovers are waiting in anticipation over who will come out victorious. The trend has no shortage of mediums providing options to order food online or via mobile devices and have it ready for delivery or take out. This past year saw payments through online-ordering services at over 1 billion annualized, and there are no signs of the trend slowing down in 2016. Platforms like GrubHub, UberEats are among the most highlighted but like a good meal—there is always room for more.

The remaining challenge is how independent restaurants can leverage this trend to compete with major chains who have the capacity and capital to invest heavily on online systems. By taking advantage of specialized tools that used to be utilized by larger brands, businesses of any size can stay ahead of the curve by enabling platforms that help increase expansion in an industry modernized by the advancements of technology.

Below are the four key objectives any restaurant must have in order to take advantage of this trend and grow their business online.

Centralize Cross Platform Ordering

Relying solely on dial-to-order is the current equivalent of utilizing fax machines as the sole means of receiving a document—it’s outdated. Modernized tools now entice owners to securely and effortlessly take their business to the digital frontier—receiving orders via website, mobile app, SMS or a range of other services. This avenue of ordering is not simply about cutting costs or time for owners, but increasing the opportunity to turn first time users into repeat customers. The key factor is making sure that all of these channels funnel in to one central location. Fragmented channels means more touch points for customers, but a centralized place to handle orders means that all that new business will be handled at the highest level.

Integrate Social Channels

Social channels are among the most effective and efficient avenues to reaching your customers, and while this is not exactly earth-shattering news, most restaurants are still utilizing these platforms in the most basic way. It is no longer enough to put out a random message on Twitter or Facebook that you are having a deal or discount. Implementing a digital solution for the online consumer base opens an array of channels for growth. Call-to-actions leading from Facebook to landing pages, daily updated menus that may be edited on the fly and ordering options are features that revitalize the standard approach to consumer engagement. Integrating business social mediums with a push for consumers to connect via online platform enables a business to easily see the strategic advantages of a tech-forward approach.

Embrace Mobile

Long gone are the days when you can consider your mobile readiness an afterthought. The website you build must be optimized for mobile, in terms of functionality like ordering and user experience. Traffic is increasingly being generated on mobile devices and if you are not optimized, you will miss out on many opportunities. Yet, mobile readiness is about more than just client-facing services, it is about enabling you to make decisions on the fly even when you are not at the restaurant or in front of a computer. Integrated web platforms will enable you to make changes, handle orders and engage with customers from a single location, dramatically improving your ability to stay ahead of the game.

Customize and Adapt

Independent restaurants heavily rely on the strength of their brand and the image they present. It is absolutely critical that every touch point with customers reflect the unique personality that underpins your establishment. Take the time to ensure that your website accurately reflects who you are and the unique offering you are bringing to the table (pun intended).

Yet, for all of the values of a consistent brand, it is equally important that you be able to adapt as needed. Whether it is changing your menu because of the season, adding thematic elements around a holiday or even updating components that you feel have become a bit stale—staying in control of your web presence is a critical element. Always ensure that you stay on top of the web development process and are well versed in the platform so you can make changes as necessary.

Yoav Amit co-founded OpenRest in 2010, seeking to bring modern solutions to restaurants worldwide, including online-ordering website and applications. After OpenRest's acquisition by in late 2014, Yoav joined Wix to co-head the Wix Restaurants product unit. Yoav has a B.Sc. in Computer Science, and an MBA from Tel Aviv University.

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