Food Delivery & Pick-Up Orders: Seven Tips for Driving Impulse Sales Online

March 7, 2018

Product pairings and value offers entice mobile consumers to make impulsive buys when ordering food online.

Impulse sales have long been an important revenue source in foodservice, but online and mobile ordering present new challenges for operators seeking to drive these incremental purchases for food delivery and pick-up orders.

In the brick-and-mortar foodservice environment, operators have a plethora of tools at their disposal to upsell customers — from tabletop tents to sales contests for servers. But neither tables nor wait staff exist in cyberspace, forcing operators to deploy some new strategies to encourage purchases of specific items for food delivery orders.

Growth opportunities

In some segments, such as pizza, sales through digital channels have escalated rapidly. Both Papa John’s and Domino’s now conduct more than half of their sales through digital channels, according to a recent presentation by Atlanta-based payment-technology firm First Data Corp.

Mobile ordering in particular has been on a steep growth curve in foodservice, with Starbucks tallying 9 percent of orders through its mobile app, and McDonald’s rolling out mobile ordering to 20,000 locations by the end of last year.

“Future projections are massive: As much as 10 percent of all fast-food sales may be made via mobile in just a few years,” says Glenn Fodor, head of strategic intelligence at First Data.

Upselling online

Operators shouldn’t be afraid to upsell their online customers and mobile consumers, especially on food delivery orders, says Chris Webb, chief executive of Los Angles-based ChowNow, which supplies online ordering systems for the restaurant industry.

“Customers paying for meal delivery will always be more likely to add to a purchase to get the most bang for their buck,” he says. “If they’re paying a delivery fee, they might as well buy more and get a bigger delivery for that same delivery price.”


1. Combine main items with sides and/or desserts to create unique online offers. “Consumers love a deal, and this behavior extends to digital ordering too,” says Thomas Kneubuehl, executive vice president, North America at London-based Preoday, which provides mobile and online ordering technology. “If you offer two meals or items in different sizes, at slightly different prices, customers will often choose the larger because they feel they’re getting more value for their money. It’s a classic fast-food technique, and it works with online menus too.”

2. Keep the list of suggested add-on items small, suggests Webb of ChowNow. “The quality-over-quantity rule applies here,” he says. For example, suggesting one or two well-paired desserts which complete a meal will be more effective than offering a list of 10 different items. It’s also important that the suggested items pair well with the main dish, he adds.

3. Pay attention to product positioning, says Irina Norris, product manager at Upserve, a Providence, R.I.-based technology firm which provides online ordering and other solutions for the restaurant industry. She suggests posting dessert items in the online menu alongside beverages which could pair well with them, such as teas, coffees and milk, or even next to other complementary desserts. “A brownie sounds great, but with mocha ice cream it sounds even better,” says Norris.

4. Use high-quality photography. “Images are crucial, so if there’s something you particularly want to sell — a new snack range, for example — make sure it looks appetizing,” says Kneubuehl of Preoday. He cites menu designer Gregg Rapp as saying that attractive images associated with food items can increase sales by 30 percent. “Don’t skimp on the photography,” says Kneubuehl. “Online you can showcase high-quality photos easily, so make sure the images are worth a thousand words.”

5. Leverage the product descriptions to help close the sale, says Norris of Upserve. “Spend some time on writing mouthwatering descriptions of your desserts,” she says. Also pay attention to fonts and colors in the menu descriptions, says Kneubuehl of Preoday. “Make sure that the fonts you use to highlight an offer are bold, and be careful what color you use,” he says. “Red is typically attention-grabbing, so why not use it to promote this week’s special dessert?” Other colors to consider include green, which suggests freshness, while orange stimulates the appetite and helps create an aura of healthfulness, he says.

6. Use limited-time offers as optional add-ons. “Special/seasonal options and add-ons provide a sense of urgency for the customer to try it out,” says Webb of ChowNow.

7. Call attention to national dessert days using social media. “There’s nearly a day for every dessert you can imagine,” says Norris of Upserve. “The most important part is to link to your online ordering web page as a call to action.”