C-stores and restaurants enter a ‘new normal’ of digital ordering: Paytronix Report

Orders coming in via digital channels are holding steady following the lifting of pandemic restrictions.
Diverse of paper containers for takeaway food. Delivery man is carrying

On-premise is how most c-store customers and restaurant patrons order food. However, orders coming in via digital channels have made up major ground, and continue to hold those gains following the lifting of pandemic restrictions.

That is the conclusion of a new report from Paytronix, Order & Delivery Report 2022: Navigating the New Normal.

While in-store sales remain down by nearly half versus pre-pandemic levels, digital channels accounted for one-third of all convenience store and restaurant food orders in March. That is a sustained increase from before the pandemic, when just 12% of orders were done so digitally.

“Guest behaviour quickly and significantly shifted to online ordering, establishing a new ‘normal’ for the proportion of sales generated by off-premises channel,” reads the report. “While on-premises ordering is resuming, it is still far below pre-pandemic levels. In the meantime, digital ordering continues to offer restaurants and c-stores a lifeline, thanks in part to how easy it is to complete a digital order today.”

A new normal has also seen in a change the nature of the digital order.

At the height of the pandemic, delivery was king, as people avoided venturing into physical establishments for fear of catching the COVID-19 virus.

However, takeout has since switched to the majority, accounting for 55% of digital food orders in March, over delivery or curbside pickup. That is up from 35% in January 2020.

But that doesn’t mean c-stores should no longer be making the delivery customer a priority. That is because while both takeout and delivery subtotals increased about 15% in the wake of the pandemic, delivery subtotals have remained about 12.5% higher, finds the report.

In other words, delivery orders can substantially lift a retailer’s bottom line.

Delivery customers are also more generous and frequent tippers. On average last year, they tipped 12.5% of the subtotal, more than double the amount added to takeout orders (5%).

Consumers also tip nearly 73% of the time on a delivery, as opposed to 37% of the time for takeout.

Another eye-opening finding that makes the delivery customer particularly valuable? They are very loyal.

Approximately a third of delivery orders are from guests who order multiple times a month. Conversely, takeout customers tend to be more sporadic, with only about 25% of them ordering multiple times a month.

“Since pickup customers order less frequently, brands should strive to be memorable,” advises the report. “A special experience for pickup customers can do a lot to make a customer feel appreciated.”

Paytronix’s report also includes fascinating results as it relates to online customer ratings.

“Delivery guests leave either very high or very low ratings,” says the report. “It is likely because, while the population of guests who order delivery is more loyal, there is a higher likelihood for order mistakes to occur when delivery is added to the mix.”

Delivery and takeout get about the same scores overall, but in the categories of service and food, delivery orders can be more negatively reviewed if the delivery is slow or an item is missing. The error, the report notes, is compounded by the difficult of correcting a mistake off-premises.

“While there’s no question delivery is operationally difficult, when it goes right, it goes really right,” concludes the report. “These customers are generous and loyal, and it’s worth making changes to your order and delivery process to accommodate them. Because if you don’t, your competitors will.”

And don’t worry too much that you’ve lost a customer after she posts a poor review.

Customers who leave a one-star rating are just as likely to return as those who leave a 2.4 star rating out of five, giving a c-store another opportunity to do right by the customer.

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