What the Restaurant Industry Can Learn from Amazon | Operations

James Shea, director of content strategy at Zuppler, explains why restaurant and foodservice operators should take a hard look at Amazon’s model and how it has honed a user experience around a frictionless transaction.

The restaurant industry can learn a lot from Amazon. The e-commerce platform has been processing online orders since 1994, more than a decade before the GrubHub and Seamless online platforms were created. Since then, Amazon has grown from a small online bookseller to the world’s most valuable retailer.

Amazon has created a user experience around a frictionless transaction. The company strives to move the customer along the sales journey and reduce the risk of a customer not completing the transaction, something the restaurant industry needs to keep in mind. According to a survey, 55% of food and drink orders are never completed after an item is added to a cart. This can hurt a restaurant’s bottom line.

Keep customers at the center

When Jeff Bezos founded Amazon, he always put customers at the center of every decision. He knew that if customers had positive experiences, they would continue to order from Amazon.

Bezos has always kept an open line of communication with customers. He let customers send comments to his personal email address and spent time browsing through the comments. When Bezos identified an issue based on a customer complaint, he wanted it resolved quickly. He forwarded an email with the complaint and only said “?” This meant that an employee had to quickly find an answer to the problem.

Bezos believed in watching the data and tracking the numbers, but he also understood that people were the direct recipients of the product. He wanted to make sure customers were always satisfied with the experience.

Restaurants should put the customer experience at the center when building an online platform. A restaurant must make decisions based on what is best for the customer.

Personalized recommendations

One of Amazon’s best features is recommendation. Amazon uses a customer’s order and search history and makes recommendations. It also associates products, informing a customer that when someone buys a certain item, the person also buys another item. The goal is not only to help the customer shop, but also to entice the person to add more items to the cart.

This technique is rarely used in an online ordering experience for restaurants, but often happens in person. A person can order a steak and the server suggests a particular type of wine. With online shopping, restaurants would have to make suggestions to sell an order, just like Amazon has done for years.

Items are easy to search

The user experience at Amazon is built around search. Amazon’s user interface is not overloaded with frivolous amounts of information. Amazon wants to help the customer easily find items and buy them. Items are organized into different categories, but users can also use a search function to find specific items.

The same is true for a restaurant. The purpose of a restaurant’s website is to sell food. This means it’s easier to find and buy items. Online menus should be searchable and menu items categorized in an easy to understand manner.

Membership program

In 2005, Amazon launched Amazon Prime. For $79 per year, members received free two-day shipping on orders. Over the years, the benefits of Amazon Prime have grown. Members now have access to Amazon’s streaming service and Amazon’s music, but the price has only increased slightly.

Loyalty programs are a big part of the restaurant industry, but membership has historically not been. A membership attracts and rewards a restaurant’s most loyal customers. A customer gains benefits by becoming a member and turns into a devoted customer.

Frictionless control

Amazon makes ordering simple and frictionless. The system stores a person’s credit card and mailing address. A customer clicks on the item, adds it to the cart, and within a few clicks orders are processed. A regular customer does not need to enter credit card and contact information.

Restaurants can make the checkout process easier. Many restaurants do not store credit cards and customer contact information, and the customer must re-enter the information. This creates more friction and increases the chances of the customer abandoning the order.

Easy return policy

Amazon wants to make sure every customer is happy with their order. If there is a problem, the company makes returning an item effortless. Amazon works with Kohl’s and other retailers, so customers don’t have to pay shipping. Amazon does not ask questions about returns. He finds a way to satisfy the customer.

In a restaurant, takeout and delivery orders are more often incorrect than in-person orders. A restaurant has to work extremely hard to correct the problem and make the customer happy. The restaurant cannot make excuses about the problem, but must work hard to solve the problem, just like Amazon.

James Shea is Director of Content Strategy at Zuppler


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Cecil N. Messick