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Embracing Online Ordering

How can online ordering help transform a catering business? In a recent International Caterers Association (ICA) webinar, caterers discussed how online meal ordering has helped them weather the pandemic and how it can be an important part of revitalization plans moving forward. 

Why embrace online ordering?

In 2020, COVID-19 prompted a 25% increase in food delivery ( via ordering apps, with 60% of U.S. consumers ordering delivery or takeout at least weekly and over 30% ordering more than once a week (Source: eMarketer.) It is a lucrative market (a million-dollar industry, to be exact) that could help caterers get back on their feet and grow their businesses as our industry continues to weather the road to recovery. In fact, some caterers have leveraged this for their corporate clients as well, leading to an even greater impact on the bottom line.

Doing things out of the ordinary can seem uncomfortable. But it is those companies that try new things and take risks that will see the return! Those caterers who decided to implement online ordering capabilities for their company have reaped the rewards, and their testimonials speak for themselves. 

Both hot and cold options should be included on your online ordering menu, based on what will travel best. Photo courtesy 12th Street Catering

Abbey Duke, Sugarsnap Catering, noted that if her team did not adopt online ordering, they would have lost sales to big chains like Panera, who make online catering orders easy for businesses, sports teams, families, etc. 

Similarly, Jim Lenz, Two Unique Catering, noted that during the pandemic, staffing became a major issue. He shared that he was so short on time trying to wear all his different hats, that allowing customers to order online made it faster, easier, and more convenient for all parties. 

These scenarios are sure to sound familiar to many catering businesses who are navigating this unique time!

What to consider

Now, if online ordering is something you may want to explore, there are elements you must consider for success. The following are the top four considerations.

When incorporating online ordering, it’s important to allow for multiple menu choices. 

Cost. Obviously, cost is a big consideration when implementing anything new, but especially now with business merely trickling in. Ask about monthly fees, setup costs, whether there is a contract where you are financially obligated for a specific duration of time, and how time-intensive and hands-on the online ordering setup will be. Remember that time is money as well!

Ease of use. As with any new system, you want to make sure it is easy to use for both you and (especially) your customer! Is it mobile-friendly? Is it easy to understand? Is the process self-explanatory? Can you edit your offerings by yourself without spending hours figuring it out daily?

Customization features. No caterer offers the same menu, so your online ordering system must be easily customizable! You want to ensure you can add features like food descriptions and images, calorie counts, dietary information, pickup and delivery fees, hours, minimums—all the things you would have on a standard catering menu or contract!

Software integration. This is a big one that many caterers do not consider. You want your online ordering system to be able to integrate with your current sales and operations software tools. The last thing you want to do is add more manual tasks in order to streamline. There is simply too much room for error when your systems do not talk to each other!

If you are in search of a way to gain more revenue and streamline business operations without heavy staffing requirements, an online ordering partner could be your perfect solution! 

SugarSnap Catering and Two Unique Catering are proud members of the ICA. For more information, visit

International Caterers Association

For motivated caterers, International Caterers Association is a resource that provides Education, encourages peer to peer Relationships and Inspires creativity while embracing all segments of the catering industry. For more information, visit