People like to remember 2020 as the year that brought us covid and put us all in lockdown—the year of masks, hand sanitisers and social distancing. By the way, let’s not even go into the race for a vaccine and the politics of it.
But one thing we often overlook from the “covid year” is that while all of the lockdown policies were being implemented to keep us safe and prevent as many people from dying as possible, many folks’ creative and entrepreneurial energy awakened.
From comic skits to content creators, web designers to digital marketers, many people took to learning new skills or repurposing current skills to allow them to function in a world that would be subsequently called the “new normal”.
Of course, while all that was happening, we still needed to eat, and most restaurants were shut down, so our choices were limited. Imagine the horror for those who don’t know how to cook or don’t enjoy cooking. Well, cue the rise of online food vendors. Brands like Beecan Foods would bear us witness! They sold in retail and also offered wholesale options. Business boomed!
The Art of Online Food Vending
Like most small businesses that want to go online, social media is the first port of call! Food vendors would create a social media page on their chosen platform and begin to showcase their food. With an excellent visual presentation, it took little to get onlookers hungry to place an order.
Seeing how this formula worked, it took only a short time for online food vendors to invest resources to enhance their online meal presentation. From top-range mobile devices with great cameras to ring lights and a solid microphone garnished with good photography and video editing skills. These days, you can self-teach many things!
The better your presentation skills, the higher your chances of attracting orders.
Everyone is welcome online
The good thing about the internet is that, at least till now, everyone is welcome. With a social media account that follows the host platform’s terms and conditions, you can access resources that can help scale your business. One of those is the ability to place ads and reach an audience wider than your original followers.
Like every business that wants to grow, online food vendors are not limited. They offer great deals and promote and push their products to every eye they can reach that would like to buy. The numbers speak for themselves too! On Instagram, Lagos-based, western Nigerian cuisine specialist, Ewaagonyin, has over 24 thousand followers and averages thousands of engagements per month.
Take it overseas! Berlin Naija Food, on Instagram too, has become a household name among Nigerians and lovers of Nigerian cuisines in Berlin, Germany. Per week, hundreds of orders are shipped from their kitchen to the stomach of cravers across the city!
Unlike physical real estate, which can be limiting, everyone is welcome online. And food vendors know this well!
However, for Online Food Vendors, where's the scale?
Quoting afro-beat god, Fela, “e no finish!”
For most online food vendors, it feels safe to believe they’ve completed all levels of the game. Finito! Just keep creating new, terrific recipes, present them in a tantalising visual and watch the order flow through WhatsApp. This begs the big question: what’s the roadmap to scale? As the business grows, the average online food vendor begins confronting the following operational hiccup.
- Overwhelming orders across WhatsApp and Instagram DMs with the possibility of losing track
- No border between contact for inquiries and order placement. Thus, the inability to prioritise communication
- No clear way to communicate available vs out-of-stock meals
- Lack of structured data to provide business intelligence on order & sales pattern
- No proper order management system
- Poor user experience. Users have to scroll through several posts to find what they are looking for
Let’s cut to the chase!
There are two possible paths an online food vendor would follow. Play small and manage a few tens of orders a month or continue to push to grow your orders into large volumes. For the latter, your online food vending business needs a smart menu.
You ask, why?
Structure your meals from social media posts to a smart menu: not everyone who wants to engage with your brand would follow it. And guess what? They are the majority! This means that most of your potential sales are in non-followers’ wallets. As with social media, it can be challenging to structure your cuisines to make them easily searchable for users. However, with a smart menu, you can structure your meals and drinks by category while including segment filters and search bars to enable users to go straight to the point.
Transition from sales via DMs to order management: your customers reach you via DM. What’s the problem with that? Now, for a few orders now and then, it may look like no problem, but as that number climbs, it becomes a hassle. For example, let’s say you have a support staff. How do you keep track of who is replying to whom and when? Besides the capability of structuring your meals via a smart menu, the platform also allows your customers to order directly from it. Thus, moving sales from a haphazard DM approach to seamless order management.
Keep your business in control of the narrative: imagine a particular cuisine is out of stock. As usual, your social media page limits your ability to make this information explicit. Customer one buzzes you to place an order. You tell them the meal is out of stock. Customer two texts a moment later. You repeat the same feedback. We can play a game to see how many more customer inquiries you have before you start getting frustrated from replying to the same thing over again. You could quickly solve this with an out-of-stock tag on your smart menu. Even more, the hero page of your smart menu can be used to drive dedicated messages and put your business in control.
Introduce intelligence to your business through data & consumer insight: the beautiful thing about a smart menu is that while all these customer interactions happen on the front end, data is collected at the back end. How many orders for cuisine X? What is out-of-stock? How many clicks on Y product? You can build funnels to help you mine the required data. The more data you have, the richer the insight you gain for your business and the more intelligent your operations become.
Need to take the next step in scaling your online food vending business?
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