Restaurateurs sometimes ask us if Shopify is a good bet as an online ordering platform for their restaurants. At UEAT, we pride ourselves on being open, honest, and transparent with our customers. Here’s our take on why Shopify may not be right for your restaurant.
Shopify: An important tool for e-commerce businesses
With the e-commerce boom showing no signs of slowing down (even more so since the global pandemic!), Shopify has been an essential solution for companies, whether large or small, that are looking to sell their products online.
Founded in 2006, Shopify has become a complement—and even an alternative—to Amazon and other online marketplaces. The reason? Businesses looking to boost online sales are able to set up their own branded digital storefront as well as keep invaluable customer data for future marketing purposes. In addition, companies didn’t have to pay high seller fees, which are like the commissions restaurateurs have to pay to third-party delivery apps, thanks to Shopify’s direct-to-consumer model.
Shopify does promote the fact that its platform is an easy and affordable DIY solution for restaurants to sell their meals and other menu items online. However, there are several caveats to Shopify for restaurants. It is important to be aware of them before you take the leap.
The limitations of Shopify for restaurants looking for market growth
To determine if you should choose Shopify for your restaurant, here are some questions you need to answer.
1. Do you have enough time?
As a restaurateur, you above everybody knows that time is money. Without preaching to the choir, UEAT understands that your day-to-day is a smorgasbord of keeping operations running smoothly, pumping out meals, and dealing with the stress of peak periods. That’s not to mention managing employees, a mind-boggling labor shortage, customer satisfaction, and a million other things to keep your margins in check.
In other words, what restaurateur, no matter how big or small, has that much time for tech? Whether you are a tech ninja or balk at the very thought of handing a DIY solution, you should be aware that while Shopify touts its easy-peasy ease of use, setting up your online ordering can take a lot of time.
Outsourcing Shopify configurations and maintenance to IT professionals can be very costly and take extra time, depending on their volume of work. Hiring a whiz kid may seem like an affordable option; however, you need to ensure that they fully understand the security aspects of Shopify payment processing as well as other aspects that may impact your accounting, customer data, etc. Finally, if you do have an in-house IT team, they may have a lot of other priorities to deal with for your restaurant franchises, for example, than to spend time regularly helping you with your Shopify account.
2. Apps, apps, and more apps
An offshoot to all the technical aspects of developing a robust Shopify online ordering platform for restaurants is the tons of free and paid apps that you can choose from to add to your basic account, including store pickup and delivery apps, Shopify POS, trust badges, live chats, Shopify Payments, and many others. You even need a Shopify app to port your online ordering into a native mobile app.
You can probably see us coming. Getting all those apps to work together with your basic Shopify “storefront” takes time and knowledge about the ins and outs of how each app works. And each of those add-on apps costs a monthly fee, which means Shopify can easily become more expensive than a self-hosted online ordering platform.
Shopify does integrate with various POS systems and payment gateways; nevertheless, it may not integrate with your restaurant’s POS and payment gateway. If you have more than one location, you need to choose Shopify POS Pro, which charges a monthly fee per site. In addition, Shopify currently does not work with third-party delivery apps, such as UberEats, DoorDash, or local delivery providers. All of these are important factors to consider for the efficiency of your front-of-the-house operations.
3. Content management and customizability
Shopify offers some great features for very small businesses starting out, especially if they offer standard products. If you want to continuously add new menu items, additional pictures, and promotions, Shopify functionalities tend to be limited. If you are looking to customize some aspects of your account, you may need to call in the expertise of Shopify specialists.
Shopify also does not offer any means to non-intrusively upsell items based on customer behaviour. Did you know that some online ordering platforms offer a high-performance upselling module to boost average ticket sizes by over 20%? That can make a huge difference on your bottom line each month. Shopify, as of this writing, does not offer a tailored app for restaurants to upsell their menu items.
Finally, if you want advanced reporting to monitor customer trends and streamline your operations, be prepared to shell out for the most expensive Shopify experts out there.
4. How much support do you need?
Shopify offers support for its customers through a Help Center, discussion forums, courses, video tutorials, and more.
However, if you need up-to-the-minute support when something goes wrong with your online ordering platform, you may—or may not—have access to email and telephone support. It all depends on the Shopify plan you have chosen. For a busy restaurant operator such as yourself, if something goes wrong with an online order and you need help, you may not be able to remedy the situation immediately.
If you are starting out in the restaurant business with only one restaurant location and limited sales volume, Shopify may be a viable solution. However, for fast-growing restaurants looking to expand their market growth, it is important to do the math and weigh the pros and cons of using a generic e-commerce platform, like Shopify, or investing in an online ordering platform designed specifically for restaurateurs.