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Digital is for all restaurants

More operators are remaining relevant by embracing digital improvements.

Sponsored by OLO

While today’s disparate demands are pulling restaurants in many different directions, most restaurant operators know they need to move toward digital transformation to remain relevant. And yet, the majority of operators are still putting digital improvements on the back burner.

According to Salesforce, 57% of consumers find it “absolutely critical or very important” that the companies they buy from be innovative, while the NDP Group reports that in 2022 most restaurants are still only moderately digital, generating just 15% of sales through digital channels.

While the reasons for digital delay are understandable, the consequences for brands that hesitate are significant—consumers' digital needs are going unmet, and dollars are being left on the proverbial table. But no matter the segment, size, or budget, advancing toward digital transformation isn’t as forbidding as some operators think.

Intensifying digital innovation

Brands of all sizes and digital stages along their journey are leaning into digital solutions to enhance their operations and drive profitable growth.

WaBa Grill, a healthy rice bowl chain founded in 2006, is an iconic brand out West that is rapidly expanding across the country. The fast-casual chain is growing, in large part, due to its investments in digital innovation.

After switching from a legacy processor to Olo Pay in 2019, WaBa Grill experienced a 31% decrease in fraud, $46,000 reduction in fraud prevention expenses and dispute fees, as well as an improved authorization rate that resulted in more than $100,000 in increased revenue.

“We knew we needed a restaurant-specific platform to process digital payments and combat fraud all in one place. We found Olo Pay,” said WaBa Director of Technology Adam Kinsinger. “It’s fully integrated with our tech stack, easy to set up, and we finally have a strong relationship with our payment provider.”

Additionally, within months of launching Olo Pay, WaBa’s time to onboard a restaurant plummeted from weeks to just days. Today, there are more than 200 WaBa locations.

In 2021 CKE Restaurants, which operates 3,800 franchised or company-operated restaurants in 44 states and 43 foreign countries and U.S. territories, was already a fast-casual force to be reckoned with. But leadership knew to stay relevant—and competitive—it would have to step up its investment in tech.

“Other QSR brands were so much further along in their digital evolution, and Olo allowed us to get caught up quickly without having to build it all from scratch,” said CKE Chief Technology Officer Phil Crawford.

Less than two years after deploying Olo’s Ordering, Dispatch, and Rails modules, CKE has seen a 5% increase in digital transactions and a 20% increase in average check size.

“As we look toward the future and define our roadmap, we can count on Olo,” said Crawford. “They already have the native solutions ready to deploy and/or integrations to various hospitality technology providers to shape the future of what’s possible for restaurants.”

Similarly, Sweetgreen, a fast-casual salad and bowl concept founded in 2007, began heavily investing in its tech in 2021 when the company went public. Since partnering with Olo for online ordering, the brand has seen rapid growth in digital business—accounting for 67% of its 2021 total revenue.

Getting started

Whether your operation is starting from scratch or has some pieces in place, it’s best to begin by taking a close look at your business. What could be performing better? Where are the gaps? Where could digital technology help improve things? Don’t forget to involve all levels of the operation—from accounting to purchasing to marketing.

Most importantly, don’t panic. It can be overwhelming to determine what to do, and then what to do first. But you don’t have to embark on this journey alone. Instead, seek out a qualified tech-stack solutions partner that can help you understand where you are, and where you need to go, and then recommend the right technology to reach your individual operations goals.

>Ready to lean into the digital transformation? Download A Buyer's Guide to Future-Proofing Your Restaurant Tech Stack to get a leg up on the race to 100% digital.