For restaurateurs wanting to streamline their business, the World Wide Web is offering a whole new world of efficiency. By Dominique Antarakis
Up-to-date stock lists. Web-only deals. 24/7 access. Back-end integration. These are just a few of the advantages for restaurant managers, chefs and owners of ordering consumables and other goods online. Harbottle ALM has had their web-ordering system, www.harbottleonpremise.com.au, up and running for four years. Michael Robson, ALM national sales & services manager, says while more than half of all orders are still received over the phone or by fax, around 27 per cent of orders come from the web—a growth of 13 per cent in the past 12 months.
In spite of this rapid growth, this is still quite low compared to other industries, according to Robson. “Fifteen years ago, when I was working in grocery, it was all electronic. The same with pharmacy—97 per cent of orders were done electronically,” he says. “Contrast this with the hospitality industry, where electronic ordering accounts for substantially less than half of our orders. Restaurant owners are still doing it the old-fashioned way.”
He believes it’s the comfort factor of sending a fax or ordering over the phone—it’s what people are used to. But with more customers coming online, that side of the business can only grow. The benefits, Robson says, are obvious. “For example, we offer a large number of deals which are only available via the website. Customers can opt to receive an electronic or printable invoice, depending on their needs,” he says. “The pricing and stock status is up-to-date, so you know that when you order something it will be delivered.”
Electronic invoices can be viewed and downloaded for updating stock quantities and costs into your POS system—compatible systems include Focus Professional, HIS, Task Manager and POS Magic.
Jim Buncuga, purchasing manager, Wildfire Bar & Grill and Ocean Room in Sydney, is a convert. He says if ordering online is an option, he goes for it every time. He uses Harbottle for liquor, Salgo (www.salgo.com.au) for consumables and Corporate Express (www.netxpress.biz) for stationary. “I do a liquor order with Harbottle every day,” he says.
Buncuga claims he’s never encountered any technical glitches, and finds the site easy to use and navigate. “And if I double order or make any kind of mistake, I know I can ring them and they’ll sort it out for me.”
He considers the best aspect of online ordering is that you can tell straight away if something’s out of stock, which isn’t usually the case when you order by fax or through a salesperson. “The only thing the Harbottle site doesn’t have, which would be good, is some kind of notification when the product is back in stock,” Buncuga says. “But there’s nothing else lacking as far as I’m concerned.”
It’s likely that Robson is already looking into this feature, as he maintains the site is updated with new features often. He says the convenience of ordering any time of day or night is an obvious drawcard for restaurateurs, who are often too busy during normal ‘business hours’ to sit on the phone ordering stock. “We get orders coming in at 2 and 3 am, or on Saturdays and Sundays,” he says. “And because the stock is updated in real-time, unless someone orders the last of something right before you process your order, the stock level shown should be spot-on.”
So far, their seafood, meat, and fruit and vegetable suppliers don’t offer online ordering, in which case Buncuga uses the relatively old-fashioned option of faxing an order through.
A number of food suppliers are using the web to showcase products, but do not offer online ordering. Nicholas Seafood (www.nicholasseafood.com.au), Christie’s Seafoods (http://christiesseafoods.com) and Steve Costi Seasfoods (www.stevecostiseafoods.com.au) provide a varying degree of detail about products and availability, but you’ll need to ring—or visit their premises—to place an order.
According to Nicholas Seafood owner Nicholas Georgouras, keeping a website up-to-date with their product and pricing would be “a full-time job.”
“All our NSW fish we buy on auction, which means the price fluctuates daily—even hourly,” he says. “Customers can ring and ask for our specials, and we’re so central here at the Fish Markets, it’s better for them to come down and see what we’ve got. We can generally predict about a day ahead, but this business is so weather dependent we can’t guarantee availability.”
Salgo, which supplies china, glassware, cookware and cleaning products to the foodservice industry, has a clean and user-friendly site. All products available for purchase online come with a basic description (colour, pattern style, diameter and carton quantity for crockery) and an accompanying photo.
Corporate Express offers Internet ordering via a purpose-built order management site, NetXpress, or direct system-to-system integration for large orders. According to the site, online ordering simplifies the process, reducing costs by eliminating errors, managing back orders and saving time.
“More and more suppliers are coming online,” says Buncuga. “I think it’s great.” ≤