Finding The Best eCommerce Solution for Your Catering Business

WooCommerce POS - Point of Sale IntegrationIf you’re looking to bring your catering business online, and provide ordering through your website, there are many options to consider for the best solution. 3PRIME recently started working with two local caterers to help them offer their food and platters to customers. We researched the latest technologies and came across popular platforms such as WooCommerce, Magento, Shopify, and BigCommerce.

There are some basic requirements when deciding to take catering orders online. Some are universal for almost any website and some are unique to websites taking food orders.

  1. Responsive Design – you want the interface of your food ordering system to be properly viewable on all devices from desktops, to laptops, tablets and mobile phones. Visitors get the best user experience possible no matter how they view your website.
  2. Payment Collection – you must have a payment gateway system in place to process payments. This usually involves a third party such as Authorize.net which handles getting money from your customer and making deposits into your bank account.
  3. Payment Security – when accepting credit card payments online, you must provide a secure environment for your website visitors. Using an SSL certificate will encrypt sensitive information entered and will let the payment process proceed without interference or worry that your credit card number will be compromised.
  4. Reordering – a website offering the ability to order food should have a feature in place to collect not only collect the customer’s information, but details of their order. This will allow the customer a very easy way to reorder their previous selections simply by clicking a button after they log into their account.
  5. Per Person Ordering – One other requirement we had for both projects was to find an existing solution to allow “per person” ordering, where the website visitor is able to customize food items when ordering single products or a platter.

Panera Bread has an online order system for their catering service that works in a similar way to what we are looking for – a way to further customize the ordering process that is easy for the website visitor to use. Unfortunately their robust online shopping experience is custom built and is not something that is offered with the previous eCommerce platforms mentioned.

Panera Bread - Online Catering Ordering

Panera Bread Order Catering Online

While researching, we found some out-of-the-box themes or templates for your website that work well for our online ordering scenario, but they fell a little short considering our “per person” ordering requirement.

Shopify offers a theme titled StandByChef which is suitable for a catering business, but doesn’t seem to offer more detailed ordering options for their platters that can be customized.

Magento provides several themes on their Food and Beverage page, as does BigCommerce and WooCommerce. But none of these eCommerce platforms have a built in feature for more unique catering order options.

Magento Food and Beverage eCommerce Themes

Magento Themes

BigCommerce Themes

BigCommerce Themes

WooThemes - WooCommerce

WooCommerce Themes

 

The Best-of-Breed Approach

WooCommerce seems like the best and easiest solution if you already have a WordPress site up and running. They also offer several extensions to supplement the basic WooCommerce setup after it is initially installed. The Product Add-Ons extension can provide additional ordering options to help with the user experience, but another extension also caught our eye.

The Min/Max Quantities extension lets you define minimum and maximum product quantities per product, order or variation. You can also define a group quantity if your product must be bought in groups. This feature may help us with order options for platters and other food items.
Min/Max Quantities WooCommerce Extension

We also found some other options for integrating POS systems with WooCommerce that some caterers may find useful. 24Seven Commerce and WooCommerce POS offer POS integration, with the latter being a free plugin.

Providing a resource to order a catering package online is not an easy task, and if you want to get an edge over your competition you need to find ways to offer a better user experience for your customers. Making the process as easy as possible while offering as many different options as possible are the features needed to grow your catering business online – and have people coming back for more.

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