A guide to demystifying online order aggregators
When third-party delivery hit the scene it was fun and novel for today’s digital natives. And as it has grown from a few orders to a substantial portion of some restaurant operations, an industry of vendors has grown up around it with the aim, they say, of making things easier.
Digital order aggregators are one part of that industry landscape, and they’re taking aim at the bounty of tablets that have found a home on restaurant service counters. They take the orders from the delivery services, online ordering portals and wherever else and send them directly to the restaurant’s technology infrastructure, be it a point-of-sale terminal or directly to a kitchen printer. Ideally, that means more efficient operations and fewer beeps and flashing lights on the counter.
It’s an extremely volatile space and a highly valued one after the six most-recognized companies raised more than $130 million since the industry took shape between 2013 and 2016. But it’s also a segment of the industry fraught with some existential threats from the very platforms they work among. Both third-party delivery networks and POS providers have begun handling their own order integrations, scraping some butter off the bread of these companies, so to speak. And as they do, these companies are pivoting, adding services and tweaking operations as startups do. It’s increasingly hard to keep up with what is going on or who might be the best fit for a restaurant operation.
So why not just sit back and wait for the POS providers or the networks to catch up to the restaurant industry? Well we’re still smack dab in the middle of “tablet hell,” the term employed often by Noah Glass, founder and CEO of Olo, the largest aggregator out there.
The problem of having a tablet for each of the dozens and dozens of delivery services in the local market is no small foible. Orders get lost in the shuffle, mistakes are made when orders are keyed in and the constant buzzing and blinking is just another stressor for the hard-fought employees who could be doing more productive work. For the time being, at least, these aggregators are solving a real problem.
What differentiates these companies? It’s sometimes hard to tell, but there are some marks of quality that come with a lot of real-world implications.
First, there is the actual technology at work. Direct connection to the delivery service API is the gold standard because it means sanctity of data. And when order originators such as DoorDash, Grubhub, UberEats or Postmates update their own technology, the API still brings in the correct data every single time.
Without a direct connection, aggregators are forced to rely on lower quality connections or are simply looking at email receipts from originators and plugging them into the POS.
But there is a big caveat: not all delivery networks have an API. The big players do, but it’s a mixed bag for the dozens and dozens of smaller delivery providers. That means the aggregators also need to be adept at hobbling together some technology that can read those orders.
Some aggregators have their own system or middleware that sits between the originators and translates the orders and pushes it into the point of sale. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it just means added complexity the aggregator has to manage to keep orders smoothly flowing.
Menu management is another mark of a quality aggregator. Getting orders to flow to a restaurant is just one piece of the connection; the ability to update menus with limited-time offers or promotional prices saves a huge amount of time for managers. Without it, managers or owners need to update every menu for every service, and potentially do it again for every location.
Coverage is perhaps the most important factor. Most aggregators connect with the big delivery networks, but that’s just one part of the delivery industry. The sheer numbers of regional, hyper-local and micro delivery services out there mean almost nobody covers every market. If you’re in an area with a lot of Delivery Dude users and an aggregator isn’t integrated, it’s right back to tablet hell, or at least tablet purgatory.
So how does one choose between this seemingly similar and growing group of players? Like with any vendor, it’s a matter of finding the one that solves the most problems for the operation. If a business needs to connect with John Doe delivery because it’s a popular local originator, find out which provider has made the connection. If you want to tap into voice ordering, go with someone that has added that service. If a business has a lot of late night orders or an all-hours operation, constant support might be key for when something goes awry. And the beauty of the software as a service (SaaS) model under which all of these companies work means if a provider isn’t working out, it’s relatively easy to switch.
Get a glimpse of the six largest aggregators in the chart below.
Who’s Who & What’s What
We asked six prominent order aggregators to provide some key information about their company and what sets them apart. See below for their responses.
Start-up Fees Per Location: $0
Ongoing Fees: $99-$199 per month
Delivery Provider Integration: Uber, DoorDash, Grubhub, EZ Cater, Waitr/Bitesquad, Caviar, Delivery.com, Postmates
Foodservice Outlets Covered: 3,500
What differentiates your company? “Everything we do is from a restaurant operator perspective. We understand the complexities involved in a kitchen environment, and provide our own fulfillment technology that allows for flexibility. We aren’t just consolidating orders, but helping drive more revenue into our restaurants.” — Alex Canter, Founder & CEO
Start-up Fees Per Location: $0
Ongoing Fees: $85 per month per location for up to 2 integrations (eg. GrubHub & UberEats); $100 per month per location for unlimited integrations
Delivery Provider Integration: Uber, DoorDash, Grubhub, EZ Cater, Waitr/Bitesquad, Caviar, Delivery.com, Postmates, all others listed on its site
Foodservice Outlets Covered: 2,200
What differentiates your company? “The biggest differentiator I see is the service component. Obviously everyone talks about it, but we put our money where our mouth is: We have zero setup or upfront fees, and we only have a month-to-month contract. We do not do any long-term contracts at all, so the operators are always open to canceling their contract whenever they’d like. Obviously you’d understand that such a contract term cannot be supported if we did not have superlative customer support to back it up.
Another differentiator is our direct POS integrations. We have over 25 direct POS integrations now, and each one of them is a direct relationship with the POS providers. Integrating with the POS is one of the more difficult problems in the industry which we are tackling head on, and we are creating our specialization and expertise in direct POS integrations.” — Vishal Agarwal, Founder & CMO
Start-up Fees Per Location: Not Reported
Ongoing Fees: NR
Delivery Provider Integration: Uber, DoorDash, Grubhub, EZ Cater, Waitr/Bitesquad, Caviar, Delivery.com, Postmates, and many more.
Foodservice Outlets Covered: NR
What differentiates your company? “Since establishing the POS integration market in 2015, Chowly has been setting the industry standard with our first-of-its-kind solution. Our product, our team, and our customer-base have been built from the ground up, bringing to life our goal of simplifying technology for restaurants. Whether it’s delivery enablement, menu management, catering, or call center interfaces, we’re continuing to evolve our integration beyond third-party delivery to connect your entire tech stack to your POS system.” — Sterling Douglass, Co-Founder & CEO
Start-up Fees Per Location: $0
Ongoing Fees: $50 per month
Delivery Provider Integration: Uber, DoorDash, EZ Cater, Delivery.com, Postmates, Google Order, DeliverLogic
Foodservice Outlets Covered: 17,000
What differentiates your company? “Omnivore’s Menu Management System (MMS) is a single source of truth software helping restaurants to streamline and manage numerous digital menus across online ordering, third-party delivery apps, menu boards, kiosks and more. We’ve developed features including order injection directly into the POS, reconciliation, 86’ing, data curation, and graphics, pricing and surcharging controls.
Moreover, Omnivore is essentially unique to the industry in providing an agile and affordable way to digitize restaurant operations from back of house, front of house and outside the four walls. Along with MMS, Omnivore’s universal API and Marketplace, with 200-plus pre-integrated technologies, enables restaurants to improve their third-party delivery strategy while also being able to vet and deploy the most relevant solutions, including loyalty, reservations and pay at table.” — Mike Wior, Co-Founder & CEO
Start-up Fees Per Location: NR
Ongoing Fees: We are a SaaS player with transactional pricing on top.
Delivery Provider Integration: Uber, DoorDash, Waitr/Bitesquad, Caviar, Postmates, DeliverClub, DeliverLogic, Dropoff, EatStreet, Eatzy, Favor, Forward, GourmetRunner, Habitat, Jolt, On-Fleet, PDQ, Serve, Zifty
Foodservice Outlets Covered: 70,000
What differentiates your company? “Olo, founded in 2005 even before the rise of the smartphone, began as a service that allowed consumers to text orders ahead to their favorite restaurants with the goal of providing customers better, faster, and more personal service. Truly ahead of its time, Olo has since evolved to be the largest digital ordering and enablement platform in the space, helping brands interface to the on-demand world. Olo powers digital ordering and delivery for a network of over 300 restaurant brands, including Chili’s, Dairy Queen, Denny’s, Shake Shack, sweetgreen and Wingstop. Olo’s enterprise software is suited for multi-location restaurants and used by over half of publicly traded restaurant companies and emerging concepts alike.” — Noah Glass, Founder & CEO
Start-up Fees Per Location: $0-100
Ongoing Fees: $299
Delivery Provider Integration: Uber, DoorDash, Grubhub, Caviar, Delivery.com, Postmates, Eatstreet, TexasToGo, plus 15 other companies
Foodservice Outlets Covered: NR
What differentiates your company? “There are two main differentiators when it comes to Your Fare. The first is we provide a complete end-to-end agency solution. What this means is that we will help a restaurant build, onboard and implement a complete online ordering strategy. The second is our proprietary POS Manager, which automatically maps about 80 percent of a restaurants menu from third-party delivery services to the POS system through an algorithm. None of this is completed through excel spreadsheets we walk the customer through the entire process in less than five business days.” — Chris Monk, Founder & CEO