PAPA Award Winning La Favorita

It is the age old dilemma for any established and successful business with a strong emphasis on customer service; how to embrace new ideas, implement new technology and grow - without compromising the customer service at the root of their success.

This was the problem faced by Tony Crolla of La Favorita in Edinburgh. Tony’s experience in the business is second to none having run the family restaurant, Vittoria’s, for 17 of its 40 years and now his own La Favorita since 2005 - and won PAPA Pizza Restaurant of the Year in 2005, 2007 and 2010.

La Favorita is, according to Tony, aiming to be ‘the best pizzeria in Britain’. Two brand-new wood-fired ovens were installed to ensure that customers enjoy the highest quality pizzas alongside gourmet pasta. It’s working. In 2009 La Favorita became the first pizzeria in Scotland to gain an AA Rosette and, having offered a delivery service for only two years, won the “PAPA Independent Pizza Delivery Store of the Year Award”, that same year.

Just Like I Wanted

From the moment that La Favorita began to offer a home delivery service, Tony wanted to be able to receive orders from the Internet. As he puts it, “It makes complete sense, you advertise your website to your customers and orders arrive without staff having to pick up the phone. We already know how to make great pizzas and we have drivers waiting to deliver them.” His concern was that the on-line ordering service should complement an award winning business and not reduce customer service levels. There was a lot to lose.

In 2009, after a false start, Tony turned to Integer and installed their inTouch EPOS software along with their on-line ordering service. Integer have been providing EPOS systems for pizza and food delivery since 1994 and on-line ordering since 2005. “They created a website for me. My customers find it easy to place orders on it. The orders arrive on the EPOS system, and no-one has picked up the phone - just like I wanted. Better still, orders are paid for by credit card and the money goes straight into the bank. I should have done it from day one, Integer has ticked every box.”

Tony’s manager, Alec Ballach, endorses this view. “With Integer’s on-line ordering, our staff were very confident from day one. We know from experience how a bad system impacts on staff, makes them nervous; with a good system, staff are more relaxed, able to do their job better, able to process more orders – problems don’t happen and we aren’t fire-fighting. We aim to provide a premium service and this is a premium product”.

New Customers

La Favorita’s on-line ordering service has attracted many new customers and Tony recognises a new type of customer among them – young professionals with lap-tops that are ‘always on’, customers who don’t particularly want or need to talk to someone, who don’t want the personal touch (which was something of a culture shock to a business that prides itself on customer service!). A recent survey from the US shows that the ability to order on-line is essential to young, time-strapped consumers; 31% of 25-34 year olds and 24% of 18-24 year olds against 19% overall. Tony is so encouraged by this sector that he is considering extending the delivery service to lunchtimes.

Alec is able to quantify the increase in customers for the delivery service. Of the new customers added to the database each week, 30% have registered and ordered on-line. He hasn’t seen any decrease in telephone orders; “very few customers who order by telephone have migrated to on-line ordering – customers are creatures of habit.”

Integral Part of the Business

Looking back, both Tony and Alec see the adoption of the Integer on-line ordering service as having been easy, fitting into their routine and now being an integral part of the business. They describe the addition of an on-line ordering system as allowing the business to expand organically, gaining customers and increasing turnover. Another delivery car has just been ordered and another order taker is needed. They feel that on-line ordering reflects well on the business and has also provided a boost to the restaurant.

Looking forward, Tony sees the importance of marketing. So far the on-line ordering service hasn’t really been advertised. It will be, the intention being to guide more customers to ordering on-line with all the advantages that offers to the business – orders arriving without a telephone call and paid for by credit card. Tony already uses his website to promote products and services and will soon be marketing by e-mail – whenever customers order on-line, their e-mail addresses are added automatically to his customer database – since e-mail is the most cost effective and flexible form of marketing.

On-line ordering is here to stay, an accepted, expected method for a customer to place an order, a natural extension to any delivery business. There is nothing to fear in the technology. An EPOS system should be capable of directly receiving orders placed on-line by customers. For the operator, on-line ordering should be easy to adopt and work with. All they should need to do is publicise their website - after all, we now live in an age where people find it easier to remember web addresses than telephone numbers!

On-line ordering will boost the bottom line of any forward thinking independent operator.