How to Shift Your Restaurant from Third-to First-Party Ordering

Industry Insights

APR 13, 2022


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Third-party ordering apps have too much control

They dig deep into your profit margins, restrict you to a bare-bones ordering experience, and keep a stranglehold on customer data. 

When you measure all the ways you’re not paying the man, it’s clear that first-party orders are three times as profitable as third-party orders. Getting as many customers to order first-party just makes good business sense.

To compete with the big third-party guns, you need to invest in your app’s user experience, functionality, and marketing plan. We’ll show you how in this playbook.

Get this right and you’ll enjoy higher profit margins, loyal customers, and business growth. Do it wrong and… well, you know.

Follow these steps and you’ll have customers rushing to order directly from your restaurant online.

1. Create a Compelling First-Party Ordering Experience

To turn third-party customers into first-party, you’ll first need to provide a mobile app or online ordering experience that rivals your competitors in design and UX.

70% of customers want to order directly from their favorite restaurants. To make the switch from third-party delivery apps, people will only do so with ordering platforms that are:

  • Convenient

  • Personalized

  • Simple & Appealing

And that’s what the third-party marketplaces do well.

As you build out your restaurant’s food ordering experience, prioritize the following:

Ordering Experience

From the moment the app loads to checkout, your app needs to feel intuitively designed and easy to learn. Features should be highly visible, responsive to any device, and seamlessly user-friendly, with clear and bold imagery to whet the appetite.

The Springbone online ordering website is designed to make menu navigation and dish discovery a breeze with clearly-marked categories that keep visitors oriented and engaged as they scroll. 


Modern customers expect a unified ordering experience across every ordering channel. Your mobile app, website, and even in-store experience shouldn’t feel distinct, but parts of a thoughtfully woven-together whole. 


Accessing your ordering system should be a breeze. QR codes and app downloads make this simple. And, the ordering process must be simple and fast. No frustratingly long load times or hoops to jump through.

Example: EVOS

Ordering from Evos never leaves you wondering about ingredients, nutrition and diet information, and customization options—all the information you need is quick to find and simple to understand. 

Compete on Variety

Third-party marketplaces position themselves as an opportunity for restaurants to “be found” in their network of dining options. If you run multiple brands, you can offer this same kind of variety and drive first-party orders simultaneously—without the third-party fees.

Food hall dining concepts provide customers with the same level of cuisine options they’re used to receiving from third-party apps. The difference? A first-rate mobile ordering system and customer experience all controlled by your brand. 

Example: Epic Kitchens

The digital food hall gives Epic Kitchens a way to serve food from multiple concepts in a single transaction to capture customers and groups that crave variety. 

Lunchbox’s ordering technology can be applied to multi-concept restaurant groups, malls, food halls, and more.

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2. Convert Third-Party Orders to Direct Customers

Equipped with a polished and functional online ordering system, it’s time to convert third-party orders to loyal first-party customers. Here are some of the best ways to get the job done.

Send Coupons or Offers With Third-Party Deliveries

Develop a discount or offer only for those who continue to use third-party apps for delivery orders. Place these discount codes or coupons in the bag of each order.

Your food is irresistible and your mobile app is too. Customers just need a nudge in the right direction and everyone loves a free perk.

Example: Park Avenue BBQ

Park Avenue’s 4x6” download cards give third-party platform users a compelling reason to order first-party instead: they’ll cover the delivery fee. 

Create Promotions Only Available on Your Ordering Platform

Customers can’t resist a deal. Offer exclusive discounts and promotions only available on your ordering system

Spread the word about these offers through Facebook and retargeting ads served to customers in your delivery zones.

Example: All Day Kitchens

All Day Kitchens recovers third-party orders with promotions that only work on their first-party ordering platforms. 

Limit Your Third-Party Menu

As you transition customers to direct orders, slowly but surely remove the best-selling items from all third-party platforms. This incentivizes customers to use your ordering system to access your full menu.

If available, use the bio section on third-party apps to let customers know your full menu is available via your preferred ordering system.

Bonus Tip: Some restaurants also encourage direct orders by charging significantly higher prices for on third-party apps. If you’re not ready to fully switch to a direct ordering system, this tactic can help usher customers over to your preferred platform.

3. Launch First-Party Marketing Campaigns

Never assume customers know about your online ordering platform. You need to show them. Announce the news to followers and customers with a full-fledged marketing campaign promoting your new online ordering system.

Start by creating promotions solely for new app customers or those who sign up for a loyalty program. Then, promote these incentives through:

From in-store banners and table tents to stickers on delivery boxes, print marketing shows customers how to access your app and what they’ll receive in return.

Examples: Summit Coffee, Night Owl Cookies, Espresso Royale

 Summit Coffee increased the number of customers ordering 3+ times per month via first-party by a stunning 25%. Here’s how they did it.

Email Marketing

You know effective email marketing strategies can solidify loyal customer relationships and drive revenue. So use it to your advantage! Send discounts, share recipes, announce new menu items, and so much more, all while driving customers to order directly. 

Night Owl Cookies uses app-exclusive discounts to inspire customers who’ve ordered online to download their app—where they’re highly likely to reorder from in the future. 

Social Media Advertising

Target customers in your intended delivery areas and reach fans who’ve followed your restaurant since the beginning. Announce your new system and drive orders with an exclusive offer.

Espresso Royale uses app screenshots in their social media marketing to help followers visualize how simple and delightful it is to order from their well-designed first-party app. 

Website Design

Website visitors are already familiar with and enjoy ordering online from you. Getting them to use your app instead will make them even stickier. Creating a website-to-app funnel on your main page is a great way to incentivize loyal customers to become super-loyal customers.

Example: Naya

The Naya website isn’t shy about redirecting potential web customers to their mobile app, where repeat orders are nearly guaranteed and loyalty is easier to develop. 

SMS Marketing

Send discounts, offers, and menu updates directly to your customers without the distractions of social media or email. One study of restaurants showed that a stunning 96% of customers who opt-in for SMS marketing remain in the program for more than ninety days. Blend that with the 98% open rate for texts, and you’ve got yourself a hyper-engaged audience. 

Retargeting Ads

Getting customers to place a first-party order is simple. Turning them into repeat customers is the hard part. Win back previous customers with retargeting ads strategically placed around the Internet.

Like what you see? Every website and visual featured up till now was designed and developed by Lunchbox Studio, a team of restaurant industry creatives and strategists that helps brands grow. 

4. Go Above & Beyond to Delight Customers 

On top of an enticing loyalty program integrated into your ordering platform, find ways to surprise and delight customers (within reason and budget, of course).

A little surprise can turn into repeat customers for years to come.

A Thank-You Note

In a digital world, a kind note from you or your staff goes a long way. Win over the hearts and minds of your customers by thanking them for placing a direct order with your restaurant.

Surprise Gifts

Who doesn’t love opening a delivery order and finding an extra dessert or appetizer? Find low-cost but high perceived value items and send those out with your first-party delivery orders.

Exclusive Prizes

Create promotions that drive orders with surprise incentives. Choose a day of the week and all direct delivery orders placed during that time frame will win a small gift. 

Or, take it to the next level and offer a huge gift like a VIP dining experience at your restaurant. To enter, customers must place a direct delivery order during a specified time frame.

Example: Domino’s

Big giveaway prizes like those from Domino’s create a sense of FOMO that keeps customers ordering direct so they don’t miss out on free surprises. 

Warning: Setting Up Your Own Restaurant Online Ordering System Isn’t Easy

We’ll be honest with you. This is a lot of work.

A haphazardly launched online ordering platform with a few hasty emails and social posts won’t convince customers to make the switch. Customers demand better.

Fast-growing restaurants are discovering the smartest approach to customer acquisition (and retention!) is about giving customers the most convenient and delightful ordering experience possible.

That’s what we’re building at Lunchbox.

Lunchbox is a digital toolkit for giving your restaurant and online ordering capabilities superpowers so you can compete against the third-party giants and reclaim first-party orders. With unbelievably creative design, seamless POS integrations, and irresistible marketing programs that’ll have customers ordering religiously, we’re everything you need to kick third-party platforms to the curb.


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