Digital Ordering Technology: The Pros and Cons of Buy Versus Build

As digital ordering continues to grow in popularity with consumers, foodservice operators are often faced with the challenge of how to update and optimize their tech stacks. Many find themselves navigating a mix of legacy technology, and tools adopted during COVID-19, and trying to unify disparate systems and solutions. Ultimately, operators must decide on how to meet the on- and off-premise expectations of their digital-first guests.

Is it more advantageous to address today’s challenges and future-proof the business by developing your own custom digital ordering solution, or to rely on a partner and invest in a fully developed end-to-end platform that also supports seamless integrations?

With razor-thin profit margins and labor challenges, the decision to buy versus build requires careful consideration and a helpful “pros and cons” list.

The idea of building a proprietary digital ordering solution to solve specific business needs is attractive and empowering. Assuming you have secured the requisite resources and funding, what is the probability of designing a solution that is comparable to a proven, fully developed, ready-to-buy system? With that question in mind, here are some additional thoughts to contemplate before committing to a homegrown, custom, digital ordering solution:


  •  Highly Tailored: Building a solution means you get exactly what you want and how you want it. You can develop customized tools to address specific challenges and unique processes.

  • Control: Controlling the solution’s roadmap and ongoing development enables you to meet future challenges and support product development at your own pace. Ownership also eliminates the dependency of third-party vendors.

  • Competitive Advantage: Developing a custom solution can differentiate your business from competitors by offering customers unique features and/or a better user experience.

  • Scalability: Custom software can be developed with scalability in mind, ensuring it can grow and adapt with your business as it changes.


  • Higher Upfront Costs: Custom software development typically requires a significantly higher upfront investment of both time and money.

  • Maintenance and Security: Digital ordering software requires ongoing maintenance and updates by a dedicated team of resources, including skilled and in-demand developers. You are also solely responsible for potential security breaches and service disruptions.

  • Time to Market: From the ground up, the development process for highly customized digital ordering software takes time, potentially delaying implementation, return on investment, and the ability to keep pace with recent innovations such as Artificial Intelligence (AI).

  • Feasibility: Unlike out-of-the-box solutions that have a track record of performance, there is always a risk of building a homegrown ordering solution that doesn’t work as expected upon launch.

Providing an easy and consistent guest ordering experience is a high-ranking priority for many foodservice operators. Building a proprietary solution to optimize every guest experience can spread time and resources too thin. Consider all of the short- and long-term costs of buying, along with these pros and cons:


  •  Time-Saving: Buying or subscribing to existing software is typically far quicker to implement since it’s already developed and available for use.

  • Focus: While buying may result in a dependency on a partner it also allows you to focus on your core competencies – operating your business.

  • Cost-Effective: Upfront costs should be significantly lower compared to custom software as you’re sharing the initial development costs with other customers.

  • Expertise and Support: Buying a solution includes access to a built-in team of experts with advice, established partnerships, and industry experiences to lean on. Ongoing tech support, security services, best practices, and staff training are benefits that are available day one.

  • Scalability and Extensibility: Access to industry-leading technology partners that integrate with your current systems and future tools seamlessly, supports the streamlining of data while enabling automation.

  • Reliability: Established software often comes with a track record of reliability and stability as a result of being tested and used by multiple customers.


  • Limited Customization: Off-the-shelf software may not perfectly fit your unique business requirements, functionality, or workflows. Software solutions are often developed to address overarching business needs and to solve common, industry-wide problems.

  • Dependency: You become reliant on your technology partner for ongoing support, updates, and enhancements to enable new features and functionality. There is also the potential risk that the partner may discontinue support or development for the software.

  • Licensing Costs: While upfront costs might be lower, recurring licensing fees may increase over time.

  • Security Concerns: If the software isn’t updated regularly it may become vulnerable to security threats.

Whether you build in-house, rely on a single partner, or integrate different vendor solutions, the end goal is to streamline all digital ordering channels to capture and leverage data across all touchpoints. Analyzing your guest’s entire digital ordering experience can yield powerful insights that can enable you to optimize labor and menus, enhance loyalty, and much more.

Early adopters have a head start; it’s time to weigh the pros and cons, make a choice, and catch up. If you want to invest in a digital ordering solution that provides scalability, flexibility, and extensibility, while gaining a knowledgeable partner, the Tacit team is here to answer your questions and guide your journey.

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