5 Ways Mobile Ordering Apps Could Transform the Restaurant Business

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Smartphone technology is changing how we order, pay for and transport food today -- in a big way. The restaurant industry has been experimenting with various mobile implementations, ranging from white-labeled ordering apps to third-party delivery providers like Seamless and Grubhub. Their goal is to find new and creative ways to connect with customers, ultimately increasing revenues.

As Uber encroaches on this scene via its pilot food delivery service, it’s becoming clear that we’re only seeing the beginning of what may well turn out to be a major revolution in the way restaurants get food to customers.

Here are five ways that mobile orders could transform the restaurant business as we know it:

1. Get in Front of More Customers

One positive aspect of the move toward mobile ordering is that it can help restaurants find more customers and even increase the business they get from the ones they already have.

For example, uberFRESH (a new concept from Uber) is currently delivering lunch from restaurants around Santa Monica, CA, to office workers for a flat fee. Unlike GrubHub and Seamless, this program connects restaurants that don’t already have a delivery network with a mobile workforce that can efficiently pick up and drop off food.

This is an ideal way to get in front of customers who might not otherwise have a touchpoint with your restaurant (or fewer of them), thus expanding your reach and driving revenue over the long haul. It’s worth looking into these services and experimenting with ways to get your food (and your brand) out to a wider audience.  

2. Take Advantage of Supply-and-Demand

The restaurant industry has historically stayed away from the dynamic pricing that airlines, hotels and more have long relied on. As mobile ordering becomes easier to execute, demand for restaurant food will likely go up.

Restaurants can take advantage of this by increasing their prices during busy periods. Then they will be able to scale up their staff accordingly and meet customer demand. Algorithms fed by mobile app data should even be able to predict demand ahead of time and enable restaurants to scale up and down seamlessly, without surprises. Increasing prices along with demand is a great way for restaurants to increase their margins without making many other changes to the way they operate.

3. Increase Efficiency

Mobile ordering apps can be a great boon to restaurants looking to increase efficiency and realize cost savings. Allowing customers to pre-order and pick up their food can help keep operations running smoothly and ensure customer satisfaction.

BJ’s is a great example of a restaurant chain that has implemented mobile ordering solutions with great results. They have realized efficiency gains not just for pick-up orders but for traditional table service, since customers can often now pay their bill via the mobile app at the table rather than waiting for a server to bring the check.

As Apple Pay is rolled out this week, the opportunity to take advantage of these features will only grow. District managers should be looking at how they can use mobile ordering apps to increase efficiency across the board.

4. Enable Analytics

Mobile ordering apps are a good way to collect more data about your business, your customers and your market as well. Data collected via mobile apps can tell you who your customers are, as well as how and when they like to order your food. Data about what items are most popular can also inform your food ordering decisions.

In addition, you can use mobile ordering apps as an opportunity to reach customers with marketing campaigns that are tailored to their preferences. For example, if you have a customer who reliably orders Chinese food on Fridays, you could offer a coupon or discount for them to order on another night of the week. This is just one example of how to take data about customer behavior acquired through a mobile app and use it to build a positive relationship with the customer by personalizing their experience.

5. Enhance the Customer Experience

Mobile ordering apps can enhance the customer experience in many ways. Customers tend to enjoy the novelty of trying out new restaurant technologies, but even beyond the immediate appeal, there are ways restaurants can offer customers a more enjoyable experience using mobile technology.

For example, Uncorkd is an iPad-based wine list app that gives customers access to information like origin, age, tasting notes and recommended food pairings to help them make a decision. Similar menu apps (many of which have ordering built in) have been rolled out in restaurants. These give customers more information about their choices, entertain them while they wait and make it easy to pay the check at the table. All of these features are geared toward improving the customer experience, which ultimately leads to increased incremental sales revenue and more loyal patrons.

As you can see, mobile ordering apps have great potential to help restaurants find new customers, deliver a better dining experience and increase their revenues without huge technology expenditures. Many third-party and white label mobile apps exist to help restaurants take advantage of the many benefits that smartphone and tablet technology bring to the table without having to reinvent the wheel. As a district manager, it’s worthwhile to spend time educating yourself on what this market has to offer and how it can help you expand your business.

How do you think mobile ordering apps are changing the industry? Tweet us @GetSquadle and let us know your thoughts.