Diners Demand Mobile Ordering & Payment. Are Restaurants Prepared?

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Diners Demand Mobile Ordering & Payment. Are Restaurants Prepared?

By David Starmer, CIO, Sonesta Hotels - 01/04/2018

Diners are demanding mobile ordering and payment. This is supported by anecdotal evidence as well as findings from Hospitality Technology’s 2017 Customer Engagement Technology Study. More than half of consumers surveyed (51%) want the ability to order via mobile devices and 49% want to be able to make a payment via smart device.

At the recent MURTEC Executive Summit, a group of restaurant operators discussed this subject and the state of affairs at a morning Idea Exchange topic table. The 10 participants ranged from large national chains to smaller companies including: California Fish Grill, Glory Days Grill, Jason’s Deli, Bloomin’ Brands, Grinders Above & Beyond, SONIC Drive-In, and Vibe Coffee Group. What follows are takeaways on where the restaurant industry is currently and three key benefits of enabling mobile ordering options for guests.

Removing Friction & Empowering the Guest with Options

Large national chains have placed big bets on mobile-first strategies to remove friction from the orderand-pay ahead experience for their guests. These generally tend to utilize proprietary, bespoke platforms from third-party partners supplemented with skilled internal development teams. Order ahead has allowed some brands to introduce new ordering options for diners. A prime example is curbside pickup. Several national brands have introduced curbside as an alternative to walk-in or drive-thru. It’s a particularly appealing option for operators with locations that do not permit a drive-thru lane.

Increasing Accuracy & Ticket Sizes

In addition to removing friction from the guest experience, mobile ordering tightly integrated with the POS has improved order accuracy, average ticket and basket size, and guest satisfaction. There can also be impact on in-store labor productivity which needs to be figured into the value proposition. Without exception, participants at the table echoed that meaningful percentages of transactions are migrating quickly to the mobile channel. Additionally, these transactions aren’t necessarily replacing walk-in or drive-thru orders, in many cases attendees reported it as additional volume.

Data Boon

Besides the operational impact, integration with loyalty programs and CRM, the other great boon expressed by attendees at the table was the rich data that mobile platforms provide operators regarding guests’ habits and behaviors. In turn, this allows operators to send targeted offers which can then be measured at the individual guest level. Test and learn strategies against particular geographic areas and personas are enabled. Awarding and redeeming loyalty points has a level of gamificiation which also drives guest behavior.

There’s no doubt that the industry is at a tipping point with mobile ordering being the new norm. The consensus was that providing a guest the ability to browse a menu, place an order, pay, engage in a loyalty program, and redeem offers using the channel of their preference is the way the industry is moving. Knowing that most guests carry a mobile device in their pocket, operators agree that there are benefits to having an on-device brand presence and using that presence to get guests to frequent the restaurant.

Looking Ahead

In the coming years, mobile utilization will continue to increase in popularity, but will be augmented by emerging technologies such as voice assistants. Therefore, operators would do well to watch the marketplace and how it is driving changing consumer expectations to ensure that they’re able to keep up with new and novel ways to serve guests.  

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