Three Reasons Why Restaurants Should Offer a Mobile App

Many industries are enhancing the customer experience with mobile apps, and the restaurant industry is no exception. Restaurants of all sizes are developing mobile apps that customers can use to make reservations, order takeout, and even update their dining preferences.

In fact, a recent Statista survey showed that the majority of diners use restaurant mobile apps to view menus and pricing (55%), search for deals (38.2%), order food online (30%) and make reservations (23.8%).

Restaurants can and should take advantage of this mobile trend to boost customer engagement and improve the dining experience. But are mobile apps really necessary, or can restaurants deliver the same experience without them? CAKE, a Sysco company, offers some insights on the benefits available to restaurants that offer their customers a mobile app.

1. In-App Ordering = Improved Customer Experiences

Flexibility is one of the more significant benefits of having a mobile app. With a mobile app, the ordering experience could be easier for customers, and it could help to reduce lines and improve efficiency at the restaurant itself.

Subway is one fast-casual restaurant that is taking advantage of a branded mobile app for online ordering. Users can choose and pay for their meal ahead of time, enabling them to pick it up without any wait at the restaurant. As a result, Subway also reduced the line and wait time for customers that prefer to order at the counter.

Another quick-service giant that has seen success with mobile app ordering is Starbucks. After launching their mobile order feature, the coffee chain saw shorter lines, faster service, and more efficient in-store operations. In July of last year, mobile ordering and payment accounted for 20% of Starbucks' transactions in the U.S. or about $9 million every week!

Mobile ordering also reduces human error, which improves order accuracy and guest satisfaction. Plus, hosts and servers spend less time answering the phone, so they can focus on customers who are dining in the restaurant.

2. In-App Loyalty Programs = Higher Spend

The adoption rate of traditional loyalty programs sits at about 12%. Those rates went up to 18-28% when mobile payment is offered in addition to a loyalty program. When mobile payment is combined with ordering and a loyalty program, adoption rates went up to 15-35%.

Loyalty programs integrated into a mobile app have been successful for many restaurants. For example, 32% of Pinkberry’s transactions come through their mobile loyalty app, and Earl of Sandwich customers spend on average 22% more when using the restaurant's loyalty app.

3. Saved Preferences = More Customer Engagement

Mobile apps also help restaurants engage with their customers. For instance, guests could update their dining preferences to include favorite menu items and drinks or even list their preferred tables when making reservations within a restaurant's mobile app.

Restaurants could even link Facebook and Twitter to their mobile apps. Doing so will encourage diners (especially millennials) to share their experience with your restaurant on social media, driving further customer engagement.

Plus, when restaurants add the basics to their mobile apps such as their menu information, hours of operation and phone number, they engage with the customer in a way that helps to make the customer's life easier.

Before launching an app, restaurants should keep in mind that mobile apps are expensive to maintain and can be hard to market. This could put smaller restaurants at a disadvantage. Features like in-app ordering have worked for larger chains like Starbucks and Subway, but aren’t always effective for independent businesses. Though maybe not necessary (or practical) for smaller, independent restaurants, mobile apps do have the potential to improve the customer experience and promote loyalty. Remember: just a 5% increase in customer retention could increase profits by 75%. If a restaurant has the right resources, it might be worth investing in this technology.

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