Like all technology, restaurant app development grows exponentially. But consumers' demands of those apps grows at least as quickly, with diners always seeking more speed, convenience, quality and value. Ultimately, the breakneck speed of innovation can hit a bottleneck when other interfacing restaurant technology fails to keep pace.
So while the days of phone-in orders fade into the past, QSR operators and vendors still need to take note of the fact that this period of transition is not without its own set of challenges. After all, it's not just restaurant customers who are supposed to benefit from online ordering and mobile apps.
Restaurant companies and independent owners should also be on the receiving end of apps' benefits, harvesting new opportunities to boost profits and streamline operations. So it pays to take a moment now to fully note where the strongest areas of potential benefit are with apps, as well as where there are some very real possibilities for problems.
The many 'ups' of apps
QSRs that use ordering apps reach a greater number of patrons and yield higher average check totals since the apps never forget to up-sell. Likewise, apps can also help restructure and improve operations since, for instance, employees can now make the most of their time serving customers rather than attending to phones and fax orders.
Apps can also improve the customer experience, by enabling customers to:
- Pre-pay for purchases, which can speed up lines at busy restaurants.
- Customize pick-up times.
- Offer re-ordering for regular customers.
- View photos of the food, so they know exactly what they're getting, reducing customer complaints.
Apps not only help restaurants improve operational efficiencies by offering faster, easier ordering but also provide a powerful marketing tool, boosting marketing ROI. Many apps support email campaigns and integrate with existing loyalty programs as well as providing updates on coupons, deals, and promotions.
Ways apps can 'zap' a QSR
While apps are designed with the intention of easing pain points for customers and increasing sales for restaurants, there are some problems that need to be resolved. One glitch is that not all apps integrate with all POS systems.
If that's the case, then restaurant employees must manually enter the orders into the POS system. The inability to integrate with the POS system can also be problematic with sales reconciliation. Once the app collects payments, management must then compare against POS data to assure accuracy with processed payments.
Another operational headache comes from increased congestion at the pick-up counter. Patrons who pre-ordered meals to avoid lines are now causing a longer waiting times for those that are ordering their meals at the counter.
In turn, walk-in customers who get a glance of these long lines, may often opt to walk out again to a less seemingly crowded option where the wait will be less a factor. In fact, at some brands this issue is prompting operators to increase employee count to deal with this issue and improve speed-of-service.
The bottom lineBut if you thought those negative effects were enough to crush this technology, think again. Not only is mobile ordering something that customers are demanding, but it's also a major draw for restaurant businesses simply because apps can engage customers and increase sales.
As a result, the majority of restaurant customers today are opting for brands with these tools simply because they make engaging with brands easier, more convenient and faster in a time-starved world. So though all QSRs today don't have apps, it stands to reason that those without this capability are potentially missing out on a big chunk of the profits.
Ordering apps can indeed do right by customers and restaurants when they are well developed. But choose wisely. And while there are still kinks to work out, apps are not likely to go away in the near future.
Cover photo: iStock
Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Customer Service / Experience, Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Online / Mobile / Social, Online Services, Operations Management, PCI Compliance, POS, Systems / Technology
Companies: Mirus Restaurant Solutions
Dave Bennett With prior experience with Dunkin’ Brands and IBM Global Services, Dave Bennett has led Mirus through its formative years and its current growth phase. Dave holds a B.S. in Business Administration and MBA from Northeastern University. www