Quick service continues to raise the bar for convenience, thanks in large part to new technologies. Third-party, app-supported delivery may be the most conspicuous in terms of prevalence, but online and mobile ordering stands to transform the in-store experience. For one, ordering online or through an app frees up staff while increasing order accuracy. It also trims the queue of customers waiting to order and even offers restaurants a means to track their guests’ orders and habits.

Here, leaders of three midsize chains discuss the impact of online and mobile ordering and what the next iteration of that technology could be. Mobile ordering with drive-thru pickup, anyone?

Christina Coy / Vice President of Marketing, Pie Five Pizza

Fast and easy is the winning combination for the future. Several years ago, we updated our website to be mobile-friendly, and we launched our app last year to make ordering easy as pie. We knew the trend was moving toward mobile, and we wanted to be ready.

We’re seeing a steady shift to mobile ordering. More than 65 percent of our online orders now come through mobile. Most importantly, guests who use our mobile-ordering option love it. Guests can also save their favorite order, so we see a lot of repeats.

Technology can always be a challenge with a glitch in the system or an integration not working properly. Random issues do pop up, but all of them are fixable. The ease of use and convenience are the biggest benefits. You don’t have to worry about a complicated ordering process anymore.

Mobile order is going to continue to evolve. I believe ordering systems will soon be able to predict orders based on previous ones at other restaurants. Eventually, guests will be able to place an order with less than two to three taps on their phone. Voice automation will continue to play a big role. I don’t know how, but they’re going to make it faster and easier. I can’t wait to see the next phase.

Sarah Baker / Marketing Coordinator, Penn Station East Coast Subs

Most mobile and online sales have been migrated from phone-in sales, which is a win for operations in that there is no interaction time with customers other than when the customer picks up food. We have also seen a higher average check for web orders. We’ve had minimal complaints, and mobile ordering usage has increased every month.

Some of the challenges of mobile ordering are the updates. We work with several vendors that have moving parts. Everyone needs to be extremely organized and diligent to keep it working. Online ordering must continually be managed, from wait times to holidays, hours of operation, and pricing.

Many restaurants can thrive from mobile ordering, while others are still very much about the in-restaurant experience. Like any other technological advance, it has pros and cons that are weighed on a case-by-case basis, and for the time being, mobile ordering is one of those technologies that not all concepts significantly benefit from.

Mobile-ordering drive thrus have been big in restaurant discussions. The logistics of them don’t seem to be ironed out yet, but it has raised the question of if people who place orders online want to not only avoid a phone call, but also avoid getting out of their car.

Will Hanrahan / Digital Marketing Manager, Fazoli’s

We know that our guests expect convenience, so we wanted to provide more ways to order. We were also working on launching our app-based loyalty program and knew that online ordering would be a key feature. Additionally, we knew the importance of allowing guests to earn points on online orders.

While the online-ordering channel is still in its infancy, it’s grown more than 16 percent year over year. At that rate, it is our fastest-growing sales channel, on the heels of delivery. We continue to focus on educating guests about this resource. Another challenge is technology. Online ordering is dependent on technology, and when it fails, it’s a definite challenge.

We’ve seen improved order accuracy, as guests are hand-selecting their menu items and customizing them with the click of button. Our own internal platform for online ordering allows us to understand the guest’s purchase history, tailor messaging based on guest buying behavior, communicate with them directly on new products and specials, and, most importantly, reward them on every order.

We recently conducted user testing to see guests’ real-time online ordering and made changes based on that feedback. We’re also working with our app developer to build a native mobile ordering experience directly within the app. The online-ordering experience will be fully customized to the app.

Business Advice, Customer Experience, Ordering, Restaurant Operations, Story, Technology, Fazoli's, Penn Station East Coast Subs, Pie Five Pizza