Convenience and cost-effectiveness—those are the driving forces behind technological novelties in business. The restaurant business is no exception. Psychologists say a person feels secure while eating. Mobile apps can help extend this feeling to other parts of the restaurant-going process—ordering, making reservations, payments—while at the same time allow operators to save where it counts. Here are some of the most valuable features.

Mobile reservations

Thirty-six percent of diners say the ability to reserve a table online is already an essential feature of a restaurant, as well as online or mobile ordering capabilities (19 percent).

Open the app and choose the time when you’d like to attend the venue with your friends and/or family, and you’re done. No need to call and have conversations with the restaurant staff. And in many cases during the peak hours, the caller listens to a busy line, which is not the case with an app. For the restaurant staff it is a perfect way to know how many clients will attend the venue and allocate resources wisely. And not have servers waste time on the phone when they can be helping in-store customers.

Menu view and in-app ordering

Menus with colorful pictures and product descriptions will be a key part of your app, as well as pricing and the “add to basket” button. By offering your guests a mobile app with ordering opportunities you avoid a situation when they search for new restaurants and delivery options in directory websites, and thus remain your customers for as long as possible. Besides, mobile ordering helps minimize human error, which makes orders more accurate and improves guest satisfaction.

About 25 to 50 percent of the population are introverts that dislike talking on the phone, so, you make it convenient for them to make online reservations instead of calling. In turn, you become open to bigger amounts of clients.

Loyalty program

Running a loyalty program is one of the most common and effective ways to use an mobile app. Staff workers can forget about the need to punch the card and visitors don’t need to think about bringing it. Besides, a restaurateur can save money on reissuing lost cards and cards with mistakes. Everything is done through the user’s and server’s mobile devices.

Orders history

Orders history allows the restaurant customer to quickly find the order they previously made and repeat it. So, again, no need to talk to the staff and have guests describe the exact pasta they ordered last time.

Marketing insights and activities

You will get access to the statistics and have the opportunity to analyze audience data—the goods they choose, their favorite dishes, number of orders, and much more. News, promotions, banners and push-notifications—a whole marketing toolkit is available. Replace the conservative sms and email blasts, which cost quite a sum, with the more effective push-notifications that produce much bigger open rates. Besides, your restaurant’s app is going to be branded according to your corporate identity guidelines increasing brand loyalty. Imagine every client having your restaurant’s logo on their smartphone screen.

“We don’t get any return on investment with your mobile apps.” That was the take of a recent client. “We don’t think we should keep on collaborating.” Taking into account a decent number of success stories we had with our customers and our client’s app showing 750 percent ROI (including loyalty program economy, 20 percent delivery growth, and other parameters), that was quite a puzzle our project manager had to face.

She immediately checked the customer’s website, social media channels, asked colleagues if they visited the restaurant, and saw table tents there and if waiters suggested installing the app. The research showed no adds and information about the app at all. The same result with the app control panel—zero promotions, zero push-notifications, zero banners and only one news created (which came as a surprise.)

Imagine you have a spade and expect your garden to grow just because it’s there. It’s the same with mobile apps—that’s a tool you need to use correctly to reap benefits. According to statistics, 25 percent of people have at least one restaurant app on their smartphone, which means 1 out of 4 are ready to communicate with a restaurant through an app. So, here we list several things you could do to bring your app closer to the visitors:

  • Employees should suggest installing the app to visitors.

If you ask us, we consider employees to be the fastest and most efficient channel to tell the customers about your mobile app. That is why training is essentially important (it has always been). Write scripts on how, when, and whom to offer the app. The employee needs to know how to install the app, what kind of issues may arise during the process, and, last but not least, why the visitor needs to install the app (as long as you know the possible motivations things get much easier).

  • The delivery couriers should tell the customers about the app

It’s almost the same as with in-store employees. Scripts will not be out of place. And additional loyalty points for installing the app and ordering with it, too.

  • The delivery food package should also tell customers about the opportunity to install the mobile application.

The food package is not only about delivering food in proper condition to the customer’s table. You can use it to pitch the things you need. And if your mobile app downloads are not going up, “App Store” and “Google Play” logos on the package cover may come in handy.  

  • In the restaurant, there must be table-tents within customer’s view

It’s the same as with the delivery package—use your tables for pitching. But do that wisely with neat and well-designed table-tents. Doubled with a promotion, information about the app can potentially be interesting to your clients.  

  • Don’t forget to mention the app in your social media channels and the website

Make it part of your web and social media strategy to remind users about the mobile app you have and the loyalty points they can get for using it. Make special promotions and contests for users that haven’t installed the apps yet.

  • Incentivize the review process

If the customer enjoyed the delivery and the food quality they would be glad to leave a review and … get some more points, too. Surely, negative experiences can, and in many cases will, spark a review as well. But since the user has left it, it means they’re not indifferent to your business and that’s something you can work with. Comment. Maybe offer a free dish and deal with the problem. That could be something you didn’t even know about—something you can make work better in your restaurant.

  • Sending push-notifications is vitally important for client retention

Sending push-notifications is one of the best ways to interact with your audience directly. In some aspects, the benefits of push-notifications outweigh those of emails—users read push-notifications instantaneously, while emails wait to be read in their inboxes. The reason for that is push-notifications being shown on the lock screen. Apart from higher open rates, mobile apps using push notifications have higher retention rates. But you need to use this tool wisely—not less than once a week and not more than four times a month. Besides, the message must be short, specific, and contain a clear call to action. Vary your content and make sure that it’s topical and contains what’s important first.

Our client’s (a network of five restaurants) findings show that sending push-notifications helps increase delivery orders by 20 percent and venue attendance by 7 percent.

Upon the whole, our clients promoting and using mobile application the right way achieve up to 30,000 downloads of their apps (per restaurant network). So, don’t wait for competitors  to lure your clients with technology—order an app for your restaurant, attract more visitors, and earn money.

Pavel Kritsin is CEO of Metamins—a software development company with offices in The United States, Russia, and Ukraine. The company runs mobile application and web-solutions development with a vision to make the world a better place with great code and software design. Pavel has 15 years of software development and management experience in companies of various sizes and is experienced in managing key support functions in software R&D organization, including business development, HR, IT and quality standards compliance
Outside Insights, Story, Technology