Every business should have an online presence. Even brick-and-mortar stores benefit from this. It lets customers find you easily and quite literally puts you on the map. By using the latest trends and engaging with customers through technology you will find new consumers and fresh ways to interact with them to boost revenue. There are a few simple ways to integrate technology into your food business that I will cover in this article. Allowing consumers to use mobile payment makes it easier for dinners and shoppers to pay.

Tim Hortons, Starbucks, and McDonalds are among a growing number of brands to implement this new technology. Not only does it save time but also it’s more efficient for users. By making more payment choices available you also widen the range of customers you can serve.

The ease or difficulty of implementing mobile payments depends on your current point-of-sale setup. The main mobile payment solutions are through NFC or QR codes.

NFC Mobile Payments

This system allows payments through a contact-less NFC-enabled phone and a NFC chip reader. Main payment methods include Apple Pay, Google Wallet, MasterCard’s PayPass, and Visa PayWave.

Apple Pay is very easy to setup. All you do is contact your payment provider and say you want to start accepting Apple Pay. But, you’ll need to buy a contact-less reader if you don’t already have one. Once you’ve done that there are no more fees. Google wallet is as simple as the iOS rival. It only requires you have an NFC reader. If you have MasterCard’s PayPass POS mobile payments then you can use your POS integrated NFC reader for both.

If you already have EMV hardware in place then chances are you can likely integrate NFC payments without any additional cost. You only need to get the payment processing enabled. So there is no reason not to do this.

The real drawback to why these NFC payments haven’t taken off yet is because most users still don’t have NFC enabled smartphones. NFC is typically only found in newer, high-end smartphones like the iPhone 6 and above so there is a limited audience.

QR/Barcode Mobile Payments

One of the main attractions to this payment method is the simplicity. QR payments don’t need any extra equipment. All that’s needed is to scan a QR code. This is something that most modern barcode readers can do. Depending on the size of your business and the POS setup you have there are two methods to put in place for QR payments. You can update to a phone app that allows QR code generating features, which can be done through a QR code API. Then you’ll also need to update your POS provider to accept these payments. The other way is to use a service that partners with merchants and helps integrate all this for you. One such service is Dwoll. This makes it easy and cost efficient to setup. The downside is that they do charge a small transaction fee, which is levied on any transaction over $10. Another similar service can be had from Zapper. This payments provider puts a QR code on every bill and lets customers pay directly with the Zapper app.

Mobile Payments Conclusion

In the U.S., the trend of making payments via QR codes or NFC with a smartphone is still in it infancy. But don’t let that fool you, mobile payments are going to be big business and soon.

For NFC payments you will need to have a POS system that supports the NFC chip but after that setup is easy. The downside is that most phones don’t have NFC chips. For this reason you should seriously consider implementing the code scanning method, which is set to grow much faster. Just take a look at China, which is leading the way in mobile payments.

QR code & barcode payments in China, is a huge market, so much so that you don’t even need a wallet. Every store from mom-and-pop kiosks to big-chain retail outlets accepts smartphone payments. Even street performers and food stalls have smart wallets. All these operate through either WeChat or Alipay, the two big rivals that control this market in China.

It won’t be long before we see a similar trend in the U.S. and EU so make sure your ready to capitalize on this.

Mobile Applications

You’d be hard pressed to find many consumers these days that don’t own a smartphone. With the boom in phone ownership, mobile sales and the applications that make them possible have become big business.

You can use this new technology to setup a mobile app for your shop or restaurant. These sorts of apps could do many things for your business. They allow takeout orders to be efficiently processed, notify consumers of upcoming promotions, act as a loyalty cards, and book reservations. Customers could even leave reviews of the restaurants and meals they enjoyed there. So how can we do all this?

Takeout Orders

If you do a roaring take-out business then having an order-fulfillment app with added in payment is much more efficient. It saves your front desk staff employee the phone while also having to seat walk-in customers. An app of this sort ensures no important information like delivery address or special dietary requests will get missed. Not only does this free up your staff it is also more efficient as customers won’t have to wait on hold at busy times.

Promotions & Loyalty Card

An app can also work as a loyalty card and promote your restaurant’s daily specials. You can keep track of a customer’s favorite dishes and let them know when you have a promotion or interesting new item they may enjoy.

Apps have an opt in for basic user info so you can offer them a special birthday promotion or holiday discounts notifications.

If you partner with an established app you can even promote your establishment or menus specials through the app.

Make Reservations

Allowing users to make reservations online makes it easier to fill your restaurant. You can attract more business by offering specials at quiet times or to encourage advanced bookings. This also makes dealing with the holiday season less stressful. But to fully integrate this isn’t always so easy, especially if your reservations are not done digitally. In which case you’ll have to keep authorizing bookings manually. At least until you upgrade to a digital reservations system.

Customer Reviews

With so many dining establishments and a range of culinary choices, restaurant goers are spoiled for choice. A deciding factor on where to dine is recommendations. Being able to view reviews of dishes and establishments helps would-be customers filter out the best restaurants to try. The power of social proof is a huge decision factor for today’s shoppers and something that shouldn’t be underestimated.

The Best App For You

As there are lots of mobile delivery and food fulfillment apps a little bit of research is needed. Firstly, you should check the most commonly used apps in your area and secondly you must determine which best meet your needs. Not all apps have the same services and all have different fees. So working out which is best for your geographical location and budget is the key.

The easiest way to take advantage of food delivery apps is to reach out to a third-party service such as Grubhub, Just Eat, or one of the many others.

Bigger businesses and chain stores could invest in their own app development. However, while this can ensure an app meets all your demands, developing an app can get costly and is fraught with difficulties. Hence it’s much easier to partner with an established app. Also most consumers don’t want to have different apps for each establishment they use and established apps also have a good customer base for you to tap into.

Most apps let you integrate as much or as little as you want. So if you have your own delivery service then you needn’t use theirs.

Naturally, there are fees involved with these services but it’s an easy way to get access to a larger market. It can cater to most of your needs and is cheaper and easier than developing your own app.

Setting Up A Food App

Once you have deiced which app to partner with and what food to offer then you will need to setup an account. Most of the systems are designed to be easy to set up. Through their online interface you will find it easy to enter your basic account info such as location, hours of business, email, phone number, currency, and payment types accepted.

After you can make your online menu, including dish categories, food descriptions and pictures, of course. You will be able to set up special offers or promotions and also edit and revise the menu as and when you need. Once your menu is setup you’re all good to go. Just remember to promote you new offerings on your social media pages for the greatest impact.

One other major thing to think about before making food available for delivery is how well it will travel, soggy fries, flat soufflés, and crumbled tacos are not going to win over customers. So careful consideration of your online menu is recommend. Barbecue, salads, pasta ,and pizzas all travel well whereas fried dishes that easily go soggy or delicate foods that will arrived crushed are best avoided.

Social Media Presence

When I was young people said thanks before eating. Today, they post a picture of their food on Instagram or Facebook.

Not only do social media accounts work as a kind of online yellow pages but they also let you reach out and interact with your customer base. You can seek feedback through polls and quizzes, list new promotions, run giveaways, and much more.

Facebook has over 2 billion monthly users; Twitter is overflowing with online commentary and Instagram is bursting with a plethora of images, everything from cute cats to what people had for lunch.

Accounts on these sites are free and easy to set up. These social mediums allow you to set up groups and communities to develop loyal advocates. These in turn will help drive your brand and attract new customers. They will also offer social proof about your business.

Think of social media done well as free marketing. So if you don’t have an account on the leading platforms you’re missing out on all that free promotion potential.

The Dos and Don’ts of Social Media

When you set up each social media platform make sure you have a nice image for your account that’s instantly recognizable. Set your location, main information, and if possible, give directions or a map. For food establishments you should add a gallery of photos and update it regularly. People love to see what’s new so keep them posted on all your upcoming events, food challenges, new menu items, and rewards.

Social media should be social. Ditch the corporate message and make sure to talk in a language people understand. Use emojis and let your social patter be relaxing and laid back. People visit social media to relax so keep that in mind with every update you post.

Be positive with all your messages, and make sure you double check for spelling and grammar errors. It may be social media but you still have to show you’re a professional.

Respond quickly to customer requests and be as helpful as you can.

This may sound like a lot, so start small and don’t try to do too much at once. Once you start to establish a good social presence you may want to get a dedicated online marketer on-board.

If you stick to these tips you’ll build a social account that’s a second home to your clientele and be able to nurture and educate your audience to the benefits of your business.
By now you should be well on your way to reaping the rewards of integrating technology into your food retail business.

When not blogging about tech trends James Mash is busy juggling a job in online marketing with taking care of his boisterous dog Charlie and launching made2b.com, a custom phone case business.
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