In the digital world we live in, more restaurants are using mobile apps to streamline solutions and add value. Although consumers are still as hungry as ever, the way they now interact with their food has completely changed, in large thanks to mobile.
With this article, we explore the quickly-changing landscape of mobile apps and their relation to the restaurant industry. Throughout this exploration, we examine the different ways mobile apps interact with an industry. It is our hope that through reading, you will be better equipped to work within the digital restaurant world we find ourselves in.
Let’s take a look.
Benefits of mobile apps for restaurants
Mobile apps and the restaurant industry are a match made in heaven. While other industries can benefit from the integration of mobile, few are as good of a fit as restaurants. Whether users are on the go or ordering from home, everything they need from most restaurants can now be handled within an app.
This is a huge benefit to restaurants. For the outgoing person, they can make reservations in a flash. Whereas a person who would rather stay at home can either make a to-go order in seconds or even have their food delivered directly to them. Either way, both the restaurant and the customers win.
As more restaurants in the industry are catching on, the variety of apps for restaurants has continued to grow. Now, there are multiple apps for each step of the restaurant service process.
In order to encapsulate the full mobile integration of this industry, let’s take a look at some of the restaurant-focused mobile businesses that have made it big.
On-demand food delivery apps have become popular as more consumers either don’t have time or prefer not to cook at home themselves. While these services lead to less customers in the physical restaurant location, the ease of ordering online makes up the difference in additional orders.
This change has been difficult for some restaurant owners that are less tech-savvy and are not listed on these apps. However, it’s not just the owners who are always at fault here. In fact, some apps like Postmates have gotten in trouble for not receiving permission from the restaurant to host them on their app. If the industry hopes to improve through using mobile apps, this will need to be addressed as they move forward.
For restaurant owners who are hoping to get more attention, on-demand mobile apps are a good way to get your name out. Depending on the app design of the service you are working with, you might even be able to include a discount for new customers looking to try something new. This can not only increase new visitors, but increase brand recognition for the next time that customer is looking for a place to eat.
Reservation apps like Opentable and Nowait aim to reduce the amount of time that customers have to invest in order to dine out. Although they have the same goal, they go about it in different ways. While Nowait simply puts users in line so that they can arrive later and still be seating at the same time as if they had arrived earlier, Opentable simply makes it easier to find reservations at restaurants you want to eat at.
Mobile apps like these serve a specific purpose within the overall process, but they are still valuable to restaurant owners looking to stand out. For instance, listing your restaurant, or even taking it a step further and actually running ads on these apps can increase traffic to your establishment. It’s all about using each different mobile app to your advantage.
However, as with any major change in an industry, there has been some falling out. In fact, according to Opentable’s website, they have had a major problem with no-shows at the restaurant’s listed on their app. Not only does this reflect poorly on them, but it can actually be harmful to the restaurant owners that miss out on serving someone else. Not only do the apps and restaurants need to continue to acclimate to this new environment, but so do the customers who use them.
For better or worse, review apps like Yelp have made a serious impact on the way consumers interact with restaurants. Not only have review apps made customer service a focus for many restaurants, but it has had the effect of bringing many store owners into the 21st century whether they like it or not.
Ever since review apps became popular, restaurant owners have had to make a shift toward making their presence known online. It’s no longer enough to simply serve good food if you are hoping for your business to take off. In today’s market it is now important to embrace reviews and other new technologies that customers expect you to work with.
While a renewed focus on customer service is one good side-effect of the Yelp revolution, there are some negative impacts as well. Yelp has been sued for strong-arming small businesses with the threat of negative reviews that can make or break their business. Although Yelp has claimed they are working on resolving this, the business owners who lost business or even closed down due to these bad reviews have been left out in the cold.
This should be a warning sign to restaurant owners: As the industry changes, you can either change with it or get lost in the shuffle. Make sure you are staying alert and looking out for new businesses trying to pull one over on you.
Another trend that has shifted the way in which restaurants operate is discount apps that make it easier for customers to dine on a budget. These apps, like DealNews, work with restaurants to bring in new business by offering discounts on products in the establishment.
Sometimes these deals are selective based on many different factors, from time to how many customers choose to use the discount. Apps like this have changed the way that restaurants have priced their menus, taking into account that customers might have discounts or coupons they are hoping to use.
Again, these small changes to the culture of going out to eat make impacts that may not be apparent for years to come. For instance, while big businesses can simply drop pricing when it suits them to be competitive, smaller businesses have found that discounts can actually do more bad than good. In the same way that Yelp helps some while punishing others, those in the restaurant industry need to work out a solution to these issues if they hope to keep pace with the rest of the market.
Individual restaurant apps
The final area of mobile apps we will examine in this article is that of individual restaurant apps. These are restaurants that have taken mobile apps into their own hands and have created their own solution. Now, obviously this is a quite the undertaking for smaller businesses, taking into account the initial setup costs and performing mobile app maintenance to keep everything up to date, but as brands like Starbucks have shown, it can be incredibly valuable.
Not only does a restaurant having its own app allow for complete control of the process, but it allows for seamless integration. Using Starbucks as an example, they allow users to order and pay for their drinks right from the app. Additionally, each Starbucks member that uses their app earns loyalty points automatically simply by making purchases with the app.
This has been an excellent tool for Starbucks and other establishments trying to reduce customer churn rates and increase retention. For the restaurants that can, developing your own app can be a game-changer for your business.
As we can see, the restaurant industry has been forever changed by the widespread use of mobile apps to streamline and add value throughout the food-buying process. As the world continues to move forward in this way, it is always interesting to wonder which industry or process will be disrupted next.
Those with entrepreneurial spirits are already looking for that next wave to ride and a few will be lucky by choosing correctly. But as they say, if you never try you’ll never know, so get out there and start your next project. Who knows? We may be writing an article like this about you in a few years.
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