Great heroes are even more heroic when they have a faithful cohort. Maverick had Goose, the Lone Ranger had Tonto, Thelma had Louise and it is pretty hard to imagine Han Solo without Chewbacca. Likewise, a heroic restaurant needs a mobile app providing staunch support, not stealing the spotlight.
There are two ways to approach a mobile restaurant app. One is to jump on board with a collective of other eateries under the masthead of a large, well-known business finder. The other is to develop a unique, “branded” app specifically for that merchant and promote it to your target customer base. Both approaches have their merits, depending on the needs of the restaurant in question.
Big, consumer-facing organizations promise an avenue to introduce restaurants to a new customer base. Using a third-party application may save on the time, money and effort that goes into developing an app. The mobile ordering system can be up and running quicker. Support, maintenance and customer service infrastructure are already in place.
While it may seem safe to run with the herd and join a collective, it is easy to get drowned out by every other business clamoring for attention. Moreover at the end of the day your restaurant is working to promote the appeal of the app, not the other way around.
Branded apps put the client’s identity at the forefront, providing a framework and the necessary support for a restaurant’s mobile ordering business to take off and go. Instead of luring new business, these apps are meant to enrich the experience of existing customers by letting them interact with the brand outside of the physical location.
Research indicates that users who downloaded a branded app were 40 percent more likely to buy products from that brand in the future. If a branded app is the way to go, there are a few key things to remember.
“Quality begins on the inside, then works its way out.” – Bob Moawad
A lot of people develop apps, and most of them are of low quality. Turning out an app quick and cheap is one way to cash in on initial excitement and curiosity, but such apps have next to no staying power. Users quickly surmise that the interface is crappy, the app is useless or it is nothing but a vehicle for spam.
A high quality app becomes a main stay; users go back to it day after day.
“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” –John Ruskin
Having a branded app won’t help if no one uses it; so make sure the app has lots of appeal to smartphone users. A good application has a simple yet helpful user interface. If a customer can’t place an order with a few taps of the thumb, the app is probably too complex. Great apps offer easy access to tools customers want. A good food-ordering app becomes even better with the addition of features like saved favorite orders, social media sharing or a tip calculator.
In case problems arise, app users need a lifeline to customer support. Many mobile users would choose to fire up an app or type a quick message over dialing the phone and communicating by voice. Be sure the app provides customers with a portal to reach customer service.
Once it goes live, a restaurant has to properly promote its branded app. Think of an app is a continual investment in customer satisfaction, not a marketing cost.
Apps can also serve as components of larger, integrated marketing initiatives. People consume media from a multitude of platforms, including mobile devices. App users can sign up to receive targeted promotions as part of a larger, multi-pronged campaign.
“The best things in life are free.” –Luther Vandross
Many app developers try to recoup costs by charging 99 cents or more per download. But this can discourage parsimonious mobile customers. Indeed, free app downloads accounted for nearly 90 percent of the total last year.
For some apps this presents an obvious quandary, “how can I make money if the app is free?” Restaurant ordering apps generate revenue by improving the customer experience, which in turn causes new and regular customers to order more frequently. People with busy schedules will prefer to eat at a place where they can order in advance, bypass the line, pick up their food and be on their way. The app is free to download, but it pays for itself in spades by bringing customers through the door.
“The nice thing about teamwork is that you always have others on your side.” –Margaret Carty
In a quick service restaurant the rubber meets the road at the point of sale. A great app offers flawless integration between mobile and online ordering and the restaurant counter. All the virtual features of an app aren’t of much use if the app doesn’t provide a practical solution in the real world.
The only thing more valuable to a restaurant than a customer is a repeat customer. Diners remember the quality of the experience as well as the food. When it comes to take out food, speed is a big part of the experience. For speed there are three factors for a customer to consider: wait time, order time and fulfillment time. The time it takes to prepare food, the time to tap an order into the register and the potential for long lines mean these factors can add up quickly, draining a customer’s will to make a return visit.
A mobile app knocks off all three factors. Order time is eliminated; the order came in advance via mobile app. A printer near the register conveyed the order to the staff so they could fit it into the food preparation flow. Fulfillment time elapses while the customer is on the way to the restaurant. The customer breezes to the front of the line to pick up the waiting food. The wait time evaporated before he or she ever got to the restaurant.
Restaurants on a quest to feed all of those hungry smartphone users need a wingman. Assuming Chewbacca is unavailable, a mobile app is the perfect solution.