Most people think technology only impacts the restaurant side of things through inventory management or POS systems. In reality, it has the ability to impact all aspects of the restaurant business- all the way down to how customers interact with a restaurant.
In the last two years, there has been a 50% increase in restaurants using technology, with popular platforms being:
- Mobile apps
- Online ordering platforms
- Tabletop tablets
- Mobile payment services
There are many different approaches restaurants can take when utilizing technology to enhance relationships with consumers. Creating an app is one of the most popular. Why? 77% of Americans own a smartphone, up from 35% in 2011. The number of Americans who are smartphone-only internet users rose from 8% in 2013, to 12% in 2016.
Consumers today are more connected than ever in almost all aspects of their lives thanks to smart phones. As a result, consumers are becoming more interested in how they buy things where traditionally they've been more interested in what they buy. An app can help restaurants capitalize on this trend.
Here's why your fast casual restaurant should have an app.
1. There is a demand for fast-casual restaurants to engage with consumers digitally.
Consumer's engage with brands via a digital format in all aspects of the lives. Why should engaging with a restaurant be any different? Consumers want to see their favorite technology integrated into their fast-casual restaurant experience. A study from Technomic shows that this is especially true if it will speed up the process of getting their meal or paying their bill. Just over half the respondents said it's important for restaurants to start using these technologies, and that they expect to use technology more often in the coming year to order food.
2. You won't sacrifice customer interactions.
The restaurant industry is customer service focused and rightfully so. Outstanding customer service is the marker of a successful restaurant. It's a common misconception that launching an app will detract from a restaurant's interactions with their customers. When fast-casual restaurants and their customers utilize apps, they don't detract from employee/customer interactions. Instead, employees and customers interact in different ways.
Customers can do many things through an app that are typically handled by an employee on the phone. When customers utilize and app, employees can focus on tasks like food prep, serving customers who are getting thier meals to-go, or assisting dine-in patrons.
3. Ordering through an app benefits both the fast-casual restaurant and the consumer.
Fast-casual customers value convenience. Because of that, online ordering is a big draw to them. It offers a convenient experience that can be healthier than fast-food options. Zoe's Kitchen handles ordering through their app beautifully. Through the app customers select what they need, when they'd like it to be ready, and pay. All they have left to do is pick it up.
Aside from being convenient for customers, online ordering also benefits the restaurant. Did you know that online tickets are on average 23% larger than those created in store or on the phone? Ordering in a digital environment creates a no-pressure up-selling opportunity.
The benefits don't stop there. Fast casual restaurants who utilize apps have also seen improved order accuracy and an decrease in the time it takes to serve customers during rush traffic hours.
4. Apps create an easy way for you and your customers to track loyalty programs.
Apps offer a new and improved way to track customer loyalty programs. Customers don't have to keep up with punch cards, plus employees don't spend valuable time enrolling customers in loyalty programs. Winn-Dixie is a prime example of this. Users have a physical rewards card but have the option to use the barcode created in their app. Customers can track and cash in on points they've accumulated.
Zoe's Kitchen integrated their rewards program with their app as well. Once a customer receives their order, they take a picture of the receipt and submit it through the app. Zoe's Kitchen then stores a reward in the app for the user's next visit. Rewards range from free humus to a discounted order.
Despite the benefits of fast-casual restaurants having their own apps, 95% of restaurants do NOT have an app. This creates an opportunity for those who jump in now and create their own app. What are you waiting for?