There was a time when the primary function of a restaurant’s mobile app was helping guests find the nearest location and allow them to look at the menu.
As a growing number of restaurant chains move into the mobile/digital space, the features available to guests are become increasingly complex.
With a strong digital presence, restaurant chains can allow guests to order ahead, pay for their meal and skip the line. Guests can choose to have their meals delivered. They can order and send gift cards; study the nutritional aspects of their customized choices; track their loyalty reward points; and sometimes even play games.
However, some data indicates that consumers don’t necessarily want more restaurant apps taking up valuable real estate on their smartphones.
A survey by OpenTable earlier this year found that 56 percent of consumers said they were “very unlikely” or “unlikely” to download an app for an individual restaurant, compared with 6 percent who said they are very likely to download such apps.
Respondents indicated that they prefer restaurant apps that aggregate information from multiple restaurants.
According to a white paper report by the National Restaurant Association with mobile provider LevelUp, different methods for digital programs have succeeded with different customer bases, but a number of features are beginning to stand out.
A look at what some of the leading players are saying about their digital programs shows that certain features can move the needle in driving traffic and sales.
The report, "The restaurant of the future: Creating the next-generation customer experience," reveals not only that restaurant customers want online ordering, payment flexibility and customization but also how these increase dining frequency, check size, customer conversion and loyalty.
"People have come to expect certain conveniences when they shop, travel and handle their finances – such as mobile access, personalization, loyalty tracking and no-touch transactions," said Andrew Feinberg, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP and restaurant and food service leader. "More and more, they want their restaurant experiences to feel the same way. The true restaurants of the future will likely be the ones that engage people in a personalized way, even as interactions become more omni-channel."
For consumers, a restaurant menu is still the most important factor when choosing a restaurant for the first time. According to Deloitte, 85% of survey respondents said they will view the menu on the restaurant's own website when making the decision to visit for the first time. If a QSR location lets them use technology, customers will come back 6% more often and spend 20% more each time. Also, when they order, the most important element of the menu is the ability to customize the order.