Building a Better Restaurant App

Here’s everything your restaurant app should feature
Stephen Heitz, Chief Innovation Officer

How many restaurant apps are on your smartphone?

A 2016 national survey by RetailMeNot.com found that 25% of consumers have at least one restaurant-specific app on their smartphones. But more than two-thirds of frequent diners (those who eat out 8–10 times a week) use a restaurant app.

Only one of the nation’s top 25 restaurant chains doesn’t have an app. Sadly, most of them get it wrong. The most successful restaurant apps solve a problem (such as waiting in line) and add value (like special offers and coupons). If you’re a restaurant that hasn’t yet launched a native app (or if you already have one that is underperforming) here’s a guide that will help you delight customers. 

Get found.

This is a no-brainer. Make it easy for consumers to find your closest location. If they can’t find you, they’ll look elsewhere.

Offer your menu.

This is a biggie. Research by Chadwick Martin Bailey reveals that 62% of consumers won’t choose a restaurant if they can’t easily read the menu on their smartphone. While you’re at it, show high-quality photos of your menu items, too.

Don’t be a website.

If your app is simply a mirror of your website, there’s a good chance it will be deleted. When there’s nothing special about your app, consumers can simply access your mobile website. Apps should present an experience that's complementary and unique from your regular website.

Order ahead.

No one likes to stand in line. That’s why consumers enjoy apps that allow them to place their order on a smartphone and have it ready when they arrive. But benefits of online ordering transcend convenience. One national restaurant chain reports that mobile orders are 20% higher in value than in-store purchases, partly because consumers can explore options without worrying about the person behind them. According to research from Business Insider, people who order online “are more likely to add toppings to their orders or send in group orders via the app.”

Speak their language.

You’ll be missing out on customers and orders if your app is only offered in English. For example, if there is a significant Hispanic population near your restaurant, consider a dedicated Spanish version of your app.

Virtual reservations.

OpenTable (and other apps) have this covered, and consumers love this feature. If your restaurant offers reservations, ensure consumers can make one through your app prior to their arrival.

Pay in-app.

This another feature that consumers want—paying for their meal within the app. It’s all about convenience. Find a location, order food and pay all in one place.

Rewards.

Many restaurants have a loyalty program, and an app can be its heart. Give customers extra points if they download your app. Send push-notifications with special offers and digital coupons that are available only through the app. Take advantage of geo-targeting technology to identify and communicate to consumers in proximity to your restaurant.

Be awesome.

We admit this can be hard, but add unique features to your app that will surprise your customers. For example, one national restaurant chain has found great success by including an Uber-like “tracker” that shows the location and progress of the delivery vehicle.

Encourage reviews.

Provide links to your social media networks and review platforms such as Yelp. This will make it easy for people to post pictures of their food or restaurant experience and post reviews. Your app can also send “review us” notifications to customers. The more you ask for reviews, the more you’ll receive and the higher the rating.

Customize.

When a customer has downloaded your mobile app and is logged in, you can study their dining habits and send them unique offers created specifically for them.

Guest Check

Did you know that nearly 1 in 3 consumers have used a digital coupon at a restaurant in the last three months, or plan to in the future? Courtesy of ReatailMeNot’s study, The Evolution of Dining in the Digital Age, here’s fascinating data about restaurant shopping.

How often do you look for deals when you go to a restaurant?

  • 13% Every time I dine out

  • 30% Most of the time

  • 38% Sometimes

  • 14% Rarely

  • 5% Never

How do you search for restaurant deals? 

  • 27% Search engine
  • 24% Through a restaurant’s app or website
  • 22% Through a general deals app or website
  • 15% Newspaper

  • 12% Other (e.g. OpenTable, Yelp, UrbanSpoon)

*: RetailMeNot.com, “The Evolution of Dining in the Digital Age”

 

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