Would you like an app with that?

By | 2 February 2016

A crowd of customers is good for revenue, but when you’ve got a queue of hungry people impatient to order and eat, increasing your business efficiencies is essential – and speedy service is just the start. These days it takes more than just a prompt sales transaction and a quickly delivered meal to tick the box for exceptional customer service; creating a connected experience ensures the customer is king.

How apps are servicing the foodservice industry

Until now, building a restaurant app for online ordering or mobile marketing has been time-consuming and costly. However, unlike traditional mobile app development and deployment, apps are moving to the cloud, a shift that could help restaurants and cafes rise to industry challenges. ‘Apps as a service’ are apps that are built, published and managed in the cloud, drastically reducing costs and development time.

Using apps as a service and online tools, restaurants around the world are discovering they can work more efficiently, boost staff productivity and increase customer satisfaction. The technology is being used to simplify everything from timing food prep to integrating seating, ordering, payment, inventory and more. And it’s all made possible by smart devices and a reliable 4G network.

From fast to faster

Some of the world’s largest fast food chains have already embraced mobile technology to better connect with customers and improve the speed and service of their stores. Burger King has developed an app which will allow customers to place orders, redeem coupons and pay with their smartphones, while McDonalds has established a San Francisco office dedicated to digital innovation to design the products, services and campaigns to drive customer engagement, particularly on mobile. And with apps already available as a cost effective way to improve the way restaurants work, there’s plenty of options for those businesses that can’t compete with a multi-billion dollar company on development resources.

Bye bye bottleneck

A recent survey by USA foodservice industry research and consulting firm Technomic, revealed that just over half of respondents said it was important for restaurants to adopt technologies that would speed the process of getting their meal or paying their bill. Considering that saving time and convenience were top drivers for customers, the New Zealand developed app YQ simplifies ordering and prepaying for takeaway food and coffee at member merchants – all from an app on a customer’s smartphone. YQ lets people search for their nearest YQ affiliated merchant using a GPS calculator, loads promotions onto a customer’s application and easily lets a customer order the same round again. Launched in January 2013, YQ already has over 14,000 Kiwis registered and a rapidly increasing number of merchants on board.

Dining with devices

While wait staff are critical to the overall dining experience, mobile devices also provide an excellent opportunity to engage customers. USA restaurant chain Chili’s Grill & Bar has rolled out 45,000 seven-inch tablets across its 823 locations with an app that lets guests place orders, pay for meals and inform the restaurant about their experience. They can also read news and play games on the devices.

For Chili’s customers it means faster table service and an entertaining dining experience, but for head office, this method of digging for data also helps turn productivity into profit. With the ability to easily gather invaluable information, store managers now have fingertip access to an analytical view that can improve store operations from staffing to service and to menu options, and they can tailor these results to individual stores. The data can also be used to better target diners with relevant promotions and send digital coupons.

Rethinking restaurant practices

Turning tables is the hallmark of an efficiently run foodservice business. Thanks to the proliferation of consumer smartphones, restaurants can now easily adopt technologies that simplify customer-paging, server paging and table management systems. Apps now enable customers to be paged via text message, while other apps link with a restaurant’s computer network to ensure staff can give reliable wait list estimates.

Table management apps enable each staff member to update table status from their own smartphone and with instant updates, hosts are aware of open tables or where service is required. Using server-paging apps, kitchen staff can notify wait staff when food is ready and send group messages to notify staff of shift meetings or menu changes.

The future of foodservice

Mobile technology and innovative apps have not only changed the way we do business, they’ve changed the way customers go about their daily lives. Now they’re innovating the way restaurants serve their customers. Simple to use and with a relatively low cost of entry, it’s hardly surprising both fast food and fine dining establishments are embracing apps and mobile technology as a way to streamline services while helping them to stay competitive.