How Ordering Apps Changed How Customers Engaged with Restaurants

As we start, put yourself into the customers shoes and think about how you changed the way you engaged with brands over the last 10 years, but really how COVID forced a different experience and expectations.

The rise of mobile technology has had a major impact on the way people interact with restaurants, fast casual chains and other businesses. Many users now expect to be able to order food through their phone or tablet while they’re out and about.

Apps have made it easier than ever for customers to find the best places to eat based on what they like, where they live, and even which dining companions are available that night. This new digital reality has made it easier than ever before for customers to compare prices, read reviews and choose which establishment serves their meal better.

We’ll get into how ordering apps have changed customer engagement and how your business can “listen” to their customers expectations on creating a better brand engagement.

How Ordering Apps Changed How Customers Engaged with Restaurants

Before apps, many customers would order food from their local restaurants only when they were hungry and had no other choices nearby. They had to wait until dinnertime, when their hunger would be the strongest, and hope that the restaurant would have all the ingredients and equipment on hand to turn out a speedy meal. Take-out wasn’t a big option, and even when they did, it was usually eaten at home the same day.

The growth of ordering apps made it possible for customers to browse and order food all the time. Customers could plan meals, order take-out, and even pick up their food at a nearby restaurant. Apps fit into the on-the-go lifestyles of many and created experience expectation that customers began to prefer. In response, fast casual chains saw an increase in the number of customers who wanted to order food altogether — and apps also help expand the customer base because the flexibility.

The Benefits of Ordering Apps

The benefits of ordering apps are clear and compelling:

  • More convenience: Customers who use ordering apps can order food at any time of day. They can order take-out or eat in, wherever they are. And many apps let you schedule your order for pickup.
  • More variety: With ordering apps, you don’t have to choose between the same handful of options as in-person dining. Many apps let you customize your order, from the type of bread you’d like to the ingredients in your salad.
  • Easier control: Most apps let you control the quality and timing of your order. You can choose how many items you want and how much everything will cost before you order. You can also cancel an order at any time.
  • Data: The data you receive from apps can be used to make smarter business decision, help with menu management and get a better understand of your customers while giving you a opportunity to personalize the experiences.

Ready to order?

Apps that let you order food online are great, but they’re only part of the story. You’ll also need to use your app to collect customer data — and make sure your employees know how to take that data into the kitchen.

The first step is to ensure that your customers have easy access to the app. Demonstrate how to find it on your menu, in your dining room and on your website. If your store is limited to a certain number of items, put the app on your menu.

If it’s a standalone app, put a sign outside that makes it clear where customers can find it. Next, make sure every employee is aware of how to order from an app. Ask your executive chef to brief your waitstaff on the process so that all of your cooks can be familiar with it as well. You want to make sure that customers know how to order and that employees know how to take their orders.

The roadblocks to success in an order-ahead world

The order-ahead world has its challenges, but they’re not impossible to overcome. The most significant blocker is confusion about how to make ordering work at your restaurant. It’s not enough to make an order-ahead app available. You have to make it easy for customers to use it.

Your menu is an important first step. Add an order-ahead item to your menu, preferably as a main or side item. Give customers a clear explanation of how to order it and what’s in it for them. For example, explain that it’s a sandwich filled with turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing, and that you make it fresh each day. You can also include a price point, a delivery window and a minimum order.

Next, make sure your menu is up-to-date. If you’re using a point-of-sale app, make sure your menu appears on the screen. If you’re using a digital menu board, make sure it’s accurate. No matter what kind of menu you have, make sure it includes items that would make sense for an app.

Most importantly, is to show the benefits, what your customers are going to get out of it and how it is going to make their experiences better.

Success in an Order-Ahead World

Keep in mind these key points as you re-engage with your customers in an order-ahead world.

  • Keep your menu up-to-date. New menu items should be added as soon as possible to give yourself the most flexibility in terms of what you can offer. Some of the new menu items should be app-friendly, like a build-your-own-burrito bar, a build-your-own-salad bar or a build-your-own-taco bar.
  • Make your menu easy to navigate and understand. Your menu should be designed in such a way that it’s easy for your customers to navigate and understand how to navigate it.
  • Create an easy-to-use app. Make sure your app is easy to navigate and use. Create a step-by-step guide for your customers so that they don’t get lost in the app.
  • Make sure your employees know how to take customer data. Give your employees clear instructions on how they can use data collected from an app to make their jobs easier and their customers happier.

Overall, apps have helped usher in new brand expectations and how customer engage with the brand. With the data that is captured and the integrations of rewards programs, brands are able to build a loyal customer based with a more personalized experience.

EZ-Chow has solutions such as an Online Ordering, Self-Ordering Kiosks and Rewards/Loyalty Solutions that integrate into your existing POS systems. To learn how EZ-Chow can help you with these initiatives and more, get started by contacting us here.

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