Archive | November, 2016

Why restaurants want you to order food on your phone

22 Nov

food

An order placed by an app is shown on the screen Sept. 12, 2016, at the Eastman Egg restaurant at Ogilvie Transportation Center in Chicago. Eastman’s app technology allows a customer to order at any time and the food is prepared only when the customer gets close to the restaurant. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

The ability to order food with the click of a few buttons on a smartphone is becoming widespread — even fast-food companies are getting in on the action. But the technology — which in some cases tracks a customer’s location and times food preparation accordingly — can vary widely. And restaurants admit that some customers are still wary about the freshness of their food when ordering ahead..

“I think some users assume (their food) would be sitting on that counter for them because that’s how most in the industry do it,” said Eastman Egg founder and CEO Hunter Swartz, who focused on a mobile app as a cornerstone of the Chicago restaurant’s development. “As much as we had to educate the public about our food, there’s been just as much education for the app.”

Mobile ordering is becoming a critical piece of many restaurants’ plans because of what it can bring in improved sales. Customers spend more and visit more often, on average, when they’re using a phone to order their food.

The first restaurants to make mobile a big part of their business were the ones that rely heavily on delivery: pizza makers. At Domino’s, you can order just by texting an emoji of pizza or opening their app; no clicking required. Pizza Hut and Papa John’s have made big advances, too, and all three credit about half their sales to mobile orders.

Few restaurants are as far along as the delivery operators, but many have advanced their own apps by leaps and bounds to capture more customers on the go.

Starbucks launched mobile pay through its app a year ago, and it now accounts for about 5 percent of sales, Chief Financial Officer Scott Maw said at a conference last week. That jumps to 20 percent of transactions at peak times at several hundred of its urban stores. It expects that number to accelerate quickly in the near future, as customers get more comfortable with the technology. A quarter of Starbucks’ customer payments already are made with its smartphone app.

Maw also said Starbucks’ app eventually will be able to use weather data to market different food and drink items to customers, like a pumpkin spice latte on a chilly October day.

In June, Dunkin’ Donuts debuted mobile ordering nationwide and Chick-fil-A launched a new app with mobile ordering capabilities. Taco Bell has had mobile ordering capabilities on its app since 2014, but sister company KFC doesn’t offer it. McDonald’s, the world’s largest burger chain, has been testing its own mobile ordering system since the spring and has said that digital initiatives are a big priority in the near future.

Among fast-food restaurants, the frequency of customer visits increases by 6 percent and average spending per visit rises by about 20 percent when technology is used to place an order, according to a Deloitte survey released this week. Visits tend to increase because technology makes it easier to repeat an order automatically, while repeat orders of custom or upgraded drinks lead to increased sales.

In addition to an expected sales boost, the data collected from mobile ordering apps can shine light on the makeup of customers.

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