We are now at a point where more and more industries realize the economic benefits of integrating mobile technologies into their services. With a vast and growing number of potential customers accessing information on their smartphones and tablets, practically anyone serving or selling food or drink without a mobile app is risking to loose audience.
Today we'll focus on apps for businesses in the food service industry and explore fundamental questions such as why do they need an app, and what does it take to design an app that generates business for them? Azoft has successfully designed and developed several particularly successful websites and mobile apps for restaurants and food delivery services – and here we’d like to share some of our experiences developing for this particular business sector.
When it comes to simplicity and speed, mobile technologies rule. Here’s what companies may be missing out on if they don’t have a mobile app:
- Instant communication with customers – Contact information is an obvious, standard avenue. However, calling, texting, emailing and geo-locating can all be done simultaneously with one tap on a smartphone. No website – even the easiest-to-navigate ones – delivers customer orders and feedback this fast.
- Detailed user analytics and data – Statistical data generated from mobile devices is invaluable. Additionally, knowing how customers access their information helps to determine the course of further marketing efforts.
- Direct influence on customer buying decisions – Targeted, relevant and timely promotions and special offers that are delivered via mobile perform substantially better than blind SMS mailing and even e-newsletters.
- Savvy brand image – A well-polished, convenience-centric app that provides up-to-date content generates massively strong brand presence – in Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store, no less – at an unbelievably low CPM. The exposure from this alone could lead to appearing on tech and app review sites, in turn attracting more new customers.
“Secret” app ingredients
Welcoming guests to a cafe or bar begins long before they ever set foot inside – via mobile. Here are some ‘secret ingredients’ that you may want to throw into the mix to ensure a warm welcome when your customers tap into the food service industry through their mobile devices:
Delicious food photos on the menu page are highly recommended. You want your customers hungry, right?
Easy in-out shopping cart capabilities are essential if your restaurant serves take-out or you run any sort of food delivery business; designing for the fastest, easiest way to order food from mobiles is of critical importance. Don’t rely on providing just a phone number (nobody wants to deal with a phone call these days): allow users to place an order in just a tap or two, ideally, utilizing one-click shopping cart addition while browsing the menu – with all order processing happening unnoticed by the user in the background.
Favorites lists are a popular custom feature easy to give to customers. Despite the thrill of experiencing something new, people tent to order similar or the same dishes over and over. So, why not to make it easier, right?
Order history browsing delivers convenience made possible by saved past order information – and thus customers can reorder items in a few taps. Enable the app to recall delivery address and you eliminate the need for users to type it in every time.
Easy, secure payment is a must, and the more payment methods you can offer your customers, the better. Don’t forget Google Wallet and PayPal, especially. And nobody enjoys entering in credit card information over and over again, so seriously consider building in a provision for securely saving and storing payment information (e.g., using encryption) – and save your customers a lot of their valuable time repeatedly inputting the same data.
Credit card scanning for in-person transactions using a mobile device and credit card reader plugged into the microphone jack makes transacting with customers even simpler, and the app securely stores payment information for order processing.
Order tracking takes some of the sting out of a customer’s waiting and wondering when their order will arrive. Implement mapping into your food service-related app so users can – on their own answer the age-old question: “Where’s my stuff?!”
Exclusive content delivered via an app provides your customers with first-class delivery in its own right when it comes to informing them with messages about “insider” and “special” offers available, seasonal menu changes, etc.
Unique features such as determining customer’s location to display the nearest restaurant of the chain can be a life-saver for tourists – while others can boost a company’s cachet with an added “wow” factor through features such as providing tips on healthy eating and lifestyles; built-in calorie counters – your imagination is the only limit. And if your goal is developing top-level apps for your clients, make sure they’re not just useful: make them irreplaceable.
Theory in practice
While any theory remains just that: a theory – below let’s illustrate here using one of many examples from our real-world projects the benefits gained from companies going strong going mobile: an iPhone/iPad app Azoft created for a Japanese restaurant chain in Russia for ordering sushi and other Asian cuisine and beverages.
The development process for this app – from prototype to integration with the company's order management system – spanned two months. Within the first three months after launching the app in AppStore, the company’s sales jumped by nearly 5% and its client base was showing solid, steady growth. In one year, sales grew by 15%.
While having quite a few interesting projects – the sushi restaurant app certainly is not the only example – most of Azoft's products are under NDA though, like the one done for a famous pizza chain, so we can't share any details.
Apps for the crew
Apps for customers are not the only way to enhance food service company performance. Another Azoft project was producing an app turning an iPad into a robust point-of-sale system – part of an innovative solution for waiters taking tableside orders enabling them to instantly transmit them to the kitchen or bar.
When we talked with managers after the app had been developed and integrated, we found that they were very pleased with the results: waiters were able to work and server customers significantly faster.
So, as you can see from our experiences, mobile apps both for customers and employees have been shown to increase profit and improve employee performance. But no matter how you want to interpret the results, I think we can agree it’s an opportunity too big to gamble with in not launching a useful and handy mobile app to further connect with your potential and loyal customers.
And the best thing: restaurateurs don’t have to get involved in the application development process themselves in order to wield a sharp, effective culinary blade in the highly competitive food service marketplace. In fact, the majority of FSI apps are overwhelmingly delivered by professionals.