Can you afford not to continue offering mobile ordering? The benefits of table ordering beyond the pandemic

We know that the pandemic has caused a seismic shift in the way we use and rely on digital technology and this is no different in the hospitality industry which has seen digital ordering and paying surge in the past year due to Covid restrictions. A need to reduce contact between hospitality staff and customers has propelled the adoption of mobile and self-service technologies with 43% of customers using some form of order and pay tech since July 2020. But, as the lifting of restrictions nears, will operators and customers expect a return to more traditional order and payment methods or is table ordering with a smartphone here to stay?

Our blog looks at why pulling the plug on table ordering post-pandemic could be an unwise move given a public shift in the adoption of this technology. We look at the myriad benefits that mobile order and pay brings to operators and customers, and give our 6 top tips on how to successfully implement a mobile order and pay app into your operation.

The stats don’t lie

According to the Hospitality Snapshot Survey taken in March 2021, 95% of operators currently using mobile order and pay apps planned to continue using the technology post-pandemic.

This finding was mirrored by payment app provider, Dojo who found of the 300 dine-in hospitality operators surveyed, 95% would continue to offer the service. Equally 43% of restaurant-goers surveyed had been using order and pay technologies since July 2020 and 83% actually preferred to use mobile ordering over traditional methods.

Indeed, 56% of customers surveyed by KAM Media’s 2021 Plan to Plate report said they would like to see venues continue offering table service even after it’s not legally required.

These figures demonstrate a desire from customers to continue using mobile ordering which is matched by significant operator intent so let’s look at the reasons behind this as we examine the benefits of this technology for both customers and operators.

Benefits to customers

Reassurance and safety

The pandemic has hit us all hard and so for some, the reassurance given by social distancing cannot be underestimated. Some customers may have only returned to pubs and restaurants as lockdowns eased because these legal measures were in place. Operators need to acknowledge this more cautious of customers when restrictions legally end or risk losing them.

Putting them 100% in control

Mobile ordering gives your customers the keys to the kingdom – once seated, they can scan a QR code to open the menu (or download the app for non-web-based apps), peruse and then order at their leisure. No waiting for the menu or for someone to take their order and at the end of the meal, no hanging around for the bill. 

Quicker and more efficient

By customer ordering and paying directly into the app, the food and drink orders go immediately to the bar or kitchen for fulfilment, speeding up the process* and ensuring there is no room for inaccurate order taking or misunderstanding. It also mitigates against frequently cited pinch points when it comes to dining out such as under-attentive waiting staff, attracting a waiter’s attention to pay/to order, and not knowing how much you’ve spent until you see the final bill.

*The caveat to this is the quality of the app – it needs to feel intuitive and simple to use and this relies on a frictionless UX design that takes the customer through a logical flow of sign-in, navigating and ordering from the menu and then paying securely.

Safe and secure

All payment methods integrated with ordering apps have stringent security settings available such as two-factor authentication and biometric/code locks for transactions. If suspicious activity occurs, you’ll be alerted in (almost) real-time on your phone notifications, minimising any risk of fraud.

Although cashless payment apps are most popular with millennials and Gen Zers, a study from Visa recently found that Europeans, aged 55-64, are the group with the fastest growth rate for mobile banking adoption, likely due to their desire to socially distance effectively.

Man paying securely on mobile phone

Benefits for operators

Helps firefight the staff shortages

An effective mobile ordering app will reduce the number of FOH staff needed for order taking and payment giving more time instead for fulfilment and excellent customer service. This re-distribution of staff tasks can also bolster your busy BOH team by supporting fulfilment and, as orders come directly from customers mobiles to the KDS or kitchen printer, it speeds up the process and reduces any margin for order error.

Using labour-saving technology like mobile ordering is a far better alternative than having to cut dayparts in the face of staffing shortages.

Integrated loyalty

The best mobile ordering apps are those that seamlessly integrate with your existing loyalty platform so every visit or every pound spent is registered and rewarded automatically with no input needed by the customer or operator. Make the tie-up simple and intuitive and customers will want to continue using your mobile ordering solution even when counter or waiter service resumes.

Increased spend per head and longer dwell time

There have been numerous studies made that show customers will spend longer at a venue and spend more per head when they can use mobile ordering. Why? Because customers are more receptive to in-app up-sell suggestions than in-person equivalents. This is likely because we feel less pressure to go for suggested parings or offers when perusing a digital menu at our leisure and the numerous suggestions come at logical times throughout our order journey – something a waiter would struggle to match consistently.

Growing customer base

Your customers so far have had to download or access your app in line with table ordering restrictions but post-pandemic what is going to keep them using mobile ordering? This problem actually becomes a solution in growing your customer base as customers across all demographics have learnt to adopt digital so you can now offer incentives to customers to continue using your app or appeal to new customers. See examples of how to do this effectively below.

Any issues for operators by using mobile ordering?

Commission fees if using aggregator apps

If operators are offering delivery/click & collect and are using third-party aggregator apps like Deliveroo, UberEats or Just Eat they will face additional fees and commission charges for using their platforms. This is invariably passed onto customers as a recent Which? study found that ordering takeaways via an aggregator app is up to 44% more expensive than buying directly from the restaurant.  This illustrates how having your own mobile ordering app, as long as you promote it effectively, is the better solution as it avoids extra charges and keeps your customers (and their valuable data) coming directly to you.

Getting buy-in from staff

How would you feel if technology was taking over a big part of your role? Your FOH staff may well feel aggrieved by mobile ordering especially if it reduces the opportunity for customers to tip. The solution to this is discussed below but involves getting buy-in through effective staff training and integrated tipping.

Alienation for some customers

We know that for some customers the Covid rules that require them to use mobile ordering has been a real barrier. KAM Media reported that 47% of customers surveyed were frustrated when they were ‘forced’ to order via an order and pay app so what will prompt this percentage to embrace mobile ordering when traditional order taking resumes?

Luckily these potential disadvantages can be avoided and barriers surmounted with a proper implementation plan for your mobile ordering.

How to implement a successful order and pay app

Here are our 6 top tips to ensure success for customers and staff alike:

1. Getting staff backing and safeguarding tipping

Your staff are your biggest cheerleaders and importantly, a direct link to your customers therefore it’s crucial that they are fully behind the app so they can convey this enthusiasm to your customers. To do this effectively they need to understand the business reason for using the app and its goals – is it to help ease staff workload? Speed up service? Make your loyalty scheme more accessible? Increase sales? Communication is key.

As well as a direct line to your customers, they are also an earpiece on the restaurant floor to relay valuable feedback from those using the app. This feedback and ideas are vital to improving the app so encourage this through staff incentives.

With customers ordering and paying themselves, staff may understandably fear losing out on tips. Operators can allay these fears by offering a tip option at payment through integration with the app. Alternatively, they can use tip management software like Tipjar that uses conveniently placed QR codes to ensure tips are gathered and distributed fairly, while also ensuring operators avoid costly tronc systems.

2. Get buy-in from customers – give tangible benefits

With your staff on board, it’s time to convince your customers. What’s in it for them? Why download/sign up? If it’s time-saving or more efficient explain that in a tangible way. If you guesstimate that a customer spends 10 minutes (as a conservative average) waiting for the menu/to order/to pay per visit then in five visits they will have the equivalent of 50 mins to send as they like – chat with their fellow diners, read the paper or just absorb the ambience of being out rather than frustrating waiting.

Equally, if the benefit is frictionless, simple loyal rewards by ordering through the app, then illustrate that benefit clearly. McDonald’s new loyalty app, MyMcDonald’s Rewards, does just that. It makes rewards easier to achieve and want with an incentive of 1500 points at sign up and 100 points for every dollar spent. Given that 1500 is enough points for a chicken sandwich, cheeseburger or ice cream, these are quickly redeemable rewards.

My McDonalds Rewards app
3. Staff training

As with all new tech, there will be teething problems and although the pandemic has ironed many of these out, it is your FOH staff that need to be on hand to help with any user problems. To do this effectively, they need comprehensive training in all aspects of the app and importantly, how to troubleshoot any technical or user errors.

4. Promotion

Customers need to know your app exists and this means visibility. If you are using a QR as your access point (most common) then ensure that this is printed on menus, tabletop stickers, flyers, posters in high footfall areas like the entrance, toilets, at the bar/waiting area.

Get the word out there across all your marketing comms too but ensure you put the customer as central in “why” it will help them have a better experience and not just tech for tech sake.

5. Iterate and improve

Feedback, as mentioned earlier, is vital and it shows your customers that you value their input to improve the customer experience. Offering prize draw entry or similar incentives for completing brief feedback surveys is a simple way to hone the app and ensure it gains the traction you want with your customer base.

6. Lastly, inclusivity and accessibility

Not everyone will want or be able to use mobile ordering. Some people do not have access or cannot use a smartphone due to disabilities and so you need to ensure that this portion of your customers still feels welcome by offering all your customers the choice of using traditional ordering and payment methods as well as mobile ordering.

If you are sold on mobile ordering long-term but need help navigating the minefield of options available then our blog ‘How to choose the right mobile order & pay app solution for your restaurant, pub or cafe business’ could help with your decision making.

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