How Mobile Ordering Has Changed the Foodservice Landscape

Neha Mittal

Unlike other industries, such as brick and mortar retail, physical locations will always be critical for restaurants — it’s not just about the food; it’s about the experience. It’s for this reason that most restaurant organizations consider their patrons “guests” instead of “customers.” That experience now extends beyond what happens in the restaurant. Leaders like Starbucks and Domino’s are forging a new path in making mobile central to how they engage with their guests. So much so, in fact, that Domino’s CEO J. Patrick Doyle stated, “we are as much a tech company as a pizza company.” Other restaurants are noticing and following suit. The shift to mobile is critical, but, restaurants should not abandon their hospitality roots when developing their mobile strategies — they should remain steadfastly focused on guest experience.

That focus is exactly what’s evident with quick-service giants across the globe and the trend toward mobile apps. As early as 2014, chains like Taco Bell started getting in on the mobile ordering experiment, following the lead of Chipotle, Starbucks, Papa John’s, Domino’s and Pizza Hut. At the time, McDonald’s was testing their planned app, preparing to dip their toes into the mobile waters. Earlier this year, they jumped in head first, implementing mobile ordering and delivery in earnest and partnering with UberEats to make sure delivery runs smoothly.

The move marks a major change in the restaurant landscape and signifies that the mobile revolution is now in full swing. Any chains not considering investing in their mobile strategies are taking a serious gamble.

As Business Insider pointed out last May, “these chains without mobile ordering are passing up on an enormous opportunity. As mobile order-ahead explodes into a $38 billion industry, companies need to look to early innovators like Domino’s and Starbucks if they hope to stay competitive.”

Having a good mobile app with an intuitive user experience is key to staying ahead of the pack.

Convenience and savings, more so than food quality or any other factor, will be the primary concern on the mind of most consumers, at least according to Yum! Brands CEO Greg Creed, whose “easy beats better” mantra has led both Taco Bell and Pizza Hut’s comeback efforts. If Creed’s wisdom holds true, then a focus on “delivery and digital innovation” is paramount for success in the foodservice landscape.

Young generations are being molded by technology and expect it in nearly every facet of their lives. They use apps that are easy to navigate and tailored to their tastes to order clothes and gadgets; why not food as well? Providing an experience comparable to the well-designed apps that exist in other industries is key for foodservice businesses looking to stay competitive.

Even as restaurant traffic declines, mobile orders are on the rise, which is a reflection of customers’ increasing demand for speed and ease. The message for restaurant operators is clear: having a mobile app is but the first step to digital success. Integrating that app into your overall guest experience to drive maximum benefit for your business is more challenging. Ultimately, what works for Domino’s may not work for Panera or Dunkin’ Donuts. Only by first testing new ideas and experiences with some users, and measuring the true incremental impact, can organizations identify how to perfect the experience for their guests.

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About Neha Mittal

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