How to Mix in Mobile for Restaurant Success

November 7, 2013 Stephen Derksen

Over the last couple years, we’ve seen a ton of mobile innovation and disruption across a variety of sectors. News and sports media are delivering instant, on-the-go video mobile content to viewers, retailers are sending targeted mobile messaging and deals to nearby prospective customers, and even banks are starting to enable clients to deposit cheques using their smartphones. In an increasingly mobile-first world, it’s clear that these industries will continue to focus their attention on the mobile channel going forward.

One such industry that has started to make this investment is the hospitality sector. Restaurants, in particular, are beginning to notice the mobile-first trend in guest behavior. A recent Nation’s Restaurant News poll found that 62% of people admit that they are less likely to dine at a restaurant if its menu can’t be read on a mobile device. A Telmetrics-xAd study uncovered that a whopping 90% of users who look for restaurants on their mobile devices convert within the day – 64% of whom convert immediately or within an hour of their mobile search query.

At this point, those stats shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Would-be restaurant customers are hungry and have a smartphone in hand. Dinner planners lounge on their couch with their tablet to check ratings and reviews on Yelp or make reservations using OpenTable. The foodie in us all guarantees that we have our favorite spots to eat, and who among us doesn’t like added in-restaurant perks or personalized deals? The mobile use cases for the industry are evident and restaurants owners and goers are starting to take note.

So how exactly can restaurants capitalize on mobile? There are three key ways:

1) Leverage Your Current Brand Interactions

First and foremost, think about how customers have historically interacted with your brand and where there’s an opportunity to draw them in. Key opportunities could include digitizing your menu and ordering service to deliver engaging, personalized content, or to simply help a table order another round without having to flag down their server. It could involve optimizing the feedback loop or offering instant customer service. And what about social sharing? By leveraging mobile, you have an excellent opportunity to empower your guests to share their location, a favourite menu item, or (hello, Instagram!) a photo of their dinner with friends.

2) Optimize Your Brand Experience
Food is not the only differentiator between restaurant chains – the brand is too. Guests make decisions based on how they feel when they’re in your restaurant. If they enjoyed their experience, they’ll be back – and they’ll tell their friends. I am loyal to my favorite spot in Toronto because they always have the game on, the atmosphere is comfortable, and the servers have taken the time to learn my name. In short, they deliver a consistent experience that makes me feel at home.

Your menu, environment, and décor are all contributors to that customer experience. Have you ever brainstormed ways mobile could take your brand to the next level? Some ideas could include in-restaurant gamification, real-time event check-ins, in-game competitive banter (for sports bars), convenient digital receipts, or even a smartphone-based jukebox for your music. Quite simply, put your brand experience in the hands of your guests to keep them engaged and coming back for more.

3) Deliver Personalized Service

Who doesn’t like being treated like a V.I.P.? Similar to how Burberry uses digital marketing to recognize customers and personalize service as they come into the store (“Hello Stephen – how did your friend like the gift you bought her on your last visit?”), restaurants can use mobile technology as a method of tracking guest loyalty and preferences. You can then personalize service accordingly for repeat guests or for those who bring in major revenue for your restaurant.

Today, it’s not uncommon to have a manager or chef warmly approach recognized guests and shake their hands. What if this experience could be delivered to all your most loyal patrons? Using in-app user profiles and analytics, mobile has made that not just possible but easy, and could very well differentiate you from your competition. There’s no secret formula to cultivate lasting guest loyalty, but mobile affords a tremendous opportunity to track, reward, and deliver a truly personalized dining experience.

Closing Thoughts

I’ve outlined some simple ways the restaurant industry can leverage mobile to drive revenue and collect valuable data about guests. The fact of the matter is, your guests come to your restaurant for the food, service, and atmosphere they enjoy while they’re sitting down with friends and family. Always remember, mobile should never replace your brand experience, but enhance it. Keep what makes your brand experience unique, but continue to look for opportunities to tailor, improve, and personalize the experience for your guests.

After all, that’s what keeps them coming back.


Connect with Stephen on LinkedIn to continue the conversation.

About the Author


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