For fast food restaurants – for now.
Online ordering is not just for gadgets and accessories. This descendant of mail ordering also offers faster service for restaurants that value speed and efficiency over ambiance.
For fast food restaurants, the biggest bottleneck in serving customers is the often long line at the counter. Since online/mobile ordering allows customers to skip the line altogether, it puts the ‘fast’ in ‘fast food’, making it easier for customers to order without the hassle of a long line.
This benefit is big, which is probably the reason why Internet users experienced a 90 percent increase (about two out of five Internet users) in online food ordering (including mobile) from restaurants as of 2010, based on a survey by Technomic.
Restaurants were quick to respond—fast-casual and quick service restaurants accounted for 70 percent of the total number of restaurants offering online food ordering (which is what mobile ordering actually is), according to a December survey of the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research.
Of course, this benefit is not for every kind of restaurant. Fine dining is the opposite of fast food. Fine dining restaurants cater to an unhurried clientele. They value ambiance and relaxation over speed. Consequently, based on the same survey, no fine dining restaurant offered online ordering. It does make sense since fine dining is a more personal experience which would be spoiled by the impersonal nature of online/mobile ordering.
Mobile ordering apps
Offering mobile ordering apps is a natural extension for restaurants offering online ordering. But not all apps offered by food establishments have a mobile ordering functionality (e.g. Starbucks and some fine dining restaurants—take note, fine dining restaurants have apps, no online/mobile ordering). Instead, these apps offer the ability to pay using your smartphone or to search the menu.
But that is now changing. More and more fast food establishments are offering mobile ordering functions in their apps. These apps either take the form of proprietary apps specifically designed for every handheld platform (iOS, Android, Windows), HTML5 apps that work for every platform, or simple texting services that process your order for you (e.g. GoMobo).
The good thing about mobile apps is that they not only increase sales and ordering, they are also marketing materials—virtual sales reps that are awake 24/7. Apps that track ordering history can also be used in targeted marketing campaigns.
Take the example of Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Their online/mobile/sms ordering services increased the size of orders, enhanced customer service and eliminated phone order problems.
Online/mobile ordering may not be suitable for all restaurants, but for those who need it, the payoff in efficiency and profits are huge.