Best Practices When Considering a Restaurant Ordering App

Nowadays, a restaurant app isn’t a nice-to-have feature—it’s a necessity. Learn how an app can drive the customer experience.

Whether or not you need a restaurant app isn’t much of a question anymore. We live in a delivery world, and it’s not likely to change. These days, a digital app can be a customer’s first introduction to your restaurant, so it needs to be a branded, intuitive one.

Although obvious things like in-app ordering, online menus, and payment methods are crucial to a successful restaurant ordering app, there are many other things to consider, including costs and customization for local customers. Plus, the right restaurant app can help with labor shortages.

Let’s take a closer look at what you need to consider when choosing a restaurant ordering app.

Best practices for your restaurant ordering app

First best practice when it comes to your restaurant ordering app? Get a restaurant ordering app.

Seriously. A 2021 survey revealed that 70 percent of consumers prefer to order digitally rather than in person. And this isn't a phenomenon exclusive to digital natives and younger diners. The same survey found that nearly 80 percent of customers ages 18-29 and more than 50 percent of those 60 and over prefer to order online.

So it’s clear that you need an app, or maybe you need a new app. If you have one, are customers actually using it? If you’re getting more call-in orders, your app might not be intuitive enough for your customers.

Consider the investment when weighing costs.

If your biggest concern when choosing an app is getting the cheapest option, you’re already doing your business and customers a disservice. Maybe the least expensive option will work well for your business—but don’t let cost take the lead. Think of your customers, what they need, and what is easiest to understand.

With the right strategy, you can get a lot out of a restaurant online ordering app, so it’s worth the investment. If you aren't ready to invest, then don’t. Having an app that doesn’t serve your customers’ needs is defeating the purpose. Take it from an executive of a successful restaurant chain:

“Regardless of who you pick to work with, I’d argue not to do it on the cheap. If you don’t have the money to do the app well, don’t do it. The app is representing your brand on the consumer’s phone. If it’s hard to navigate and customers experience frustrations when they try to order, you might as well take down the name of your sign outside your restaurant or store and put up one of your competitor’s names.” — Bill Chemero, Executive Vice President of Wayback Burgers

If you’re shaking your head and thinking you can’t afford the expense, you might want to adjust how you look at the cost of an app. A restaurant ordering app—or restaurant menu app—shouldn’t be considered an expense. It’s an investment, just like a piece of kitchen equipment.

Use features that matter to your customers

Your restaurant mobile app needs to meet your customers’ needs, and that means it needs to be easy to use, make payment simple, and offer rewards. Local chains are winning with loyalty programs. When your biggest interaction with a customer is through a smartphone screen, reward points that add up to discounts and freebies are like a love language.

Get help amid the labor shortage.

The more your customers can do within your app, the better. With 41 percent of restaurants in the U.S. understaffed, 87 percent of owners and managers believe technology adoption was key to their businesses surviving the pandemic. Offering features that make it easy for customers to order and pay is crucial to finding a balance that works for your business.

Provide real-time menu updates.

Oh, supply chain issues. They mess with your menu, which messes with your service. When your app says you have fries, but supply chain issues have rendered you fry-less, customers don’t care why or how. They just know that they saw something delicious on your app, and now you have to tell them you can’t fill that order.

Real-time menu updates can help you avoid that disappointment. Although customers may wish you had everything in stock, their experience will be much better if they can see what is or isn’t available.

Own your customer data.

We don’t have to tell you that customer data is crucial to your brand and business. Analyzing customer data helps owners and managers determine what is working, what isn’t, and what needs to be changed. This information used to come only through point-of-sale (POS) systems or whatever method you used for customer feedback.

Your mobile ordering app should allow you to own your customer data. With your online ordering system, you collect customer data directly, using it to track behavior and provide targeted deals and personalized offers.

Make sure your operational changes align

So you’re going to get an app! Just press play … right?

Not so fast. Your ordering app will be an investment, but it needs to align with the rest of your operation. If your restaurant will be taking online and mobile orders for the first time, ask a few questions:

  • How do we integrate online orders into our POS system?
  • Do we have enough people to fill online and mobile app orders?
  • How will increased order volume impact our current take-out or delivery processes?
  • Will our current communication practices work with an app?
  • Are app orders easy for employees to understand?

Before you leap, take a breath and think about post-app life in your restaurant. Restaurant ordering apps are fantastic for your business, but you have to make room for them.

Create a post-launch marketing plan

At this point, ordering food online is nothing new.

With so many options, how do you get your brand to stand out? Start with social media, of course. About 52 percent of consumers say social media influences their app downloads and usage. Additionally, 27 percent use social media to find deals. Use social channels to promote the launch of your menu app or improved restaurant web experience.

But social isn’t the only game in town. If you have a brick-and-mortar location, place menu inserts and flyers leading up to your ordering app or website launch date. If you have an existing website, use it to promote the new enhancements, and include a call-to-action button before and as you go live.

Don’t forget paid media. Paid advertising is likely in your marketing budget already, so including campaigns promoting your mobile or website app is recommended for success. Add a social component, making it easy for your customers to market and write reviews.

Reward your customers.

Don’t forget to reward your customers for using your app. To delight your customers, you can:

  • Send customers a “thank you” reward for ordering, or creating an account.
  • Always respond to customer feedback and reward them for suggesting changes that bring your restaurant business.
  • Provide birthday discounts or offers to encourage customers to order. Who doesn’t love a birthday deal?
  • Reward them for referring a friend. Customers who have incentives to bring their friends will bring more friends.

When you structure your reward program, stick to three basics: Make it easy, attainable, and personable.

Build a stellar restaurant app

Building a restaurant ordering app from the ground up requires expertise and costs that many local casual dining restaurants can’t swing. And most affordable out-of-the-box solutions are just too rigid, without branding opportunities or data ownership.

Meet in the middle. Octocart restaurant ordering apps give owners and managers what they need—an affordable app they can personalize for their business and customers. We specialize in building custom software with a bank of integrations and providing products suited for your business. You get an end-to-end branded look and feel, along with everything you need to support your customers. 

Want to learn more about Octocart? 

Schedule a demo to see Octocart in action.

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