More Restaurants Push Order-Ahead Apps, But Customers Worry About Cold Food

Image courtesy of Adam Fagen

From Domino’s emoji ordering, to Starbucks’ cut-the-line-order-ahead app, fast food restaurants around the country are jumping at the chance to get customers to place orders on their phones. For the restaurants it all comes down to sales, but persuading customers to use those apps is harder than one might think, despite the obvious draws: no line, no wait, food ready and waiting. 

The Chicago Tribune reports that some restaurants are having difficulty getting customers to use their apps, thanks in part, to concerns that food won’t actually be fresh when they arrive to pick it up.

Much of that concern stems for the varying quality and sophistication of apps used by restaurants. For example, some eateries use location tracking to see when a diner is close enough to start an order, while others continue to tweak their preparation times based on average orders.

“I think some users assume (their food) would be sitting on that counter for them because that’s how most in the industry do it,” Hunter Swartz, founder and CEO of Eastman Egg, a Chicago-area eatery, tells the Tribune.

The restaurant is trying to quell the cold food concerns with an app that uses location technology to alert the kitchen when the customer is getting close.

But that’s not necessarily a workable model for every restaurant, especially large chains with hundreds of locations.

Still, companies like Starbucks have easily carved out a space in mobile pay and ordering. The coffee giant’s app quickly grew in popularity, now accounting for 5% of the company’s overall sales. In some cases, the mobile pay and ordering app represents 20% of transactions at peak coffee-ordering times.

A recent Deloitte survey found that customer visits increased by 6% and average spending rose by 20% when restaurants made apps available.

Part of the reason for increased sales, Deloitte found, was the app’s ability to store previous orders, meaning customers can repeat their favorite meals or drinks with the touch of a button, walk into the eatery, grab their food, and get on with their lives. Of course, analysts says this isn’t always the case, as some fast food chains struggle with customer overload and workflow issues stemming from apps.

Additionally, Deloitte found that customers, on average, download just three restaurant apps, putting pressure on those still figuring out their apps.

Why restaurants want you to order food on your phone [Chicago Tribune]