More than half of consumers foresee mobile payments replacing card payments in the next five years, according to new data. Elly Earls finds out how operators can get the move to mobile ordering right
So it's little wonder that casual dining chains including Jamie's Italian, Byron, Prezzo and most recently GBK have had to announce closures this year.
But with two-fifths of those polled for the research, commissioned by technology platform Flyt, wanting to be able to book a table via an app or social media, a third wanting to use their smartphones to get more accurate wait times for a table and around a quarter keen to see technology introduced at their favourite restaurants guaranteeing that their order wasn't wrong, the research also suggested that investing in mobile ordering technology could be one way for restaurateurs to turn this trend around.
If they do it right. "Many businesses have made the initial investment in some form of app, only to find out how hard it can be to get users on board," says Sif Rai, CMO at digital self-service hospitality platform QikServe.
"Indeed, a quarter of all apps get used once in the first six months of ownership and two-thirds of apps fail to reach 1,000 users in the first year. Only a select few will make mobile ordering a success quickly."
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A MOBILE ORDERING PROVIDER
Says Nick Hucker, chief executive of mobile and online ordering company Preoday, operators should be looking for a provider that allows them to retain their own brand customer experience as well as giving them complete access to their customer data.
"Having access to data allows businesses to get to know their customers, both as individuals and as a wider group. This in turn can feed into personalised loyalty campaigns, boosting profitability and attracting a higher number of repeat visits," he explains.
This is supported by research from Zonal and CGA's most recent GO Technology report, which found that 82% of the 5,000 GB adults surveyed are more likely to use a venue's own app as opposed to a third-party provider.
"While some have experimented with third-party services, the last year has seen more and more hospitality brands investing in building their own apps, seeing this as a key source of data about customer behaviour and an unparalleled
communication channel," says Zonal's marketing technologies commercial director, David Charlton.
Another question that needs to be asked, says Rai, is whether to go for a 'native' app or a webbased one. He believes the rise of the latter is set to have a powerful influence on the mobile ordering space over the next 12 months.
"Web apps provide a different option for making digital connections with customers, without requiring them to download yet another app to their phone's valuable real estate," he explains.
Partnership is also key. "Like any relationship, it's important to understand how well a potential partner's capabilities match your long-term strategy," Rai says.
"Ideally you're looking for a partner that shares the same vision as your brand and where you want to take it in the future, and with the capability to align new technology with improved customer experience going forward."
FAST AND SIMPLE PAYMENTS
When it comes to functionality, customers want to be able to pay quickly and split the bill easily, according to YouGov research.
Statistics show that one in five 18- to 34-year-olds (17%) say they don't have enough spare time to eat out in restaurants.
In fact, the average amount of time this age group is willing to wait between requesting the bill and paying it is only nine minutes and eight seconds.
Moreover, for nearly half of Brits (45%), one of the biggest issues they have experienced while eating out is related to the bill; whether that's waiting for it to come or waiting to pay, with two-fifths of 18- to 24-year-olds saying that not being able to split the bill easily is a key frustration.
As Matthew Khoury, managing director of cloud-based mobile payment and
loyalty platform LOKE, says, "The two most important functions of the payment process are that it is fast and simple. If a customer has finished their meal and looking to leave, they don't want to be held up by a complicated payment process that takes ages to clear or wait around for a team member who isn't busy.
"The beauty for operators is that all important turn of tables to drive revenue. Implementing alternative payment methods such as mobile transactions or pay at table can improve operational efficiencies and the overall customer experience."
A mobile ordering system will only deliver benefits to a business if it's fully integrated with its existing digital platforms. Fortunately, with many EPoS and payment systems being cloud-based and having open APIs, the technical side of this should be relatively straightforward.
What restaurateurs do need to keep in mind, though, is that the influx of orders will never be entirely predictable, which means that choosing a platform that can blend the various streams of traffic coming in - from both mobile ordering systems and waiters - via the EPoS system, is a must.
"If mobile orders aren't managed so that they flow through the kitchen in a timely manner, it won't be long before they start backing up, not only causing a stressful environment but the guest experience will begin to suffer," says Ashley Sheppard, vice-president of sales at restaurant technology provider QSR Automations.
It's also worth looking for a system that allows you to track performance front and back of house so the flow of orders can really be refined.
"One of the most exciting developments of the last 12 months is the way in which restaurant data collection and analysis have become more streamlined," Sheppard says. "By monitoring the step-by-step process of an order (how long it takes to cook, how long it stays in the delivery window and so on) via speed of service reports, operators can see exactly how well the kitchen is running, as well as set goals with staff."
Restaurants can also use order-tracking to loop customers into the process, literally letting them know how far along their food is.
"We see the market likely to develop further in these areas and expect this kind of detail to be used more in the future as technology improves and mobile ordering widens," Sheppard predicts.
"Real-time order tracking will also become part of the information that customers anticipate, so operators will need to consider including this capability as part of their base mobile ordering offer from the outset."
A CLEAR STRATEGY
Before delving into the details, it's crucial to figure out where mobile ordering fits into the business's wider digital strategy, say Rai.
"While mobile ordering may be what you need today, operators need to think about where they want to be tomorrow," he advises.
"Without a clear strategy in place, operators can become embroiled in a complicated and time-consuming nightmare as they try and ensure the customer experience is consistent across all their technological investments. Customers don't see a mobile ordering app as being any different to a brand's website or kiosk system - they see it all as a single brand, so consistency really is the key.
Making time to build a launch marketing campaign is also essential, so customers know that the service is available. Alternatively, some operators have opted to implement kiosk solutions as a first step on the journey to mobile ordering because they can enhance the customer buying experience in the short-term, without the user acquisition challenges posed by going down the mobile route.
"This gives operators the chance to start building a digital user journey, which can ultimately provide the basis for an effective mobile ordering solution, saving both time and money," Rai explains.
THE YEAR AHEAD
Over the next 12 months Rai believes that brands will increasingly be drawn towards the concept of using a single technology platform, not just for mobile ordering but for all their customer-facing technologies, helping to avoid the Frankenstein-esque situation that happens when several different technologies
have to be stitched together.
"In addition to presenting a consistent customer experience across channels, operators can use a platform to access detailed customer data from across their digital environment, helping them understand their customers better and to implement advanced capabilities such as intuitive upselling," he explains.
Although one key area many venues are falling down in at present, according to Graham Cornhill, co-founder and managing director of mobile ordering company wi-Q Technologies, is with the F&B menus themselves.
"They were designed to be read on a piece of paper. This doesn't make the most of an online menu's ability to not only allow a customer to personalise their own choice, but also cross and upsell them," he explains. "We recommend that they re-design or re-engineer their menu for its new digital medium - as well as considering where they want certain items ranked in the list."
AI is also set to become a bigger part of the hospitality experience in the year to come. Zonal for example, is already helping some of its clients install Facebook Messenger booking and ordering chatbots and Flyt has created a Facebook Messenger payment bot for Byron, which enables people to pay the bill and split
it whenever they like.
Meanwhile, wi-Q has gone one step further, announcing a partnership with Cambridgebased Fetch.AI, which will allow the company to integrate its own artificially intelligent 'hospitality expert' into its mobile ordering and experience platforms, wi-Q and Mi-Room.
Uses will include presenting guests - via mobile - with personalised recommendations which are not just based on their preferences, but also the wider context of what's going on in the world. The technology can also be used to improve operational efficiencies via real-time models that predict consumer demand to improve stock and staff management.
"The most exciting development for us, and our customers at present, is AI and what it will do for both the end consumer and their internal operational efficiencies," concludes Cornhill, adding that before committing to a partnership with any mobile ordering provider, it's key to find out not only how they track, store and organise big data, but also how they will ultimately integrate with AI.
Payment by Facebook Messenger
Byron has become the first restaurant chain in the UK to begin rolling out a new payment bot to its sites, enabling customers to pay for their bill using Facebook Messenger.
The customer simply needs to open Facebook Messenger, select the Byron restaurant location and enter the table number. The bill is then recalled from the PoS system and displayed in Messenger for the customer to approve and pay with one click.
Hospitality tech company Flyt created the 'bot' behind this technology, which was piloted by UK restaurant chain Wahaca, where it accounted for up to 14.5% of payments, with a peak conversion rate of 69%.
Tom Weaver, CEO at Flyt says: "Most pay-at-table experiences are app-powered, so the diner has to download the restaurant's app in order to pay. But this bot makes pay-attable easily accessible as Facebook Messenger has 1.3 billion monthly active users worldwide. It's the perfect example of how relatively
simple tech can be used to improve the customer experience and draw more people to your restaurant."
White label ordering systems
Third-party delivery Norwegian burger chain the Shack decided to invest in Preoday's white label app and online ordering system because its customers were waiting up to an hour for their takeaway burgers.
Since integrating the system, which includes a pre-order function, into its existing app and EPoS system in 2016, the business has not only slashed waiting
times from 60 to 20 minutes but also significantly increased average order value.
Today, mobile and online ordering account for 30% of the Shack's sales with the average order value 58% higher via Preoday than in-restaurant purchases, while the system's analytics allow the team to create bespoke promotions, marketing
and loyalty discounts for customers based on their ordering habits.
Says co-owner Gunnar Ellingsen: "We were looking for an ordering platform to embed within our app and EPoS, and Preoday's API was the most flexible, as well
as supportive of multi-outlet and multilingual businesses - making it the obvious fit for our requirements.
"Their dashboard and order screen has been very easy to use, and we are pleased that it is updated with new features regularly, such as the promotions offer, which we are very excited to implement."
Zonal and CGA's latest quarterly GO Technology report indicates that 28% of adult consumers are now ordering more food deliveries than a year ago, with 50% of those being made by millennials. Meanwhile, demand for delivery grew 10 times faster than demand for in-restaurant food last year, according to the NPD Group.
And while third-party delivery apps like Deliveroo and Uber Eats claim a significant percentage of each order, they are also widening restaurants' reach and driving more frequent purchases. But how to decide which - if any - delivery
company with which to partner?
According to Philipp Laqué, managing director of Revenue Management Solutions (RMS), it's key to look for a provider that shares your business's values and acts as an extension to the business, reaching more customers at different times of the day rather than adding extra pressure and becoming a drain on resources.
"Another point to consider is the costs associated with onboarding a delivery
partner," he says. "The partnership will demand a mark-up on menu costs to ensure those making the deliveries are paid fairly and the platform might also charge an additional fee for their own services. Operators need to make sure they can reasonably cover these costs without upsetting loyal customers with a hefty price increase."
To get a feel for the services a delivery partner can offer, operators should ask to see a typical order pattern - what the average order value is and order size looks like - Laqué suggests. It's also important to consider how much data they're willing to share and whether they have access to the consumers the business wants to target. "The key is to understand what delivery is doing for a business and how (if at all) it is helping," he stresses.
Finally, with apps like Uber Eats and Deliveroo bringing in round the clock
delivery services in London, operato s mustn't forget to take into account the
costs of hiring additional staff and increasing their opening hours if they do decide to utilise the 24/7 flexibility of these platforms.