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From calculating tips to booking a reservation, there's an app for nearly everything in today's foodservice industry. Even the moderately tech-savvy consumers are using popular apps like Urbanspoon and Foursquare to find restaurants, make reservations or earn rewards for being a loyal customer.

Most restaurant owners give these apps a peripheral notice as something they are aware of but don't focus any real time and effort on. However, the range of apps available to the operations side of foodservice is expanding. Now is the time for restaurants to actively use of apps.

Offer Mobile Ordering and Reservations

ChowNow – a commonly used restaurant app – uses mobile, social and Web technologies via a platform focused on online ordering. For a setup fee and monthly charge, restaurants can take orders through a Facebook app, mobile app or tablet app. Immediately after customers place their order, an alert appears on ChowNow tablets so a quick response can be given about how long the order will take. The order is then processed like any other order.

Apps that integrate with restaurants are more likely to help extend brand awareness. Ease of ordering — or features such as saving favorite orders, instant reordering, writing reviews or offering deals — increase customer loyalty and engagement.

An excellent example of how consumers are jumping on the app bandwagon, and leaving business owners behind, is Rezbook. This app is the restaurant owner's version of the very popular Urbanspoon. Rezbook helps manage reservations, map directions to restaurants and build a customer database. The app even offers the ability to text diners when their table is ready. So hostesses can throw out those annoying buzzers. The only drawback is that Rezbook has a fraction of the users Urbanspoon has drawn ... so far...

Simplify Operations

FreshPoint is used by restaurants as a foodservice distributor. Because, yes, there's an app for that too. This mobile app provides access to product info, up-to-date point-of-sale materials, storage and cooler tips, ripening guides and availability charts, and even tracks the pace of an order — all at the tap of a finger.

When it comes to needing tools, the PartsTown app puts over 15,000 food equipment service and parts manuals on smartphones. Cappuccino machine making an odd noise that can't be identified? Service research is easier than ever before with PartsTown. A simple search by manufacturer or model, and the manual quickly appears.

Kitchen iQ helps prepare restaurant owners for upcoming health inspections by managing aspects of food and facility safety. Common foodservice pitfalls and solutions to avoid costly fines are outlined. Managers can easily build their understanding of foodborne illnesses and how to prevent them using KitcheniQ.

One of the more impressive ways apps can make a difference in restaurants is in how teams are scheduled. PeopleMatter SCHEDULE is an app that helps restaurants quickly and easily create, share and manage schedules. SCHEDULE delivers real-time accessibility and control, so team members can connect their work lives to their everything-else lives — even when they're on the go.

Customized Apps

When it comes to getting restaurants out in front— menus, logos and brands — the key may just be the old adage, "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself."

Restaurants should take control of their mobile presence. This can easily be achieved by working with companies like 99 Apps and My Menu Mobile to develop apps, mobilize websites, give flexibility to online menus, add special offers and embed maps. Follow other restaurants like Burger King, Noodles & Company and Boloco that have launched their own apps.

Don't be behind the curve when it comes to 'app'lying technology to restaurant operations. Figure out the best plan and step forward as a leader in innovation.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Glen Bowker
    67812866
    Wow. This is such a great article, but I fear the message is lost on the generational gap between QSR customers and QSR strategy makers.

    The execs who govern QSR strategy seem to start around 44+ years old, but the mobility generation is between the age of 12 and tops out at 34. This 10 year gap is what is killing proactive mobile strategy. Its why people go home at night and wonder why their kids text them while sitting on the couch beside them.

    According to a recent study, Gen X,Y, and millenials who have the disposable income to visit QSR's, and the same demographic that send and average of 2300 text messages a month, have 400 followers on Twitter, and 1750 friends on Facebook. Their customer base chooses to interact with the world through their phone, but there is little compelling content or apps there to bring them into the store.

    As you say: Figure out the best plan and step forward as a leader in innovation.

    Best regards,
    Glen Bowker
    EnterpriseMobilization.com
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Nate DaPore
Nate DaPore, PeopleMatter President and Chief Executive Officer As the spirited leader of PeopleMatter, Nate is passionate about providing team members, including his own, with a rewarding workplace experience that values creativity and innovation.
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