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...
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.
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.