Restaurants realizing critical need for mobile payments and loyalty

| by Will Hernandez
Restaurants realizing critical need for mobile payments and loyalty

If you want to get an idea about how important it's become for restaurants to have a sound mobile strategy in 2017, the large crowd that gathered to listen to a session about loyalty at the National Restaurant Association's annual trade show this past weekend in Chicago will give you an indication of what's at stake.

About 150 attendees squeezed into a small area on the trade show floor to listen to Loyalty Plant's Jim Steinberg discuss what restaurants can do to ensure success with a mobile app.

And while Steinberg talked about Loyalty Plant's own success in the market, he imparted some key points that echoed recent technology trends.

"Get into this sooner rather than later because this is going to be a standard in the industry," Steinberg said about restaurant-branded mobile apps that boast features such as loyalty and order-ahead-and-pay.

In some ways, some of these features have become a standard because consumers expect them, particularly from larger chains.

Domino's, Panera Bread, Starbucks and other large chains have set the tone for consumers that expect feature such as order-ahead-and-pay from big players.

And as more big brands introduce more features into their apps, the trend is trickling down to the smaller chains.

For example, Sweetgreen, a specialty salad quick-service restaurant chain with 64 stores scattered across the country, has put more emphasis on its mobile app with loyalty and order-ahead-and-pay. It's even gone as far as promoting a cashless policy where such as thing is allowed by law.

Sweetgreen has argued in the past that its employees could conduct more transactions every hour, some five to 15 percent more, if they didn't have to handle cash.

That seems to be a growing trend for most restaurants with a mobile app.

"This medium is wonderful for driving increased sales," Steinberg said. "[Restaurants] should be shooting for a third of their orders to come through mobile."

Order-ahead-and-pay is on the rise, and when a chain like McDonald's is prepping for the feature, you know it's serious.

But while Steinberg stressed the importance of mobile ordering as a necessity, that feature can only be successful if it's embedded into an engaging app experience for the consumer.

"You have to have other engaging features," he said. "An engaged customer is worth about 23 percent more than your average customer."

Steinberg outlined five ways a restaurant can accomplish this:

Provide an easy-to-use loyalty program.
Provide a visually rich food menu catalog.
Provide relevant personalized content.
Provide incentives for downloading the app.
Provide an enjoyable user experience.
Steinberg said features such as gamification of loyalty and geo-marketing can help to round out the user experience.

Topics: Loyalty Programs, Mobile Payments

Will Hernandez

Will Hernandez has 14 years of experience ranging from newspapers to wire services and trade publications. Before becoming Editor of, he spent two years as the content manager for, a leading payments industry news aggregator and information hub published by Mercator Advisory Group. Will spent four years covering the payments industry as an associate editor for multiple publications in SourceMedia's Payments Group based in Chicago.

View Will Hernandez's profile on LinkedIn

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