Restaurants Embrace Digital Touchpoints

Restaurants Embrace Digital Touchpoints
Emma Schulok
Restaurants Embrace Digital Touchpoints

If your restaurant hasn’t jumped on the digital train, what’s holding you back? Let me guess – you’re leery of losing control of the dining experience. Ordering by app, third party delivery, eating away from the restaurant. What are your touchpoints? Will your customer’s experience be compromised or diminished in some way? It’s easy to see the cause for concern. But fear not. Consumers are embracing the digital experience. And if you’re not, you are missing out on a growing segment.

Like most people, I choose restaurants based on my need. Sometimes it’s about sharing time with family and friends. But other times convenience is most important. Like those times when my choice of food is simply the fuel that will get me through the day. For some parents, the task of managing a car full of kids inside a restaurant is too much after a tough day at work. Don’t deprive your customers the opportunity to enjoy your food at home. After all, it may be the best part of their day – and for that you will be remembered and rewarded with their loyalty. Most likely your restaurant will have more to gain than lose by embracing digital – so let’s go.

Let’s start with your app. Is it easy to place a custom order and pay for it? If I choose to pick up my food, what will that journey look like? Do I have to get out of my car? Will it be easy for me to figure out where to go once inside the restaurant? If I can stay in my car, how do I let you know that I’ve arrived? Is my food made once I’m on the premise, or will it be hot and ready for me as I drive into the lot? Will this require a separate ops team solely focused on digital orders? Some chains even let me pick my food up at the drive thru window. Again, is that process intuitive?

Do you have a loyalty program tied to purchasing? Don’t be afraid of discounting your heavy user. Rather, think of it as a frequency device, giving you another order during the month. “Surprise and delight” rewards go a long way with loyal users as well. Also, make the program easy to understand. People will delete an app quickly if it’s too complicated or takes too long to earn their rewards.

Do you offer delivery? If so, it is through a third party or do you have your own drivers? If you go with a third party, be sure that you have access to the ordering/purchasing data so you can use it to your advantage. Test various companies before making a commitment. Speed of delivery should be a key measurement.

What can you control? Your job is to deliver a meal just as if one was enjoying it in your restaurant. A COO of a large restaurant chain once told me that the secret to all operations is to “deliver hot food hot, cold food cold, and all food fast.” Even decades later, I’ve never forgotten that and it has set my expectation for all meal purchases, no matter how, where and when I make it. Some chains resist delivery because they believe their food doesn’t travel well. However, I’ve had food delivered from the likes of Olive Garden and Carrabba’s with no issue. Much of it comes down to timing and the packaging. Invest in the proper packaging and you will see repeat business. Also, before that order goes out the door, be sure that part of your process includes double-checking the order. There is nothing worse than getting the wrong order, or an incomplete order.

If you’re really good at delivery, you might be able to penetrate markets more quickly by opening delivery/catering-only locations. Many are watching Chick-fil-A who is currently testing off-premise-only units.

So now that you have your digital strategy and process down, you need to let people know about your offering. Social and digital ads allow you to do that seamlessly and fairly inexpensively. Not only should your ads be informative and engaging, they should also allow the viewer to take action immediately.

Given my lack of culinary skills, I am thankful for those restaurants that allow me to enjoy their food on my terms. All types of chains are seeing double-digit increases with their digital restaurant programs. Don’t be left behind – do your homework, enroll your teams, set your processes in place and then enjoy the ride!