With food pre-ordering and takeout dining on the rise, the restaurant industry is enhancing its digital ordering capabilities and creating new-and-improved collection options. Convenience is the name of the game in the mobile era, and what could be more convenient for customers than ordering food directly from their phone? Moreover, consumers are literally eating up mobile order-ahead options, with foodservice sales increasing up to 40% annually with no signs of slacking off.
At the same time, innovative pickup paradigms are on the rise, such as special curbside pickup lanes and revolutionary technology that includes smart shelves that display a customer’s name and indicates that their order is ready as well as express windows where customers can pick up their pre-orders at specific times without even exiting their car.
Restaurant Giants Spend Millions on Digital Ordering and Express Pickups
Restaurant giants (such as Starbucks, Chipotle, McDonald’s, Easta, and Dunkin’) are pulling out all the stops to compete for customers’ business and loyalty by investing millions of dollars in remodeling and renovations that allow for more digital ordering and upgraded formats of express pickup. In fact, hundreds of ‘next-generation’ locations are expected to open soon, all dedicated to serving the masses of consumers who want to effortlessly pre-order lunch or dinner in the morning and pick up their meal on their break or on their way home from work.
Since many of these advanced solutions are probably not practical for your local restaurant, catering service, or other eatery, how can your food-and-beverage business capitalize on the lucrative opportunities for growth and sales by having pre-ordering customers eating out of your hand?
The Evolution of ‘Going Mobile’ in the Restaurant ‘Biz
Pausing a moment to look backwards, it was only a short while ago that ‘going mobile’ in the foodservice industry meant offering diners the option of ordering and paying online. Along with this came the dawn of point-of-sale technology, tableside tablets, self-service kiosks, iPod menus, and tech innovations such as augmented reality that breathed life into menus by giving consumers a 3D experience of the foods they were about to eat.
Fast-forward to 2019 and online ordering systems are an almost afterthought and a ‘given’ in the food industry. However, with digital ordering expected to triple by 2020, today the buzz in the biz is all about new order-ahead apps and futuristic technologies that are ushering take-out and pick-up to new heights.
Order-Ahead Apps Boost Sales and Customer Loyalty
Not only is the online ordering market expected to grow in the coming years, but according to Business Insider and other reports, today’s consumers are constantly in search for greater speed and convenience and are willing to spend over 20% more per restaurant visit when they order through this technology. On the other end, foodservice providers who have already embraced restaurant ordering software (which enables them to start taking food pre-orders within a few hours) report a 45-75% sales increase due to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. In this milieu, it is not surprising that Deloitte, the prestigious food-and-beverage consultancy firm, believes the new paradigm is “the restaurant of the future.”
The Allure of Meal Pre-Orders
To help us digest what all the hype regarding food pre-orders is about and why curbside pickups are overtaking both pickup windows and home delivery, let’s tune into what Jaron Waldman, co-founder and CEO of Curbside has to say (Curbside helps retailers and restaurants connect with customers via mobile channels and location technology):
“Mobile ordering is compelling for people who are time-starved and need to pick up orders on the way home. As a consumer, I can now place my order during my last meeting at work, have that food ready when I arrive at the restaurant, and put dinner on the table when I step in the door at home.”
Regarding curbside service: “Guests want someone to come out within a couple of minutes of arrival and greet them with food and a smile. With this technology, employees can actually meet guests in the parking lot food-in-hand when they pull in.”
How Pre-Order and Pick Up Technology Works
If you want to know more about the technicalities of the advanced software, here is how Curbside works: In a nutshell, the system centers on ARRIVE—a cloud-based arrival prediction technology that is plugged into retailers’ mobile apps. ARRIVE automatically tells restaurants when customers are outside the restaurant for pick up without the need for them to call in or exit their vehicle. It also sends the store an alert when customers are only minutes away by means of up-to-the-minute traffic data and historical approach patterns. These reliable time-based notifications allow restaurant operators to prepare food so that it is hot when consumers arrive.
A Win-Win for Consumers and Service Providers
As a result of the new paradigm, everybody wins! In addition to pleasing takeout customers, indoor diners also experience shorter wait times for service and orders, which means less angry customers for waiters to deal with. Likewise, customers who order ahead of time but eat in-restaurant, are guaranteed they won’t have to stand in line and that their meal will be ready and waiting for them upon arrival.
As for restaurant owners and employees – including operators of coffee shops, bakeries and pizzerias, – benefits of menu pre-orders include less logistic hassles, less last-minute frenzy, plenty of time to prepare customers’ selections in an organized and efficient manner, and an overall more productive system of operating.
And here is a bonus tip from the experts: For a big boost in consumer satisfaction, integrate your new ‘Order Ahead’ feature with your business’s Table Reservation feature, allowing diners to simultaneously reserve a table and order their favorite foods in advance.
Pre-Orders Shape the Future of the Food Industry
Looking into the future, a word to the wise from Waldman: “Now that McDonald’s and Starbucks are using mobile apps to implement order-ahead technology, the landscape of the industry is changing. It’s time for everyone to engage. Everyone is going to be ordering on smart phones very soon. Mobile order ahead is a tidal wave that will change everything.”
A Modern Solution to Reducing Restaurant Wait Times and Lines
A longtime customer ‘beef’ of the foodservice industry is the long wait times for service, including waiting for a table, waiting for a waiter, and waiting in a line to pay for in-house or takeout meals. Thanks to online ordering systems for restaurants many of these problems have already been solved. However, the new ‘order ahead’ feature goes even further as even customers’ orders don’t stand in real-time queues. Rather, from the moment a food or beverage pre-order is received, it stands in a digital queue or virtual line where it is efficiently processed and prepared.
The result: Mobile ordering customers enjoy an optimized walk-in-and-out experience and an improved order-in-and-takeout scenario at your establishment. And if you want to follow in the successful footsteps of the conglomerates and do as Starbucks does, set up a specially designated pick-up area on your eatery’s premises and enjoy reaping the tasty, rich rewards as the word spreads and customers’ preorders start pouring in.