Three Ways Mobile Can Improve Operational Efficiency for Restaurants

by Andrew Gazdecki4 Min Read

The more efficient your business is, the less it costs to get things done. Efficiency means fewer mistakes, happier customers, and a streamlined production or sales process. Mobile makes it easier to achieve all three of these things and usually comes with a few added benefits, too, like simpler data collection.

It should be obvious by now, considering how many people own smartphones, that mobile technology isn't a passing fad. Things like online ordering, digital loyalty programs, and even mobile analytics themselves aren't gimmicks or fly-by-night tactics. These are becoming tried and true strategies that have helped big name businesses like Domino's, Starbucks, Panera, and Chipotle grow their market share, not just remain profitable.

Below you'll find the three significant ways having a robust mobile strategy will save you money by streamlining a handful of your day-to-day operations.

Mobile Draws in More Customers and Saves Time

The easiest way to use mobile, and in this case your business' mobile app, to become more efficient is to implement mobile ordering. If you haven't done this already, you will have more than likely considered it. Mobile ordering will soon be offered by the majority of restaurants, chains, and cafes both small and large. It opens your business up to a larger customer base. Better, when they don't have to wait, these customers are more likely to place larger orders.

Because these orders come in automatically and can be scheduled for specific pick up times, you can be sure to stay ahead of the rush and better allocate your supplies. Now, if you don't offer any to-go services or happen to cater to a crowd that must make a reservation, mobile can enhance your customer's experience, too.

With mobile, a customer can make a reservation and browse every available reservation. This gives them more flexibility and a greater number of options compared to calling and asking about their availability. Further, this process will free up your staff's time.

Restaurant apps aren't necessarily just for your customers. You can opt for a solution just for your staff, or a combination of the two. Staff solutions can do everything from simplifying the ordering and payment process with the use of mobile devices to creating a more versatile and easily accessed scheduling system. This saves time, money, and paper. With a full enterprise solution, the majority of your bookkeeping can even be automated.

If your restaurant is new or you simply need to refocus on bringing in new clientele, an app is still a good idea. Why? By offering mobile online food ordering and loyalty programs, you give people a good reason to try out your restaurant and make it easy for them to do so. If they like it, chances are they'll become a regular and tell their friends. Creating ambassadors and buzz for your business is key to its longevity.

Ordering Ahead Reduces Errors and Waste

Mobile ordering is a big player when it comes to reducing errors, too. When an order is clearly defined on a screen, it's less likely to be misinterpreted, and when a customer has to put in every addition or substitution, things are less likely to get lost in translation. In a similar way, customers can typically select saved settings of regular orders, increasing convenience for them and decreasing the chance that they'll claim an order was improperly put together even though the oversight may have been on their part. More accurate orders lead to less waste.

As these orders are processed, your app will give you, the business owner or manager, a clear picture of what your most popular items are and what tends to be ignored. This can help guide you when making inventory and menu decisions. What items might you need to remove from your menu? Which specialty or “limited time” experiments deserve a permanent spot? If you changed a supplier or recipe, have there been fewer orders? Proper mobile solutions and analytics can answer these questions and more.

By tracking your business sales through a mobile system, not only will you be collecting financial data and be able to track which items are selling well, but you can see your peak times, too. If there are consistently slow times, or if your staff seems consistently overwhelmed on lunch shifts in the middle of the week, the data you collect can point these things out. All you have to do is implement the proper solutions.

Mobile Enhances Loyalty Features and Collects Better Data

Have you ever tried punch cards for a loyalty program? How effective was that? Did you try credit-card or barcode style? How many customers have lost their cards time and time again? What if they could keep their cards with them 24/7 and never lose them? Then, what if they received their points automatically when they made a qualifying purchase? That's the elegant simplicity of a mobile loyalty program. No taking time out to punch cards or explain the registration process, it just happens.

Of course, you'll need to set up a loyalty program within your app first, but if you happen to use a modern, competitive builder that shouldn't take too much time. Similarly, there are modules available for all types of traditionally built apps.

With a loyalty program you, as the restaurant owner or manager, can then see how your customers use your loyalty program. If you offer different redemption options, say a free appetizer vs. a 10 percent discount, which gets chosen most often? What other tests could you run to optimize the experience of your customers?

Mobile solutions, particularly apps, can give you the opportunity to create promotions that appeal to specific customers. You could offer small discounts on a regular order of theirs, for example, or create a limited time sale for every customer within a 10-minute drive of your location. These promotions can be especially useful for businesses that deal with goods that only stay fresh for a short time, such as bakeries.

Does Mobile Offer a Better ROI?

In nearly every case, that answer is a definite, “Yes.” Compared to nearly every other marketing activity, mobile offers the best results and the easiest to track. When you just consider it's power to streamline your business and reduce waste, it can easily pay for itself as long as you start with a reasonably priced mobile solution and build up as you learn how to manage it.

As a restaurant, your business faces a number of unique challenges. Chief among them is inventory management. Many establishments fail after taking losses month after month because of improper inventory management. Mobile can help you stay on top of this challenge by predicting what your customers will order week after week, month after month and point out patterns that you may have trouble visualizing with numbers alone. The data you collect will not only help your business now but shape the way it evolves in the future- that's the real power of mobile when it comes to enhancing the operational efficiency of restaurants.

Andrew Gazdecki

@biznessapps | LinkedIn | Website | Email

Andrew Gazdecki is the founder and CEO of Business Apps, a do-it-yourself iPhone, iPad, Android & HTML5 app platform that allows any small business to simultaneously create, edit and manage mobile apps without any programming knowledge needed --- the “WordPress for mobile app creation.”

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