12 Mobile App Features You Can Use to Market Your Restaurant in 2016
“There’s an app for everything.” Yes. Even to market your restaurant.
Since apps have become so popular and since no one ever goes anywhere without their phone, business owners like you have an opportunity to market your restaurant like never before.
Many franchises are already in the game, taking advantage of what I call the 5 C’s of Mobile App Marketing (communication, community, customer loyalty, convenience and commerce) to increase their revenue and provide a great experience for their customers.
And yes, make no mistake about it, companies like Dominos (good), Chilis (not good) and Chipotle (pretty good) have very large budgets to spend one tech development and your restaurant may not have that kind of cash laying around.
Well, advances in technology have lowered the barrier of entry and some developers have been able to offer solutions that fit pretty much any budget. Now you’ve got restaurants like 2nd Street Bistro that are killing it with their mobile after investing less than what a lot of restaurants are paying to build a website. (And they are killing it simply by sending out push notification reminders of their happy hour specials!)
In this post you will discover 12 mobile app features that you can use to affordably market your restaurant and drive predictable sales.
1. Custom branded design
Though there is no shortage of apps that provide food services to your customers, nothing beats having your own custom branded mobile app. Interacting with a customer in your own branded environment helps to etch your restaurant in to the front of their mind and keep them coming back.
There are countless marketplace apps that can provide your restaurant with local exposure. These include food delivery apps (Seamless, Grubhub and Eat24), discount coupon apps (Groupon, RetailMeNot and SlickDeals), and discovery apps (Foursquare and Yelp).
While it is a good idea to use some of these services to market your restaurant, they expose your customers to all of your competitors. This is great for attracting people who have never been to your establishment. But once they’ve eaten your awesome food and had a great experience, the next step should be to bring them in to your mobile world and make them a customer for life.
2. Your restaurant location and contact information
Convenience is everything to your customers nowadays. They will pay an extra buck or two get what they want when they want it. When it’s not easy to find a phone number, hours of operation or get directions to an establishment it’s on to the next one no questions asked.
The advantage of having a mobile versus just a website is that your customer will not have to type in any URLs, wait for browsers to load or copy and paste any text with their fingers.
Every feature within a well designed app is a couple of taps away. Multiple locations can be displayed within an app with real-time distance. Maybe stopping at the location across town on the way to the movies may be a better idea than going to spot close to the house.
Every time you make a customer’s life a little bit easier, they love you more.
Promoting and getting people to show up to your special events becomes easy for a restaurant with a mobile app. With it, you’re able to display all of the information that your patrons may need about your event; date, time, location etc. You can even pull events from Facebook or EventBrite!!
They’ll also have the option to RSVP for any event, so you can get a heads up of how many people you’ll need to accommodate. What’s really unique about OUR apps is that your customers can add an event to their calendar with the tap of a button! This will decrease no shows from people who intend to attend your events and ultimately increase your revenue.
If your restaurant has a lot of events this can be a big selling point to get more downloads….especially if you are giving away food.
4. Customer loyalty stamp cards
Offering a loyalty system is a tried and true way to market your restaurant. Paper punch cards have been proven to work but is it good enough for 2016? Well you guessed it; “there’s an app for that.” The problem with punch cards that, a) they are messy, b) they aren’t environmentally friendly, c) they can be forged, d) they are easy to lose and e) people don’t carry wallets as much anymore.
And what DO people carry everywhere they go? Their PHONE of course.
A digital punch card system within your mobile app will set your restaurant apart from your competition. This gives patrons a reason to download your app and receive push notifications from you as well. With our mobile apps you can gamify the customer experience with either a punch card, a loyalty gauge or an advanced multi-tiered points system. All of which are GPS activated and require a secret code to be entered at the register.
Promoting your app as a way to get free food is the best way to get downloads. I can attest to that for sure. Hehe…
5. Food ordering
What will set any restaurant apart is its level of service, whether good or bad. In the age of convenience, it’s almost unacceptable to have to wait on hold to place an order. If the wait is longer than 15 seconds its…yup…. on to the next one.
And it goes both ways. Your employees shouldn’t have to deal with excessive phone traffic and your customers shouldn’t have to deal with long waits or hard-to-comprehend phone operators. Imagine how much time is lost repeating orders back and taking credit cards.
A mobile app with food ordering acts as a 24/7 phone operator for your business. Payment is securely made via credit card or Paypal in automated fashion so there are no human errors or repeating of credit card numbers in public.
On the customer side, all of their orders and payment information is saved for future reference so the ordering process can be done in just a few taps. This reduces friction on the way to the sale…which leads to more sales.
Confirmation is emailed to the customer and your wireless printer gets the receipt. All while your customer is at a loud party where the connection is shoddy and your lines are tied up! CHA CHING!
That is what you call SERVICE.
6. Customer fan wall
Many people, including myself go to Yelp when looking for a new place to eat at. Why do we do this? We want to see what menu items to avoid, get a look at the prices and most importantly see what everyone else is saying about the establishment. One of the fastest ways to earn a customer’s trust before getting their business is by social proof. If other people like you, they will like you.
Your mobile app will have it’s own ‘wall’ where patrons can leave comments, upload photos and interact with each other. Let your customers market your restaurant for you! This provides tremendous value and acts as a running feed of testimonials right inside of your app. (And don’t worry….you can moderate this wall.)
You can use this wall to run contests, surprise your biggest fan with a coupon or have a staff member or yourself engage in the conversation.
Your wall can also be used a customer service forum, a customer feedback page or a public check-in.
All of these are unique selling points for your restaurant, further adding value to your customer’s experience.
7. Photo gallery
Pictures are a great way to get potential customers to envision themselves inside your restaurant. With a mobile app you can display an interactive photo gallery that your users can quickly access and share with their friends. If you don’t have many images on Facebook they can be imported from Flikr, Picasa or uploaded directly.
If you have an active Instagram account you can pull that feed into your app and it will sync real time. This kills two birds with one stone, as your app will always have fresh images to display.
8. Custom app forms
The custom app form may be the most flexible feature that your app will have. You can create almost any type of form imaginable to be embedded right inside your app.
You can direct your customers to these forms to save time and paper…….which both cost money.
Some types of forms that you can create include:
Applications for employment
New member sign ups
Any custom order of any kind
This drastically reduces phone calls and if you are routing different inquires to different staff emails, you will have more efficient communication process. And this all comes back to creating a level of service that your competitors can’t match.
9. Mailing list capture form
Email is still the medium that gets the highest return on investment across just about every industry. “The money is in the list” as they say and your app will help you to build your subscriber list.
If you use any of the popular email services providers (Mailchimp, iContact etc.), most likely you can directly integrate it with your app. Once a users has opted in on their device their email will be sent straight to your autoresponder to be followed up with. Hopefully you are at least running a birthday coupon campaign for your subscribers 😉
Just like with a website, you can set up prompts to capture email addresses in certain areas of your app and at a certain frequency.
Having a multi-channel marketing strategy for your restaurant will definitely give you an advantage over your competitors.
10. Social network pages
Social media is a cost efficient way to market your restaurant and your mobile app is a great way to grow your social media. Add your Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Foursquare or any other social media page right into your mobile app.
This gives your customers the opportunity to interact with your brand on the platform of their choice. What makes this good for you is that the platforms are embedded within the app so you remain in control of the experience.
Having all of your social platforms in one helps to funnel your customers to them; increasing our followers and likes.
11. Photo submission
Many establishments run contests, where customers are required to take a selfie while they are enjoying their meal in order to enter. It’s a creative way to provide social proof and gives people an incentive to keep coming back.
With the photo submission feature, your customers are be able to take as many photos as they want. These photos are privately stored inside the app with the option of being sent to your restaurant.
Not only is this is a great feature to get your customers engaged with your restaurant but it’s also a great way to generate content for your own website and photo gallery. Nothing sells better than the site of people having a good time and enjoying great food at your establishment.
Email me if you’d like to know a top secret, ultra viral way to utilize this features to drive new customers into your restaurant.
12. Push Notifications
“Honey what do you want to get for dinner tonight?”
“I don’t have a taste for anything.”
“I don’t either….oh wait I just got a notification from ____. It says you get a free appetizer with every two entrees tonight only.”
These are crucial moments for every restaurant. Those moments of decision. Busy people often wait until the last minute to plan a meal and you want to be right there to help them make that decision.
That’ why I believe the number one way to market your restaurant in 2016 is by using push notifications.
Getting notified about a daily menu item or a flash deal or today’s happy hour special or anything else that will save the customer money works! Sometimes a simple message saying “hi” works great because it catches people off guard and gives your business a human aspect.
If you are a local business, you could even send out notifications about something to look out for in the city. Our apps give you the ability to target users based on location and device. You could even be so diabolical to send out a message to users as they go through the surrounding areas of your competitors? Pwahahha
Notifications have an open rate of 97% and your customer is likely to take action on them immediately. Send these out at the right time throughout the day with the right message and you’ll be sending batches of customers to your spot almost at will.
While there will always be slow days and busy days, your business can be a little more predictable when you directly communicate with your customers. And your competitors won’t even know it.
If you’d like to find out how we can help you to mobilize your restaurant, apply for a free demo to get the process started.
Ask me anything in the comments and I will respond.
Bryan "Don Suave '" McNeil-Walker is a music producer of over 20 years with a passion for marketing.
After immersing himself in digital marketing for four years he founded Alavon Enterprises to help provide entrepreneurs and creatives the tools and solutions to grow their business/brand in the new digital age.
His belief is that the marketing of today and tomorrow is social, automated and mobile.
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