Going mobile: Digital devices are dramatically transforming the restaurant experience

By Doug Gammage – Shikatani Lacroix

In their 2016 POS software report, Hospitality Technology asked its restaurant readership about POS purchasing supply.

One restaurant owner stated, “With all the SaaS models, the biggest trend will be to get rid of the POS altogether and have our customers actually order on their own devices. Our goal is to one day have half our sales tied to a digital device.”

The survey indicated that 58 percent of restaurants were seeking to add Mobile Wallet functionality, and POS open-source integration with other systems is desired by 52 percent of restaurants.

In Canada, banks such as ING and PC Financial are lining up with Apple Pay. Other banks are sure to follow. The path to innovation in the mobile payment world is already becoming a super highway.

Beyond payment technology

Tech Crunch recently published Erickson’s prediction of 6.1 billion Smartphone users by 2020 (70 percent of the world’s population) reinforcing how important these devices are in how we communicate and conduct day-to-day transactions.

Tech Crunch goes on to predict that taking into account internet-of-things, M2M services and mobile broadband that there will be 26 billion connected devices in five years’ time.

More than communicating incentives to mobile-connected customers, the key for success in the restaurant business is creating an immersive experience that will create seamless interactions with customers and their friends. Personal recognition and location-based offers will simplify decision making, ordering, payment rewards. Speed and convenience are what consumers demand and mobile is providing innovative solutions everyday.

Apps continue to drive a gamified approach to restaurant search

The recent phenomena of Pokemon Go, the augmented reality app that directs users to sites, including restaurants, where they can discover and catch Pokemon characters has gone viral, but this is merely the most recent example of how mobile immersive experiences have been disrupting the restaurant industry for several years.

Yelp’s pioneering Monocle app has been providing IOS users with AR markers and maps for nearby restaurants for more than five years and can actually show locations your acquaintances using the app have visited, along with ratings.

The 2016 Google Award Winner, WAM (World Around Me), helps consumers locate restaurants, ATMs, and Wi-Fi Hot Spots and provides user reviews, phone numbers, and opening hours for 31 categories in over 200 countries worldwide. You can navigate via camera, list and/or map views.

Wikitude World Browser is another powerful application that links to other sites (e.g., Yelp and Trip Advisor) to provide information on everything from ATMs to local restaurants, offers coupons to local businesses, and includes AR games such as Alien Attack and Swat the Fly. On top of all this you can interact by marking your favorite spots on Facebook.

The restaurant experience is about instant gratification. Apps that direct consumers to coffee, breakfast, lunch or dinner with rated reviews are part of the landscape. Adding the novelty of augmented reality and facilitating instant sharing with friends are key ways to grow engagement.

Foodservice brands are experiencing dramatic growth from mobile payments

Many established brands are changing their strategies to adapt to the ever-changing market.

Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay app has been gradually introduced in North America and is slated to expand to China and Japan this year. According to Bloomberg, more than 21 percent of transactions at corporate U.S. stores have already come through the app, increasing transactions by 15 to 20 percent in the U.S., which they credit as a key reason behind Starbucks’ 17 percent revenue growth last fiscal year.

Adam Brotman, Starbuck’s chief digital officer, is convinced that the early success of this program suggests that the app could account for 50 percent of all transactions in company-owned stores, putting Starbucks on track to become a mobile-first company.

In Canada, Tim Hortons has expanded the TimmyME app from Blackberry to iOS and Android with features such as a restaurant locator, TimCard Reload, nutritional information and NFC payment at participating locations.

How mobile is changing the Starbucks in-store experience

Quoted in Bloomberg, mobile-payments consultant Richard Crone speculates that as the Starbucks app continues to drive sales the physical stores may change, perhaps starting to look like Apple Stores. For example, counters and queues may be replaced by latte stations where you simply walk up to the station to retrieve your order.

Financial impact

In the app’s first fiscal quarter that ended December 2015, consumers loaded $1.9 billion on their Starbucks cards, many linked to the app, which was an 18 percent increase over the previous year. Starbucks has also said that it will invest as much as $300 million globally on “partner and digital” projects this year, more than doubling last year’s investment. Beyond partnering, Starbucks is in discussions about licensing the app to other retailers.

Mobile will continue to drive change in the fast food sector not only by building traffic, facilitating payments, and offering loyalty incentives, but also in finding new ways to expand engagement with customers in immersive digital and physical brand experiences.

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