Investing in Your Mobile Experience for Your Customers

By: on January 15, 2019

Investing in your restaurant’s mobile marketing experience is non-negotiable. With 92 percent of consumers searching for restaurants on a mobile web browser, you can’t afford missed opportunities to turn browsing customers into converting customers.

But here lies the central challenge: how can you be sure what these potential customers are searching for?

  • Do they want to find a contact number?
  • Do they want to order food online?
  • Or do they simply want to compare restaurants in their area?

With almost 24 million users, Starbucks’ popular mobile app might seem like the future of successful restaurant mobile marketing strategies—but for many small restaurants, it’s not.

That’s because the mobile app market, for restaurants especially, is crowded and saturated with single-use apps that are extremely unlikely to be used daily. Customers are much more likely to download a broader food ordering platform than a standalone restaurant app.

In such a competitive landscape, small restaurants shouldn’t delve straight into developing a costly mobile app. Instead, they should use their customer data to devise a mobile experience strategy that is unique to their business and addresses their target audience with fewer resources.

In this article, we’ll explain why smaller restaurants should think carefully about developing a dedicated mobile app, and why customer data should be central to devising mobile content that customers want to see.

Why You Should Think Twice About Investing in a Standalone Restaurant App

Right off the bat: Consumers don’t use restaurant apps.

Consumers dont use restaurant apps

Consumer data shows that almost 70 percent of people don’t have a restaurant-specific mobile app (Source)

Online food ordering platform Grubhub boasts a phenomenal customer base, serving 16.4 million active diners, offering them access to almost 100,000 restaurants—with 60 percent of orders being placed via a mobile device. Hot on their heels is younger rival Uber Eats, poised to expand its offering to 70 percent of the U.S by the end of 2018.

Food ordering platforms have gained giant popularity not just because of the convenience they offer, but due to the fact that they offer their customers a huge range of choice—all within one single app.

What Does This Mean for Smaller Restaurants?

Of course, restaurant mobile marketing is far more than just the offering of food order and delivery options. However, what platforms like Grubhub and Uber Eats have been able to garner is loyalty and trust.

For smaller restaurants, the challenge is incentivizing people from a smaller customer base to download a standalone restaurant mobile app—and even harder is getting them to engage with it.

Grubhub and Uber Eats restaurant options

Then, there’s the cost: developing a standalone app for your restaurant could cost around $171,000. App development and maintenance can be a pricey affair for small businesses with smaller margins—managing an online food delivery system will need at least three separately built apps to support customers, managers and couriers.

While research by the App Institute shows that 61 percent of restaurant customers would consider downloading a restaurant’s app if the app promised deals and offers, restaurateurs need to be mindful of the real potential return on investment they could expect.

A third-party food ordering platform is an ideal starting point for smaller restaurants looking to add online ordering to their arsenal, as they have an established customer base, free marketing and fewer operational responsibilities.

OUR ADVICE: While larger restaurant chains might boast about the rewards they’ve reaped from developing dedicated mobile apps, the same can’t currently be said for smaller restaurants just yet. First time visitors to your restaurant are likely to search online for your website, which should offer them up-to-date information on menus, prices and booking information, rather than aiming to discover a mobile app.

  • Join an established, trusted food platform. This route is far more cost effective, and you’ll have access to an already established customer base. Restaurateurs should take advantage of platforms that already exist and offer ordering functionality without the hefty price tag.
  • Read on to discover alternative ways to devise a restaurant mobile marketing experience for customers.

Customer Behavior Should Dictate Your Restaurant Mobile Marketing Strategy

Carefully understanding your customers’ behavior should be the cornerstone of your mobile marketing strategy. Crucially, restaurants must know how their customers interact with the business to be able to boost repeat visits.

If you are not somehow tracking individual customer behavior, your restaurant is missing out on huge opportunities to connect with customers and build loyalty.

How POS Software Features Can Help

POS systems can not only help you collect customer data from your restaurant, but can also help you understand and interpret their behavior to inform your mobile marketing strategy.

For example, CRM features within POS systems collect information such as your top-selling menu items and spend per customer, and can even create individual customer profiles to track your customers’ purchase behavior.

By collecting and segmenting this valuable data, restaurants can improve their mobile marketing offering.

  • Many POS systems come with built-in marketing automation features, that use customer data such as order preferences to send personalized offers sent through email and text message.
  • Some POS systems can record how long it’s been since a customer visit, and send “win-back” offers such as discounts to customers after a certain amount of time.

These POS features can help you decide what and when to target your customers smartly through mobile marketing—your job is to collect customer data in a tactful and responsible way.


  • Conduct an audit of your current mobile marketing tactics—what strategies are you currently using? Could they be enhanced by the use of a POS system to create customer segments and targeted mobile offers?
  • Look closely at which POS systems suit your business.

Create Mobile Content That Customers Want To See

With 81 percent of consumers searching for restaurants on their mobiles, restaurants need to be sure that their websites are highly optimized for mobile. More importantly, however, 75 percent of consumers say that they will choose a restaurant based on search results.

These figures demonstrate how critical it is for restaurant websites to contain everything that potential customers need to find to make a decision to visit their restaurant. Data from Statista shows the top five actions customers perform while using a restaurant app.

Top actions performed while using restaurant apps
Top actions performed by people using restaurant apps, via Statista (Source)

Restaurants without their own standalone app need to pay attention to these most-performed actions in order to draw in customers who are searching on mobile. Restaurants must use this information to create content that potential customers expect to find while browsing on their mobile devices.

Must-have restaurant website content checklist

However, having the right content on your restaurant website means nothing if potential customers can’t access or use your website on their mobile devices. A website that functions perfectly on mobile is extremely important for consumers who are making quick, spur-of-the-moment decisions.

Tips for Creating Mobile-Friendly Restaurant Websites

Responsive design. Instead of creating separate websites for desktop and mobile, Google recommends creating responsive-designed websites. A responsively designed website is a single website that is capable of adapting to any screen size. This eliminates the need for users to “pinch” or “squeeze” their screens when using a smaller device.

Focus on calls to action. Your restaurant homepage should host all of the main calls to action you want your customers to take. Base calls to action on the website content checklist above (visit the menu, food order delivery, contact information etc).

OUR ADVICE: When a website can make or break the consumer’s decision to convert, it’s every restaurateur’s obligation to create valuable website content that is optimized for mobile. Remember, the cost of developing an outstanding website versus the cost of developing a standalone app is significantly less, and is much more accessible to a wider range of customers.

  • Evaluate your current calls to action and check that they align with the must-have content that your website needs.
  • Create a responsively designed website that also supports mobile device users.

Next Steps

Here’s the bottom line: restaurants don’t need to develop their own standalone app to drive custom. When there is no guarantee on the return on investment on a single-use app, smaller restaurants should instead focus on how they can use their customer data to inform and improve upon their current mobile marketing strategies.

Want to kickstart your restaurant mobile marketing experience? If your current POS system doesn’t support the collection of customer data, be sure to check out our Buyer’s Guide to learn more about the features, benefits and pricing information of restaurant-specific POS software that can help accelerate your marketing plans.

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