Mobile is here to stay. 77% of U.S. Adults own a smartphone, and that percentage is growing by the day. Of those, 95% will conduct a search for a restaurant, cafe, or other dining option. Then, 85% of those that conduct a search will go on to visit a foodservice establishment as a result of these mobile-focused search activities within the following 8 hours.

Given the current Adult U.S. Population, that means up to 60 million people are looking for restaurants at any given time. A number of those people could be your customers. The catch? Your business has to be visible on mobile.

You know investing in mobile is worth it. The vast majority of small businesses have already launched a mobile compatible website, and nearly as many have an app, too.

If your business doesn’t have either, you’re already falling behind. In fact, experts project mobile ordering to make up 10% of all fast-food and to go orders by 2020. These orders already account for nearly half of carry-out all sales for some large chains, including Pizza Hut.

If you already have a system in place for attracting new customers through mobile, moving on to create a branded communication channel that keeps those customers coming back should be your next step. More often than not, this means you’ll be looking at app creation.

Then, once you have an app, you can implement a host of specialized features all aimed at boosting loyalty and making the entire dining or takeout experience simpler and easier for all involved.

Whether you’ve already taken your business into the mobile realm and are looking for ways to improve your strategy or if you’re just learning about your options, this article will give you a way forward.

Enhanced Visibility

If all of those people are looking for restaurants on their mobile devices, how can you get your business to leave an impression? Your first step is to have a mobile compatible website. Assuming you already have a website of some kind, checking to see if it’s mobile compatible shouldn’t be too difficult- just look it up on your smartphone.

If you can, check how it works on a variety of other mobile, devices, too. Even if the site displays just fine on your Android smartphone, it might look completely unusable on an iPhone or tablet.

Once you’ve tested your website on mobile and fixed anything that wasn’t quite right, you can move on to enhancing your mobile presence. To start, add your mobile website or app, if you have one, to as many specialized directories as you can.

When a customer searches for a new place to eat or even just a local establishment chances are they will go to one of their directories or apps first, not the search bar. By adding your restaurant or cafe and a number of enticing pictures or videos, special offers, and your menu you will easily stand out from the rest.

Bring on Mobile Apps

With a mobile website in place,  your next mobile venture needs to be a mobile app.  Though you could implement most if not all of these features with your mobile website and do just fine, having an app gives you more data to work with down the line. Further, depending on what method you choose for app development, making changes to an app can actually be easier than updating a website.

To create an app, you could hire a developer to create it or use one of a number of excellent app builders that have cropped up over the last few years. The point being, apps are relatively affordable to build and maintain.  Once you have one, you will be able to see why it’s the best investment small to medium sized restaurants, cafes, and chains can make.

Photo-Enhanced Menus and Previews

Whenever you have a menu online, it’s a good idea to include at least a few photos. It’s worth mentioning that these should be photos of food you actually serve at your restaurant or cafe, too. Maybe include a few that are staged to reflect the ambiance of your business.

Including no images or relying on stock photos could result in your business being overlooked or poor reviews in the future when a patron’s expectations aren’t met.

Mobile Ordering

“Mobile ordering” is exactly what it sounds like. Mobile orders for carryout could make up as much as 10% of your business in the next few years. With the rise in food ordering apps, it’s becoming easier and more affordable for restaurants to build an app.

With mobile ordering, a customer can look up your menu online, decide what they want, and place an order in just a few taps. No phone calls necessary. Then, once they have placed their order, they can get an estimated wait time. Depending on how you set up this program, you can adjust the wait time as the day goes on.

By allowing customers to order from their mobile device, you make it easy for them to quickly place an order and easy for your staff to prepare meals ahead as the pre-orders can be queued several hours ahead of time.

Easier Reservations

Mobile makes reservations easy. Now a customer can just select the option to make a reservation from your app or mobile compatible website and choose any open time slot you have for their party size. They won’t have to make a phone call, and they can clearly see any options that are available. Better, it eliminates the chance of a date or time being misheard.

Better Customer Connections and Interactions

By having an app that’s installed on every loyal customer’s phone you have an open communication channel with them. They can look up your daily specials with the push of a button. If you decide to have a spontaneous or limited time promotion, you can send them a push notification right away.

Having the ability to connect with your customers instantaneously is an advantage that wasn’t available at any other time in history.

Loyalty Programs that Stick

Mobile loyalty programs have a higher rate of adoption than any other type. Why? Because people carry their smartphones everywhere. Digital loyalty cards, typically contained within apps, can even be set up to work automatically when a purchase is made through a given payment method.

Automatic Data Collection and Customer Targeting

When your app offers high-value options like mobile ordering, a full menu, and access to specials and discounts, customers won’t mind sharing their usage data with you. With it, you can continue to improve your offerings. As a restaurant or cafe, you need to see what your most in-demand items are so you have enough ingredients in stock.

This data can also show you what isn’t moving as quickly as you need it to and gives you the ability to change that by creating new promotions and specials whenever you like without waiting a week for a new ad cycle.

In Short, Mobile Means Convenience, Visibility, and Loyalty

Mobile gives your business greater visibility. It can make it easier for potential customers to give your business a chance and then, if they fall in love, to keep coming back. It also provides a number of conveniences to you as owner or manager by giving you access to new data and means to control sales, promotions, and customer interactions.


Author Bio: Andrew Gazdecki is the founder and CEO of Bizness Apps — making mobile apps affordable and simple for small businesses. Many customers are mobile app resellers — marketing or design agencies that use our platform to cost effectively build mobile apps for small business clients.