Why Restaurants and Cafes need Mobile Apps — Or Do They?

You don’t need to look any further away than your own mobile phone to see which apps survive your hankering to uninstall. Hit by app-fatigue, sooner than later you send the space-hogging and low-value apps to the bin. This is true for a majority of the restaurant apps too, while the aggregator apps — the Goliath’s of the food ordering world — get unfettered attention and mobile space.

I have come across many restaurateurs who plunged into App Store and Google Play store with their elegant apps. Despite spending considerable development and marketing budgets with all the strategies at disposal their apps don’t make the cut. Over the time they painfully see the downloads tapering and the usage plateauing out. Simply put, in addition to the sizeable hole in the Balance Sheet, it’s a big opportunity lost to engage the customers, expose them to the brand and multitude of features that shepherd towards loyalty, re-ordering, coupons, warts and all.

An owner of a multiple-outlet restaurant brand shared the objectives that prompted him to put together an app. It was the El Dorado of digital identity; increase in sales, orders, engagement and revenues. Not to forget that competition had also launched their own mobile apps. His app developer had ensured a smooth UI, integrated payments, myriad notifications, photo sharing options and reviews. Later, much to his chagrin, despite pouring in thousands of dollars and months of marketing campaigns, the efforts to engage customers and increase orders didn’t pay-off.

Don’t get me wrong for I have nothing against mobile apps. They are great and I use them too! Some apps such as Domino’s and Starbucks have surely outlasted many others on my iPhone. But that takes some element of stickiness for an app to keep be coming back. Mobile apps are a great gambit for one can’t ignore the benefits they can bring to the Restaurants, Cafes, Quick Service Restaurants, Pizzerias, Take-Aways, and Food Trucks brands. Though before you sets out to hire an agency or developers from Upwork, Behance, do consider the road and the total cost of ownership.

For argument sake let’s keep everything on the lower end of the spectrum. Let’s say that the an agency or a developer can build a mobile app for $15,000. The digital marketing team need a budget of $2,000 to get the app off the ground. Not to forget the costs of printing the app icons on the menu, posters, table tents, sending out those newsletters, and social media campaigns. It’s still a sizeable sub-20k initiative! The question remains — IS THIS REALLY WORTH IT?

It would be remiss of me not to share the latest stats on smartphone users. Consider the number of users in USA as per the graph below.

Smarthone users in USA

Now consider the number of mobile apps that you are competing against to get attention.

Number of apps

Reaching your target audience when they have an ocean of apps to access can be an uphill challenge. Now consider the number of Facebook Messenger users. It’s an insane amount! In 2017 out of 224m mobile users 117m use Messenger app, in USA alone! Doesn’t this sound like a better opportunity to reach out to your audience? You might ask how does Messenger makes sense over a mobile app? Stay with me.

Number of Facebook Messenger users in United States from 2014 to 2020 (in millions)

Facebook Messenger users in United States

You must have noticed around and read that more and more time is being spent on mobile phones, and of that time most of it is being spent in the apps, messaging apps to be precise.

How Americans spend their time on mobile devices

No harm in being sanguine about your mobile app, but the reality is we need a change of strategy to reach our audience. There is a fork in the road and it’s wise to make a call based on empirical evidence. Let me help you refine the choice. Of late Facebook reached 2 billion users worldwide and on an average 87% of US citizens have the app in one shape and form or another on their smartphones.

Mobile audience reach of top Smartphone apps in the United States

It’s plain to see that social and messaging apps take the top spot. Most of the Restaurants, Cafes, Quick Service Restaurants, Pizzerias, Take-Aways, and Food Trucks maintain a Facebook business page along with the website. Both have been great mediums to interact with customers. I figure a time a has come for a better and simpler way to establish a direct connection with your customers. We all need to push the envelope! There’s an alternative that’s far more pervasive, cost effective and retentive. A solution that stands at the intersection of messaging apps, applied artificial intelligence and customer engagement.

I might have spilled enough beans for you to join the dots! Let me share with you in my next post how a solution we developed helped a customer in California increase direct orders by 20%. Until then make sure to get your dose of GOT, for the winter is coming!