Many restaurants, and especially fast-casual dining, have had apps in place for many years now. Our restaurant consultants have long been encouraging restaurants to build virtual brands to reach consumers in a modern way.
The digital is well underway, and the pandemic only drove more consumers into digital engagement and habits of convenience. But with Millennial and Gen Z consumers leading the charge at quick-serve and fast-casual restaurants, restaurants are turning attention to their existing apps, making them smarter, faster, and offering more opportunities to their users.
According to this article from Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN), many popular restaurant chains have made recent changes to their apps and affiliated rewards programs, including McDonald’s, KFC, Chipotle, and Sweet Green. Each business has a digital point of focus, and giving attention to that area has increased digital engagement and, ultimately, sales for these already successful chains.
“McDonald’s has upgraded its app to encourage mobile order-ahead business. The company sent an update this week to loyalty members nudging them to ‘order like a VIP’ – or to order ahead – while laying out all the benefits of doing so,” writes NRN, noting that VIP “extras”, like table service at select locations, have only increased participation. “in the less than two years since it’s been active, the MyMcDonald’s program has already accumulated over 40 million U.S. members.”
KFC is using their established app to offer exclusive discounts to members—up to 45% off the in-house menu price for select items. NRN states, “KFC CMO Nick Chavez said the new feature is an effective way to create ‘digital value.’ According to Gartner research, nearly 50% of Gen Z and millennial consumers use digital couponing to combat inflation, for instance.”
The NRN article goes on to showcase how Chipotle’s digital programs emphasize order-ahead services—and Chipotle generates more than $3 billion annually in digital sales. And there are many other casual dining restaurants following suit.
The point of these digital app improvements is really about a trend shift. What were once novel concepts or pandemic-era tools are becoming established mediums that restaurant businesses find value in improving upon. Digital application research and development makes business sense for restaurants because consumer engagement is trending that direction. The more these restaurants offer digitally, the more the guests participate.
“This use of technology is not just for the giants,” says Richard Weil, principal and owner of National Restaurant Consultants.“We have clients throughout the US, ranging from independents to small regional chains, all benefitting from digital sales. This includes take out, curbside, and delivery options, providing guests with the ease of online ordering, along with efficient and friendly customer service in-store. Together, these tools create additional value and keep your business in customers’ front-of-mind.”
All of this information is applicable for any restaurant business, whether a popular franchise or a small dine-in establishment. Understanding current consumer psychology presents opportunities for restaurant businesses to stretch and grow, just as the larger businesses with existing apps continue to push development for more convenience, more offerings, and more ideas to excite the consumer. Our restaurant consultants can help boil this information down to something fresh and usable for your restaurant too.