As seen in my first post on the eater and second post on the traveler, that little phone in your pocket has already started, and will continue to greatly shift the world of food. But it doesn’t just impact the individual. Mobile phones and other devices will also alter the actual dining experience and how chefs and restaurateurs manage the business of food.
Do you own a restaurant or food related establishment? Or are you at all interested in how individuals engage with food experiences? Then it’s incredibly important to understand how mobile can play a role from discovery to digestion for your customers. Let’s go through the experience:
Customer Discovers Your Establishment
Whether you’re a five star establishment with full blown marketing budgets having an agency create a mobile site or application, or you’re a street cart whose only promotion is tweeting out its location on a daily basis, mobile food marketing is key to ensuring you can be found by someone on the go. If the establishment isn’t discoverable (i.e. listed in Yelp, having a mobile friendly website, or at least an accessible menu, phone number and address on the home page of their website) it can put a bad taste in the mouth of a savvy customer before they even step through the door.
Twitter updates are the most recent hot topic – from locations for food trucks, to daily ice cream flavors, giving a quick 140 character update allows customers easy access into your world from the palm of your hand. Those establishments that get creative and take advantage of new ideas will reap the rewards.
Getting Through The Door
Once the customer finds you, the next step is making sure they get to where you are. While having your own mobile application isn’t necessary (many think it’s overkill) the key will be staying in tune with other apps that exist and tapping into the mobile ecosystem. The most popular reservation tool, OpenTable has made a mobile application so people on the go can see if tables are available and book a seat without impeding on your business time.
Also, ensuring that you’re listing on sites like UrbanSpoon and Yelp are correct, and have links to your website, can be the difference of someone finding you, and passing because they can’t find more details such as hours or location, and getting a new customer.
In addition to updated location details, proprietors will need to become savvier with the availability of their menus. Services like MobileHunger make taking your menu and converting into a website a breeze.
Customer Places an Order
Once the customer has made their way into your establishment mobile devices have the potential to elevate the order experience. For any restaurant that has a legitimate carry out or delivery service online ordering has become a standard. Mobile is the obvious evolution of this. Major chains like California Pizza Kitchen and delivery services such as GrubHub and CityMint show just how seemless this experience can be.
The elevation continues into the restaurant, where mobile can take the menu itself to a new level. Several restaurants have started using tablet computers such as iPads to replace their wine menu, to give a more robust explanation of taste and pairing expertise. Startup E la Carte has the potential of taking the traditional wait staff out of the picture all together.
Or, you can use mobile to simply get your customers more engaged. Take Herbfarm in Washington who recently incorporated QR codes (those little boxes you see on ads more and more) which allowed customers to take a quick snapshot with their camera phone and get a more robust understanding of who Herbfarm is.
Customer Bids you Farewell
Tap-n-eat phones haven’t quite hit the market yet, so the chef himself doesn’t have to fear losing their job. However, enabling customers to wrap up their time with you with mobile ease could ensure that return regularly.
Tabbedout is a great example of where this experience could be headed. This app allows you to see your check, calculate the tip and close your tab without ever having to wave down a bartender or busy waiter. The smart proprietor will put this in their patrons hands, instead of expecting them to have it on their own phone.
Imagine – you drop of a tablet computer on the table:
- It lists out what was on the customer’s bill
- Lets them break it up so everyone in your party is only responsible for what they ordered
- Incorporates “Credit Card Roulette” if you like to play your chances
- Calculates tip based on how they felt the service was
- Lets them pay right there using Square
- Jumps directly to Yelp so they can leave an immediate review
- Potentially capture an e-mail or twitter address for future promotion
- Gives the owner an itemized report at the end of the night showing which members of their wait staff are getting better tips and better ratings from their customers
The potential to make a more seamless customer experience and more valuable insights for the owner are endless.
We are in a mobile food revolution. There’s no questioning it – just where exactly its going to take us. Chefs and proprietors who are willing to stay ahead of the trends will be the same ones that come out on top for the rapidly growing consumer set who are relying on these devices on a daily basis.