The Smart Phone: Speed of Service

We are in the middle of a series of posts on how smart phones may affect your business.  My last blog was about mobile payment systems. The next one will be about showrooming.  This one is how we can use smart phones to speed up customer service in regards to food service.

You’ve been in this situation: you walk into a c-store with a deli or into a quick service restaurant and you stand in line while the people in front of you try to make up their mind about what they want to order and then fumble with paying for their meal.  After what seems like hours, it is your turn to stand in front of the cashier to make your order and then you find yourself trying to decipher the menu, make a decision, and then, horror of horror, trying to make the payment all the while you feel the people behind you staring holes into the back of your head with as they wait for you to finish.

Since it is never a good idea to get in between people and their food perhaps there is a way to make life easier for everyone involved in this scenario.

Presenting – the food ordering app.  The next technical evolution in the food service industry will be retailers offering smart phone apps that allow a customer to pre-order food, and pay for it, without waiting in line.  The entire menu will be listed in the app and customers can make their selections by ticking boxes, pay by credit card or Paypal, and indicate the time that they will be by to pick up the order.

There are obvious advantages for the customer to use this technology with speed of service being the foremost.  Your customer can be sitting in their office or car, put in their order, and just pop into the store to make their purchase.  It’s fast and easy.  In an industry where our number one product is time it is a huge advantage.

But a program like this can also be a huge benefit to you in some obvious, and not so obvious ways.  The most obvious advantage is that it meets the customer’s need for speed.  In this case, what is good for your customer is good for you.  A less obvious upside is that you can charge a premium for the convenience of quick service. The customer will pay more for the product if they know that they are going to save time.

Another advantage is that remote ordering allows your staff to balance out the work load of processing orders.  By its nature, pre-ordering means that the order is placed ahead of time allowing the crew to prepare the product before it is needed.  An employee who is not rushed and flustered trying to quickly fill orders makes fewer mistakes and produces a higher quality product.

The app allows you to offer the upselling of your products.  Value added suggestions can be made with the order.  Every time you convert an upgrade suggestion to a purchase you are increasing your sales and gross profit dollars while giving the customer something that they wanted but might not have thought of.  In addition, you can include “secret” menu items that don’t appear in the store but provides a premium experience for your online customer and creates a viral buzz about your offering.

Having a store related app allows you to gather customer information for use in future promotions.  Having the customer register to use the app and then following their purchasing habits allows you to promote your products by sending out reminders or promotional material to people you know have already been in your store before.

Finally, a really good app will include the opportunity to order ancillary items that are not normally associated with the menu.  When your customer is buying their sandwich why not prompt the purchase of the beer or soft drink that you have on promotion this week or a gallon of milk that they may need at home?  You can have these items bagged and ready to go when the customer arrives to pick up their food order saving them time and ringing up additional sales for your store.