The newest wave of restaurant apps doubles down on features that just a few years ago were considered cutting-edge, such as loyalty programs and mobile ordering, with some even stripping away other elements for a highly focused, highly functional tool. Our editors took more than a dozen of the latest releases for a spin. While many were user-friendly and delivered well on the new must-haves, these seven excelled in ways that stood out from the pack.
1. Cava: A 'fresh' message
Cava Grill’s mobile app guides users with prompts written in its casual, on-brand voice as they maneuver through its 58 million customizable meal combinations. A short sentence displayed underneath each section touts the chain’s commitment to using scratch-made and local ingredients, and colorful photos of the food pop against a black background, giving the app a distinct look. The app encourages fans to invite non-users to take part through its refer a friend feature, which offers $3 off for a user and their friend’s next meal.
2. Noodles & Company: Rewards program
Launched this summer, the revised NoodlesRewards app ditches points-based rewards for personalized deals. When signing up, users input their favorite menu item, number of kids at home and any dietary restrictions. The app then tailors future rewards based on the answers.
3. Subway: Customization
A new customization feature, introduced during an app revamp this summer, lets users personalize their order with touchscreen-friendly motions reminiscent of dating apps. Ingredients, for example, can be taken off of sandwiches by swiping left. It also automatically updates calorie counts as changes are made.
4. Denny's: Ease of use
As its name signals, Denny’s on Demand is intended for one purpose—mobile ordering. Its concise format allows diners to easily customize and place orders for pickup or delivery. And it uses language similar to other e-commerce apps that customers may be comfortable with, such as “Add to bag.”
5. Au Bon Pain: Robust feedback
Users who want to voice their opinion about Au Bon Pain’s new mobile app are able to do so with ease via the app’s detailed feedback center. When leaving feedback, users are first shown a menu asking if their comments are in regard to the app, food, service or something else. Immediately after, users are shown another menu where they select if they have a compliment, issue, question or suggestion and if their feedback pertains to a specific location. Once they’ve made their selections, users are then taken to a page where they can personalize their inquiry by adding their own comments.
6. Qdoba: Special-diet friendly
Along with offering an allergen and ingredients chart, Qdoba’s mobile app allows users to select their dietary preferences on their profile page. Then, as users are scrolling through the menu, dishes and ingredients that fit their dietary needs are shown in a bold font for an easy way to make menu selections that fit their needs.
7. Whataburger: Multiple ways to pay
Whataburger fans have five ways to pay for their next Whataburger meal. Debit, credit, PayPal, Apple Pay and Whataburger gift cards are all accepted via the burger chain’s app and users earn rewards no matter which payment option they choose. Whataburger is planning on rolling out an order ahead function by the end of this year.
Some of the more senior members of the team smile at the junior staff who are excited to uncover an interesting trend in “eatertainment” or the latest single-ingredient concept. We try not to be condescending when we suggest they do some research by looking at past issues of Restaurant Business or old Technomic top chain reports before calling it the next big thing.