Right now, only a third of restaurants have smartphone apps. Broken down further, half of QSRs and fast casuals do, but only 18% of full-service spots have branded apps, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2016 Restaurant Technology Survey. The primary reason for having an app, says the survey: building sales and customer traffic. Yet, “breaking into the premier shelf space on a mobile device is very challenging,” says Andrew Feinberg, principal at Deloitte. A study by Deloitte found that consumers don’t have a broad array of restaurant apps on their phones. They have less than three. So what are some of the features that guests are actually using today? And what are some functions the restaurant app of the future just might have?
It may only apply to full-service spots—which are less likely to have an app—but 12% of consumers will make a reservation via an app if given the option, including through third-party apps like OpenTable. Outback Steakhouse uses a similar approach to that of waitlist apps: Potential diners can see the wait time at nearby units, then put themselves on the list remotely. Outback also lets users share their reservation through in-app texting.
At this point, 5% of consumers use their smartphones to sync music to a restaurant’s playlist thru Wi-Fi-enabled jukeboxes. The Melt, though, is letting app users identify music preferences in their app profiles, then queuing up similar tunes when beacon technology senses those users are nearby and coming in.
Nearly two in 10 consumers have signed up for a restaurant app in the past three months to enroll in a mobile rewards program, finds Technomic’s Consumer Update. Consumers—especially millennials and younger diners—prefer to use digital methods to keep track of loyalty, versus having punch cards or keychains.
While mobile pay hasn’t caught on quickly—just 6% of diners use Apple Pay, Google Wallet or others—12% have used an app recently to pay at restaurants. Up next: voice recognition ordering and paying, which Starbucks and McDonald’s are looking at. A Google system, in test in some San Francisco restaurants, combines voice and face recognition: A verbal “I’ll pay with Google” sets in motion a visual ID of the customer.