How restaurants can get more customers to order direct

Discounts and order tracking can entice guests to use a restaurant’s app over a third party, according to new data from HungerRush.
Restaurant order mobile app
The majority of consumers say they prefer ordering from a restaurant's app, but price and ease of use are factors. | Photo: Shutterstock

Many consumers would rather order from a restaurant’s own app than a third-party marketplace. But the experience, and the price, have to be right.

Nearly 6 in 10 (56%) of people said they are likely or somewhat likely to order food directly from a restaurant rather than a third party, according to a survey of 1,000 consumers by tech supplier HungerRush. 

That is good news for restaurants, and echoes other research that has shown that customers see the benefits of ordering directly, such as lower prices and the ability to earn loyalty points. Most restaurants prefer it, because it allows them to gather more information on their customers and can also be more profitable. 

But the data also shows that how a consumer ultimately chooses to order depends on a number of factors.

Chief among them is the ability to get some kind of discount. More than half (51%) told HungerRush that coupons and promotions will influence whether they order direct or via a delivery app.

In-app discounts are common among restaurant chains. Indeed, both McDonald’s and Starbucks reward app users with frequent discounts in an effort to get customers to download their apps.

But third-party apps feature plenty of discounts, too, subsidized either by restaurants or the apps themselves. They also offer membership programs that allow customers to waive delivery fees in exchange for a flat monthly payment.

So while promotions may be a relatively even playing field, restaurants do have some other advantages when it comes to price. Sixty-seven percent of consumers said that they are at least sometimes deterred from using a third-party app because of the delivery and service fees that get added to those orders. And 35% said they are definitely deterred by those extra costs. This creates an opportunity for restaurants, which may not need to charge the same level of fees as delivery apps.

Additionally, some restaurant brands will raise their prices on third-party apps to help offset the commissions they pay to use the service. That means customers can save money by ordering directly from the restaurant.

Besides price, some consumers like the ordering process to include some high-tech bells and whistles. About a quarter of customers (23%) said they want to be able to track the progress of their order, for instance. And 16% said they look for an “enhanced user experience,” though the research did not detail what that meant.

With that being said, the widespread use of third-party delivery apps will make it extremely difficult for restaurants to convert every guest to order directly. More than half (54%) of consumers said they use a third-party app one to four times a month, and 29% said their app usage has increased over the past year. 

At the same time, about a third of customers don’t use third-party food apps at all, leaving a big opening for restaurants to step in. 

HungerRush encouraged restaurants to offer both third-party and first-party ordering options to capture both groups.

“We advise restaurants to choose tech that gives customers multiple ordering options for both in-house, online ordering and third-party food ordering apps,” said Executive Chairman Bill Mitchell in a statement. “Focusing on the customer experience is the No. 1 way I’ve seen restaurants win in the past and how they’ll keep winning in the future.” 

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