As technology evolves, businesses are debating the benefits of bringing restaurants mobile.
At this year’s Fast Casual Executive Summit, I moderated a panel, “Preparing for a Mobile Future.” I was joined by Sam Ballas, President and CEO of Coast Wings and Grill, Aaron Noveshen, Founder and President of Starbird & Culinary Edge Ventures, and Andrei Stern, CFO at SuViche Hospitality Group. We discussed their experiences of taking their restaurant businesses mobile, the challenges they faced, their priorities for the next few years, and what they would do differently if they were to re-start their mobile journey.
Here are the highlights of our discussion:
Top Benefits of Taking Your Restaurant Mobile
Mobility for restaurants offers two main benefits: a customer benefit and an operational benefit.
For customers, mobility should deliver a convenient and frictionless experience, whether in store or the way in which the brand expresses itself digitally on social media, online ordering platforms or apps. This allows customers to interact with brands easily and in a way that comes more naturally to them, which, in turn, drives loyalty.
As for the operational benefit, Andrei defined it well: A central mobile operation – whereby everything is made accessible from mobile devices – not only delivers convenience but liberates managers to work out of the office and in the field as much as possible. Similarly, Sam mentioned how restaurant management mobile apps have helped staff and management by providing access to their mobile restaurant data in a few touches while on-the-go, giving them the ability to take action from anywhere at any time. It also simplified the central deployment of training among franchises.
The majority of mobile challenges related to cost and integration complications, such as the cost of keeping up with continually evolving technologies and ensuring that various software systems are all “talking” with one another to support mobile strategies. All the panelists agreed that coming up with mobile initiatives is easy; the challenge lies in being able to allocate the resources to bring them to life.
Mobility, everyone agreed, is the future. With a majority of restaurant staff being under the age of 30, embracing mobility is a logical next step for many reasons. It has generational appeal and its functionality is evident. Plus, it has the capability to record, measure and manage huge amounts of data about the business and its customers.
However, because the restaurant industry is focused on “connecting people and creating experiences,” there has been some hesitation about adopting mobility – “much of the time technology isn’t about that face-to-face connectivity.” It’s also “vital to strike the right balance between innovation and the deciphering of what really ‘moves the needle’ to improve operations or drive sales.”
Such a balanced approach needs to be considered when investing in technology, because innovation is great but “you have to know what in that technology is going to move the needle” for your restaurant and generate a return on investment.
The Wisdom of Hindsight
The panelists offered some tips for those beginning their mobile journey:
If you are looking to learn more about why executives are investing in mobile technology and the benefits mobile could bring to your restaurant, check out the 2019 Food and Beverage Benchmark Report. Also, you can assess how your current mobility strategy stands up against restaurant peers by taking our 2-minute mobility benchmark assessment.
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