No App Necessary: Latest in Mobile Marketing for Restaurants

Mobile marketing is often described to be an inexact science. With the sheer amount of mobile apps available–and more coming every day–gauging long-term consumer interest and use of a particular platform can seem about as sure a bet as picking the winner of the Kentucky Derby two years in advance.

Consumers can be extremely fickle and always lean toward the application with the lowest barrier to entry.

Concerning the fast-casual restaurant industry and associated applications, consumers themselves can be extremely fickle. From experience, consumers always lean toward the application with the lowest barrier to entry. Requiring lengthy sign-ups, credit card information and other personal details within an initial process could be the barriers that turn a large percentage of consumers away from your rewards programs, reservation systems and other outlets. This in turn offers little to no value for your restaurant inventory, and puts your consumers in an awkward position, setting them up to question why ordering a quick meal requires so much data upfront.

It is for this reason many restaurants within the realm of  fast casual are opting for applications that don’t require sign-ups at all, even going so far as nixing the actual requirement for restaurant patrons to download. While you may be asking yourself, how this methodology  can realistically bear fruit in an industry that’s oversaturated with rewards programs, marketing collateral and their distributors, it’s actually a lot more simple than it appears.

While the mobile app is considered a step up from SMS messaging in the traditional sense, apps present their own barriers to entry for consumers which are often enough to keep them from opting into both the app itself and the marketing campaigns you built to run within it.

For example, you may end up choosing an app that may not be compatible with a phone’s operating system (ios vs android). This may not seem like a huge deal, but if android commands a huge presence in your area, you may have just invested in an application that many of your patrons cannot even use. Furthermore, you have to consider factors such as the overall size of the download. Above a certain threshold, downloads requires the use of wifi which may or may not be provided at your restaurant location excluding patrons from on site downloads and walk by opt-ins.

Add in factors like “application permissions” that might prevent your patrons from actually seeing the push notifications designed to draw them in and you can end up pretty frustrated. This is not a condemnation of the mobile app however, simply a presentation of factors which discourage avid use.

An app doesn’t have to be completely consumer facing in order to market to them effectively. 

NextME is pushed toward the restaurant staff itself and nixes the normal requirement for consumer download. We found that in solving an operations gap by providing reliable waitlisting and communication with patrons on the list, restaurants were incentivized to devote themselves to continued use. In addition, adopting SMS messaging allowed our app to communicate with patrons cell-phones directly eliminating the need to walk each user through app permissions and how to activate push notifications on the spot. This allowed us to, for each restaurant patron, share a customized link via text to their waitlist page (viewed on their mobile browser) that not only contained their wait time, but menus, specials, partnered ad’s and more in a manner that best represented the restaurant. 

An app doesn’t have to be completely consumer facing in order to market to them effectively.  We’ve discovered that the most effective time to market to your consumers is while they are waiting for their order, whether in your restaurant on the waitlist, while awaiting an upcoming reservation, or for a delivery. Applications, platforms and other technology that allows you to capitalize on this time will work best to increase the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.

It is our prediction that apps and other technology that incorporates SMS messaging, and the ability to engage the consumer without requiring a download will continue to grow in number, scale and effectiveness as new tactics are developed based on this discovery. Choosing the right option for your restaurant will ultimately come down to factors like where your main pain point or obstacle lies, restaurant size, location and the details surrounding the marketing campaigns you want to run, as every app is equipped for something different.