Pre-Ordering and Upscale Dining: Can it Work?

If you search the news pages for mobile and online ordering technology you will easily find stories that mention Domino’s Pizza, Papa Johns and Starbucks; large chains with a reputation for ‘fast’ food and beverages. These chains are loved by consumers the world over but may not be perceived by consumers as “upscale.”

Because of the publicity that these large chains have garnered from their successes with mobile and online ordering, one might assume that such technology can and should only be employed by them and other similarly categorized QSRs. We believe that assumption is wrong. There has not been much publicity surrounding pre-ordering at premier venues, but that doesn’t mean it can’t or isn’t happening.

Technology-centric restaurant services are important to a broad spectrum of consumers, not just consumers that frequent establishments like Domino’s Pizza and Starbucks. Nowadays millennials, and beyond, expect their favorite restaurants to have a presence on their preferred technology devices. After all, technology has become a fact of daily life everywhere else in their lives and they expect that the businesses they interact with also understand how to communicate and engage with them using technology. As important, the image of the restaurant is linked to how they appear to measure-up in the digital age.  

Why on earth should it only be fast food chains that benefit from such intelligence and a better customer experience?

An example of a progressive restaurant is ULI, a beautiful Asian restaurant located in London’s prestigious Notting Hill district. In April, it announced the launch of its mobile and online ordering service. ULI guests now have the convenience of ordering dishes for takeaway through the ULI app, available on Google Play and the App Store, as well as its website. In addition to a collection service, the food is available for delivery throughout Notting Hill and up to 2.5 miles from the restaurant. If it can benefit from such technology, why shouldn’t others?

When visiting a top-quality restaurant, guests rarely form an opinion based on food alone. They already expect the food to be good or they would not eat at the restaurant. What’s important to them is the customer experience which includes the ambiance and the level of service received. The world’s highest-rated restaurants, The Fat Duck for instance, begin the dining experience before guests even walk through the door. Guests of The Fat Duck are assigned a storyteller who emails diners prior to the meal and asks questions about favorite memories so that the restaurant can adapt the menu to suit. The restaurant also calls diners on the reservation day to see if there are any extra touches they can make that make the experience extra special. All this personal attention makes guests feel special as if they are attending an event far larger than a single meal.

With online ordering, you can easily emulate this experience, creating a special, timely and stress-free customer experience. Imagine the scenario; the diner is excited about their upcoming meal at Restaurant Exclusive. As with many of the best regarded restaurants, the exact menu and experience is a mystery. A week before the booking, the diner is sent a link to an exclusive, secret website only accessible to those that have tables pre-booked. The website contains details of the restaurant, the story behind the food, the chefs and serving team. It also grants access to the menu for the day. The guests are asked to pre-select their courses and are given the option to pay in advance. On the day of the meal, each course appears in a timely fashion as if by magic, and when the guests are ready, they can depart without the hassle of paying the bill.  

How would a diner not appreciate such a customer experience? You can guarantee they won’t even consider that the technology used in this experience is the same or similar to that in Domino’s Pizza!

While the given example considers the very highest echelons of restaurant experiences, pre-ordering can benefit venues of any size or status. Online and mobile ordering opens businesses up to new streams of customers and therefore, revenue potential. Upscale restaurants could provide all or parts of their menus for mobile/online ordering so people who don’t have time to stay at the restaurant can still access their food menu for take-out. This raises the revenue per square foot of the restaurant which is a key metric that drives profitability. Some upscale restaurants have crowded bars where people can wait for a table but trying to order a drink feels like a college bar competition which does not feel very upscale. Allowing people to place drink orders through a mobile device relieves some of the stress of waiting and puts the customer in control of their experience. It will also drive additional revenues and make the bar feel more upscale and relaxed.

By providing the customer with a restaurant branded mobile app you also reinforce brand identity and forge close customer connections. Through the data that is gathered using a pre-ordering technology, you have the opportunity to learn more about your business and customer base. It’s very easy to review the data the mobile/online platform gathers; it can indicate the most popular menu choices and at what time of day, in what month or season they are ordered. This information along with figures such as average spend can be used to fine tune ingredient ordering and menu psychology and ultimately lead to revenue growth.

Now, why on earth should it only be fast food chains that benefit from such intelligence and a better customer experience?