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5 common mistakes to avoid when rolling out digital ordering

With omnichannel self-service on the rise across the F&B industry, we look at common mistakes and how to avoid them as you expand your guest-facing digital offering.

  • Your app isn’t sticky : The stickiness of a solution refers to its ability to become habit-forming. Contrary to popular opinion, mobile apps are not a sticky technology; a quarter of all apps get used once in the first six months of ownership and two thirds of apps fail to reach 1,000 users in the first year.  The most successful native apps in the quick-service restaurant industry have been created by industry juggernauts such as Starbucks and McDonalds. Growing their app’s audience has taken considerable resource and years of iterative learning. And they’re still learning. In May 2018 McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook reported that app adoption rates for the company were ‘pretty low’, four years after the company piloted its first app for ordering and payment (then called ‘McD Ordering’). These brands have a huge amount of back-end marketing available to push people on to their app and a massive global following, which is testament to how difficult it is to get a single-brand native app in this sector to stick. Other sticky mobile apps in the QSR industry include third-party delivery marketplaces, such as Deliveroo and DoorDash, that provide a delivery ‘shop window’ for multiple brands – therefore increasing the frequency with which a customer uses the app, and reducing the space they need to have on their phone to access numerous brands. For smaller brands that do not play in the same space as McDonald’s and Starbucks, a mobile app is unlikely to stick immediately, even with a lot of investment. They’re also expensive to build, at up to $20,000 per application – bearing in mind you will need one for Android and one for iOS. Web apps are stickier than native apps and much easier (and therefore cheaper) to build. They work by utilizing native mobile functionality in a web environment – meaning there is no download required. Simply click on the URL or have the link activated via QR code or NFC prompt to launch the journey. And as information from the web is pulled in the same way regardless of what device you access it on, there is no need for separate build out costs.
  • Forgetting staff buy-in Your staff on the ground are the face of your business so having their buy-in when it comes to new technology is important. Many customers approach new technology with trepidation the first time they use it, so if your staff are not there to fly its flag it may affect usage rates. Furthermore, some staff may view self-service technology negatively, as by allowing customers to order and pay themselves it takes away one of the main components of their job – serving. As a solution, you should approach staff buy-in by looking at other brands’ digital transformation journeys, such as McDonalds, who have reported that self-service technology, installed with the intention of fighting increasing labor costs, has resulted in the same number of staff on the books. This is because the sheer increase in sales seen with self-service technology has meant more staff are needed in the back-of-house to support with food preparation. And in some stores, new roles have been created through the appointment of Kiosk Ambassadors as well as through new journeys such as table service and delivery. By explaining the new opportunities self-service technology could open for your team, and creating a culture of excitement and reassurance, your investment will get the staff-backing it deserves.
  • No strategy for continuous improvement As mentioned above, McDonald’s app was piloted four years ago, while Starbucks first launched its Starbucks Card mobile application ten years ago. It’s been a long process of iterative improvement for these company’s digital offerings to get to where they are today. As a point of reference, Starbucks mobile payment app is more popular than Apple Pay, with 2.3 million customers using it to make a purchase at least once every six months. One mistake businesses often make with guest-facing technology across the board is the thinking that after a successful launch the solution will carry itself. Customer preferences are changing all the time and to be successful you need to create a digital strategy that ensures a process for iterative improvement. To achieve this requires a feedback loop, where you regularly communicate with guests and front-line staff to pinpoint issues and work to find solutions.
  • Not informing your strategy with baseline data
    Just because your competitor has opted for a new digital channel doesn’t mean it’s the right fit you. It’s important to start with a solid understanding of business and customer challenges through the gathering of baseline data. Get to know your customers’ preferences and opinions by collecting incentivised surveys, focus groups, or by speaking to guests on-the-ground. It’s also worth looking at the full profile of your customers and understanding how preferences change per demographic or geographical area, and therefore how your technology offering may need to be adapted at a local level. For identification of business problems, look at the specific operational and strategical challenges faced by your company and what KPIs will reflect an improvement, then use that to inform your digital decision-making.
  • Choosing an inflexible technology partner Digital guest-facing solutions have to adapt quickly in-line with internal and external feedback, and scale rapidly according to business requirements. A good technology partner is customer-centric, meaning they look to solve your specific problems, and are focussed on supporting you to meet your KPIs, as well as delivering a great product. They are also experienced integrators. Digital ordering means being able to connect seamlessly to a range of different systems, from the point of sale to loyalty. And they should be able to take the hassle out of the process for you – from development, to design, to deployment and beyond. Whether that be through utilizing their own in-house expertise or working seamlessly with third parties, you should be looking for a proven platform partner and not just a provider. From designing for accessibility, to marketing strategies and staff training – there are a lot of elements to consider before rolling out a guest-facing solution. It’s important to chat to others in the industry and do your research before you start, to learn where others have tripped up in the past. Only by remaining customer-centric, using an experienced provider and looking at digital ordering as a journey you are going on with your customers will you see the best results.

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