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More Restaurant Brands Are Relying On Mobile-Ordering Apps During The Pandemic

QSR investigated why so many of the top restaurant brands are doubling down on mobile ordering apps. Here are some of the key takeaways from their report.

By Jonathan BarlasContributor
2:14PM 10/15/20

A new report from QSR Magazine looks into the recent surge in mobile ordering apps among restaurant brands, and suggests that the trend might not go away after the pandemic. 

While the vast majority of restaurants have been hit hard by COVID closures, quick-service brands have faired better. Takeout, drive-thru and delivery-based services have seen substantial gains in 2020. And for quick-serve giants like McDonalds and Starbucks, mobile ordering was already a popular way to get your grub pre-pandemic. Today, mobile-ordering is nothing less than essential.

Here are some of the key findings from QSR’s report:

Why Mobile Ordering?

Mobile ordering can bring in more customers (namely, those that value the convenience and speed these apps provide).

Ordering ahead via mobile apps reduces bottlenecks in drive-thru lanes and at the counter, allowing greater throughput. During a pandemic, with most on-premises customers coming through a single drive-thru lane, ordering ahead can really speed things up.

Mobile ordering reduces the need for face-to-face conversations between staff and customers, keeping everyone safer during the pandemic. Offering contactless delivery or curbside pickup can offer additional benefits here.

Mobile ordering apps can encourage customers to order more frequently and/or try new menu items, with features such as loyalty/rewards programs, push notifications and gamification elements such as achievements, leveling-up and more.

Mobile ordering also isn’t solely confined to apps attached to a corporate counterpart, There are various approaches that both quick-service brands and private franchisors use to maximize these services now more than ever. 

Food Aggregators: Third-Party Delivery

Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates and GrubHub are aggregated mobile ordering options that many brands can explore to expand its customer base and convenience. Here are some of the pros and cons for using third-party aggregators:

PRO: Aggregators can expose new customers to your restaurant, which can be critical to overall growth plans especially during the pandemic. 

PRO: Most third-party aggregators have already implemented COVID-friendly contactless delivery or “leave at door” options — greatly valued and preferred by most customers during this time.

CON: Many customers who use aggregators are not looking to “build a relationship” with a specific restaurant. With tons of options to choose from, it is unlikely that a customer will bond with your business through third-party options.

CON: Selling meals on aggregators is also more expensive. Many third-party aggregators charge commission fees that can be as high as 30% of the order balance. Even pickup orders on aggregators like Uber Eats require restaurants to pay a commission fee for the transaction.

Specialized Mobile Ordering App: Ideal for Repeat Customers & Profitability

Although many businesses may not have the opportunity to create their own mobile ordering system through a brand-curated app, the fact of the matter is, most brands tend to lean toward this direction in order to cut costs absorbed by third-party aggregators. Take brands such as Slim Chickens and Chick-fil-a, who not only offer mobile ordering options through their apps but also allow repeat customers to rack up rewards/points for free menu items, specials, etc.

Building a dedicated app offers many advantages to brands in the long run:

  • Stop paying a third-party aggregator for every order, and/or reduce the fee structure for delivery/pickup orders.
  • Create the branded and personalized experience your loyal customers (and marketing team) desire.
  • Provide a competition-free ordering experience for your customers.
  • Build your menu and customization options the exact way you want.
  • Allow the flexibility to build in loyalty/rewards programs and gamification features.

Customize push notifications to increase share-of-wallet and order frequency.

Corporate franchises have the revenue to funnel software designers to curate an app, but what about smaller businesses? In order to reduce this technology gap among large and small restaurants, software development companies partner with restaurant-businesses to develop complete mobile ordering apps, along with a POS (point-of-sale), delivery/logistics etc.

Coordinating with experienced software agencies not only reduces development costs for brands but also contributes to shorter turnaround times and overall risk, making it possible for smaller restaurant businesses to bring their apps to fruition.

Aggregator-App Combo: How This Benefits Brands in the Long-Term

As aggregators have the ability to broaden a restaurant’s client base, brand-centric apps allow repeat customers to build a relationship with the restaurant itself. By maximizing both methods, according to QSR, there is definitely more value in allocating resources towards a functional mobile ordering app.

Having the best of both worlds doesn’t mean brands are putting too many eggs in one basket. In fact, brands that adopt both methods assert their dominance in the mobile ordering space. However, a robust and comprehensive app will not only provide structure to both returning and new customers but will also allow businesses to drastically improve profits and mobile ordering processes on their own dime.

Read the full report at