The phone is quickly becoming an ally to restaurateurs looking to build visibility and customer loyalty — and ultimately drive revenue. This was evident at this year NRA Show 2010, as panels of providers and practitioners shared the merits of our increasingly mobile world. Today, cell phones are used more for data than for calls, and restaurant consumers and employees are no different.
2-D barcodes – Robert Russell, Director, Industry Solutions, Consumer Goods, Retail and Hospitality at AT&T, spoke to NRA Show attendees about the growth in the mobile space — but also about the unique possibilities of 2-D barcodes. Now that most phones are equipped with cameras (read: scanners), adding a bar code to your menu or storefront could provide significant benefits to customers. Add a barcode to your menu and a customer can take the menu and restaurant information with them on their phone. Provide the 2-D barcode on your receipt and give a customer a quick, painless and innovative way to fill out a survey on service, quality, you name it. Exciting stuff — all made available by the innovations of today’s mobile phones.
Text (SMS) Marketing – In Internet years, text message marketing has been around for a while. As the demographics of your “typical texter” has shifted, utilization of this technology has grown significantly. According to Michael Lam, principal at the Mobile Marketing and Text Message Marketing firm Opt-It, the average age of “texter” is now 38 years old. Pair that with a staggering open rate, 97% (according to Lamb) and you’ve got a hyper-effective, opt-in marketing vehicle. With location-based SMS possibilities taking shape, expect a new reality for restaurant marketers. Are your customers nearby? Would they like a special offer delivered to them in real-time?
Apps – The life of the mobile party, applications, have had a particularly significant impact on the restaurant industry. And with good reason. First, they don’t require a browser experience, which is a timely and varied experience depending the phone, platform and connection. An app provides a more intuitive experience, and restaurants/service providers can tailor and update the product offering to the unique needs of the user. Scott Jampol, senior director of consumer marketing at OpenTable said that their mobile apps have generated 3 million dines — equaling $150 million in restaurant revenue. And it’s not just about the consumer. Apps play a role in employee communication and performance. HotSchedules developed mobile apps to manage restaurant labor scheduling, but the usage yielded even more demand. Today, said HotSchedules owner Ray Pawlikowski, they are enhancing the app’s tools to help managers better communicate with employees.
Is it ironic that I use my OpenTable app to make reservations instead of just making the phone call? Perhaps. But the new mobile era is here, and early adopters will reap the rewards. Have you heard of any other ways restaurants are using mobile technologies to find new customers, drive sales or create efficiencies? We’re eager to hear your experiences.