Pizza Hut is nearing the end of its record-breaking year for online sales. This success dates back to 1994, when Pizza Hut launched “PizzaNet” online, which was so ahead of its time that many consumers did not quite fully understand how it worked. Pizza Hut has since been one of the leaders in digital ordering in the pizza category. It now offers mobile ordering through an app, and with digital sales amounting to nearly a third of annual revenue; Pizza Hut has passed the $1 billion milestone in 2014.
In a world of overstimulation, a mobile app is the secret to extending communication beyond the in-store experience. Mobile apps can be used to provide coupons and offers, build brand loyalty, and even to deliver branded content; but if consumers lean toward the convenience factor, a mobile app should also allow them to place an order.
The Starbucks and Chipotle mobile apps have had success in using mobile payment. Both allow their customers to place orders through the app so their food or drink is prepared upon arrival. Both apps have been largely successful with their respective consumers, and other QSR’s look to follow their lead.
Chick-fil-A is currently testing a new ordering app in six locations with hopes to rolling out nationally. Similar to the Chipotle app, Chick-fil-A is allowing its customers to find a location, order food and select a pick up time.
According to SmartBrief, only 22% of restaurants in the US have mobile apps. Keep in mind that not all of those are used for placing orders.
Photo Credit: Flickr via Selbe B
As we enter the autumn months and the leaves begin to fall, customers begin looking to the QSRs for their favorite fall treats. The emergence of fall themed menu items has increased over the past years with pumpkin, apple and cinnamon dominating the fall palate.
While apple is often associated with the fall season, more recently pumpkin-flavored everything has become the new favorite. According to research firm Technomic’s MenuMonitor, in August through November of last year, the country’s 250 largest chains introduced 105 pumpkin-themed limited-time offers, more than twice as many as the 45 apple items they put on the menu.
Starbucks brought back its Pumpkin Spice Latte for the 10th consecutive year this fall. McDonald’s has jumped aboard adding a Pumpkin Spice Latte to their latte menu and pumpkin pie to its dessert menu. Other QSR chains have followed suit: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts added a pumpkin cheesecake doughnut to its fall menu and Einstein Bros. bagels introduced a whole pumpkin line. We’re even seeing pumpkin ales and whiskeys growing in popularity.
Furthermore, the comeback of these fall flavors has become quite the event. For example, Krispy Kreme teased the two seasonal doughnuts on its Pinterest page two weeks before the items were available in stores. We see this big buildup for these fall treats and the great disappointment when they disappear again. So what is it about that pumpkin flavor that people crave during the fall? For one, pumpkin is a symbol of fall nostalgia and pumpkin flavor simply gets customers in the fall spirit. The limited time only offering also has a great appeal. Customers know that their favorite fall flavors won’t be around forever, which only fuels their desire to indulge in some pumpkin treats.
So how can a QSR make its pumpkin item different than all the others out there? Make it special. Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte has a truly devoted fan base and they accomplished this by making the PSL a big deal. The chain lured consumers in by giving them a secret code, which allowed them to order a Pumpkin Spice Latte before its official release. Starbucks even created a $150 tumbler Swarovski crystals; they made 600 of the cups and sold out in 100 minutes. The PSL has its own Facebook page, is dominating Instagram and trending on Twitter: #PSL. Needless to say, the Pumpkin Spice Latte will be a hit for Starbucks again this year, assuming it doesn’t experience another shortage of product like last year.
Photo credit: Lorraine.
Restaurants have a unique opportunity to gain loyal customers by implementing game tactics into their strategy. To most people, spending time to get involved in restaurants’ gamified strategy seems like a new phenomenon, but it is actually just another way of promoting something brands have always strived for: loyalty.
Brands have always used tactics to enhance consumer loyalty, but technology has made these tactics easier and more efficient. According to FastCasual.com, average Americans spend two or more hours on their phones a day, and 50 minutes of that time is spent playing games. That statistic helps explain how apps like FrontFlip are performing so well.
So how can restaurants incorporate a unique gamified strategy into their loyalty programs or promotions? One important feature is simplicity. A loyalty game needs to be simple, but fun at the same time—otherwise, no one will take part. Also, users should be allowed to share their interactive experiences through their social media outlets. This is a good way to recruit more users.
Starbucks launched a successful gamification app called My Starbucks Rewards. Upon registration, users are automatically at the “welcome” level. Depending on their loyalty and frequency, users can be promoted to higher levels and earn stars. Users are able to pay for their coffee with their Starbucks app, which tracks stars to redeem rewards. You can even earn stars for buying Starbucks coffee from the grocery store. Starbucks also uses their app to notify its most loyal fans about new offers when first opening the app.
Loyalty programs such as the My Starbucks Rewards app are a smart way to capture Millennials’ attention using gamification. According to the study American Millennials: Deciphering the Enigma Generation, “Nearly half of Millennials (45%) will go out of their way to shop at stores offering rewards programs.” A loyalty program that offers customer rewards is an extremely effective strategy for restaurants. Gaining new customers and retaining existing ones is an achievable goal when stores offer benefits and rewards to their audience.
Any restaurant has the opportunity to implement this marketing strategy. Customers can be rewarded for almost anything–number of check-ins, menu items ordered, first time visits, etc. There could be leaderboards that show who the most loyal people are. There is also an opportunity to get staff and employees involved by letting employees compete for achievements, or even allowing customers to rate the employees. Staff and customers could be rewarded for any kind of behavior a restaurant is promoting, and it will likely be successful as long as it is a fun and simple interaction.
Small portions are becoming popular menu options at restaurants this year. Rather than going out and choosing one main course for their meal, people are making the switch and sharing multiple small plates at one table. Not to be confused with appetizers, this is a trend that provides diners with a wider variety of entrées, better value, healthier options and a new way to experience food.
TGI Friday’s recently introduced a new menu called “Taste & Share,” which features a variety of small portion options. Items range from Bacon Mac and Cheese Bites to Thai Pork Tacos. Not only does this menu allow customers to try smaller portions, it also allows them to try different types of cuisine in one meal.
“While some guests may order a few Taste & Share Menu items to make a meal, we see these new menu items as flavorful starters before any meal, as well as perfect pairing with any of our signature beverages,” Linda VanGosen, Friday’s vice president of brand calendar and planning told National Restaurant News.
A recent story in QSR Magazine quotes research from The NPD Group about the trend toward snacking and small portions:
“According to a study by market research company The NPD Group, more American consumers are eating during the three normal meal times than five years earlier, but these dining occasions are increasingly composed of more mini meals. The “Snacking in America 2012” report found that the average diner consumes fewer food and beverage items at traditional meals than in the past, while more than half of Americans are snacking two or three times a day.”
Though this is a rising trend among mainstream restaurant chains, some chefs have already been experimenting with this style. Michael Smith, Kansas City chef,is one of those chefs. Extra Virgin, one of Smith’s restaurants in Kansas City, has a constantly evolving menu with various small portion options. People typically visit Extra Virgin with the intent to share multiple items with the table.
In January, we wrote about expected 2013 restaurant trends, and snacks becoming meals was included on the list. As the trend continues, smaller portions will allow consumers to enjoy multiple flavorful dishes without the guilt.
photo credit: Elvert Barnes via photopin cc