By Andrew Gazdecki

There’s no denying we are fully engulfed in the digital age. If you look around your restaurant, you’ll see teenagers looking for the password to your business’ Wi-Fi, Millennials snapping a photo of your food to post on Instagram, and middle-aged mothers paying for their order using Apple Pay. The smartphone market is saturated with 77% of U.S. adults owning a smartphone.

Their actions should scream to you “WE’D USE AN APP FOR YOUR RESTAURANT!” More than a third of restaurants have answered the call; 50% of limited service restaurants and 55% of franchise/chain restaurants have developed mobile apps for their patrons’ use. Typically, on these applications, you’ll find mobile ordering, nutrition information, loyalty programs, directions and locations, and mobile payment options.

Read More: National Restaurant Association Technology Mapping & Survey

That’s great, but do mobile apps bring any value to your business? Yes, in fact, four in five restaurant owners agree adding mobile technology boosts sales, makes their operations more productive and offers a competitive advantage to restaurants in the same niche.

With one in three restaurants having a mobile app and that competitive advantage, they’re already looking forward to how they’ll continue to spend on technology. Regarding app development over the next five years, restaurants will continue to pump money into developing customer ordering, loyalty programs, and payment features.

If you’re still not convinced, read on to learn more reasons why you should have a mobile app for your restaurant.

Customer Ordering

As we mentioned, restaurants will continue to focus on installing or improving their customer ordering feature on their mobile applications. They will do this for several reasons, the first being it increases convenience for the customer. With mobile ordering, a customer no longer needs to wait in line and can instead order ahead of time and pick up their order.

Online ordering also removes error from the order process. Customers and restaurant employees don’t need to worry about being misheard over the roar of three blenders while the customer is ordering. Finally, mobile ordering increases productivity for your operations team, as fewer employees need to man the POS system and can focus on employee satisfaction and food production.

Loyalty Programs

Most people have experienced the frustration of going to their favorite restaurant or coffee shop and realizing upon checking out that they’ve forgotten their loyalty punch or swipe card. It’s frustrating for the consumer not to have a more convenient loyalty program that’s always with them. Also, for restaurants not having an easy-to-use loyalty program can lead to lost business.

The other thing to consider is that people are no longer exclusively loyal to one company. There are far too many options available, but having a loyalty program built in can help draw customers back in. One U.K. study in 2014 showed that 24% of respondents would download and use a restaurant’s mobile app if it included a digital loyalty program that allowed them to accumulate points to earn free food and discounts.

Having a digital loyalty program can do you no harm, but not having one can make a tremendous difference in your bottom line.

Mobile Payments

Now, more than ever, people are looking for easy payment options when they make a purchase. This includes contactless credit card readers and the ability to make a mobile payment. Third-party applications like Apple Pay and Google Wallet allow consumers to link a credit card to their phones and make mobile transactions without having to take out their wallet. Restaurants are looking to keep up with their consumers’ demands for convenience by installing these mobile payment systems.

Some restaurant apps bring the payment process into the application itself, particularly when pre-ordering is available. These applications allow you to either reload your loyalty card with a set amount or directly link a credit card to the application that charges with each transaction. For consumers and restaurant operators, keeping everything in one place increases convenience and efficiency.

Table Reservations

Of course, table reservations don’t apply to QSR and fast food restaurants. For restaurants who do offer reservations and even encourage their customers to make reservations before arriving, adding a mobile reservation system can enhance your customer’s experience at your establishment. Customers no longer need to worry about having to call your restaurant or be near a computer to make reservations. Providing secure and guaranteed reservations to your most loyal customers only boosts their loyalty to you. Plus, by offering mobile reservations, you will increase productivity in your restaurant as you need fewer people to man the phones or be at the front of the restaurant.

Location Services

Location services are a powerful tool for your customers and you. For your clients, location services provide an easy way to for them to look up your places and order to a pre-set location. For you, location services make it easier to customize messages to your customers which can help increase their loyalty to you. Personalized messages can include using a customer’s site to send them notifications that they’re near one of your restaurants, a great feature if a customer is in a new city but looking for something familiar. You can also use these services to inform customers about special promotions at the location they’re near or in. This tactic can help boost sales, particularly if the notification is sent when the customer walks in the door.

Push Notifications

Push notifications are closely tied to location-based services and can be very profitable when used correctly. Messages about not only when a customer is near a location but when a new menu item is available or when a promotion is happening across all areas can encourage customers to head to their nearest restaurant to take part in it.

Push notifications provide an easy way for restaurants to stay top-of-mind for customers. However, when using push notifications, do not be excessive. Applications that send out too many notifications run the risk of the customer switching off notifications or uninstalling the app altogether. Neither outcome is profitable to you.

Big Data

As we’ve discussed, creating a food app for your restaurant provides you with tons of benefits, including the collection of vast amounts of data. We’ve all heard about the “power of big data, ” but many companies hardly know how to make sense of the data they’ve collected.

Apart from learning more about where your customers are, you can study how your customers interact with your application. You’ll learn more about which features they use heavily and which they don’t touch. You can then study those functionalities customers don’t use to understand why they aren’t using them – is it because the function doesn’t work well or because it’s useless to your customers. Modifying the application based on that understanding can help you create a better app for your customer.

Further, you can understand if your marketing copywriting is successful or not. By evaluating the success of a particular marketing campaign advertising a promotion in a certain location, you can gauge how well your copywriting works on your customers. By extension, you can also customize offers to specific customer sets based on which promotions they take advantage of. Customization will lead to more customer loyalty down the line.

Get Social

Remember those Millennials taking photos for their Instagram we discussed at the beginning of the article? They love social media and are always looking for new ways to engage with brands and for brands to engage with them. This includes restaurants.

Leveraging social media to create buzz around a new menu item or promotion not only drives more customers into your store but helps create tons of user-generated content and spread the word faster. Adding a simple way to for customers to share your updates on social media through the application without ever leaving the app facilitates that message spreading. Customers are eager to share their experiences, and they will do it with or without you, so why not join your customers on that social journey?

Beyond sharing on social media, you can create a small social community within the application which allows customers to ask questions and leave comments on your updates.

Low Development Costs

In the early days of mobile, creating applications was time-consuming and expensive, a very high barrier to entry for anyone smaller than a large, international restaurant chain. Today, there are tons of app development companies who create innovative applications at low costs. There are also more and more people graduating from college with a degree in mobile development who you can hire to develop an app in-house. For very small businesses, there are even no-code applications builders that require little technical knowledge.

With so much competition and technological advances, the barrier to entry is all but leveled. There’s no longer an excuse not to have a mobile application for your business.

Go Mobile

Developing a mobile application for your restaurant is about meeting your customer’s expectations based on what is available on the market. Customers will love having a direct line to your company through the application while reaping the benefits of your loyalty program.

As a restaurant owner, you will see increased customer loyalty, higher customer retention rates, and be able to make more data-driven decisions to improve your relationship with your customers.

Andrew Gazdecki is the founder and CEO of Bizness Apps — making mobile apps affordable and simple for small businesses. We’re a do-it-yourself iPhone, iPad, Android & HTML5 app platform that allows any small business to simultaneously create, edit, and manage mobile apps without any programming knowledge needed. Think of us as “WordPress for mobile app creation.” Many of our customers are mobile app resellers — marketing or design agencies that use our platform to cost effectively build mobile apps for small business clients. @agazdecki.