It’s finally the time we’ve been waiting for — cities are gradually opening up! Here in Chicago, we have officially entered the final phase of the COVID-19 recovery plan, which means life is getting back to normal, for real (whatever the new normal feels like these days).
Even before the pandemic, venues and restaurants were using mobile ordering to offer greater convenience for customers. However, over the course of the pandemic, people’s perception towards mobile ordering has shifted. The capability to order and pay on the phone has evolved from being a delightful nice-to-have to being the expectation anywhere food is served. As a result, the way people use mobile ordering is looking different nowadays compared to before the pandemic.
In this blog, we discuss 5 ways how in-venue mobile ordering has evolved over the past 12 months, and what venues need to do to prepare for the new customer expectations.
1. There are more creative use cases for mobile ordering than before.
Previously when we think about in-venue mobile ordering, the first scenario that comes to mind probably involves ordering concessions from your seat. That use case has now expanded to other areas of a venue, and other use cases.
For example, at Wrigley Field (pictured below), the Chicago Cubs are using mobile ordering for guests in premium suites, where guests can scan a QR code and request additional food and drinks while watching the game. The order will be automatically routed to the corresponding pantry, and the server will bring out the order once it’s ready.
Powered by FanFood, the ordering system allows for various customizations including having suite-specific QR codes so guests don’t have to manually input their suite information; assigning specific items within an order to different pantries (especially if you have cold pantry and hot pantry fulfilling different portions of the order); and tying different game day menu to different suites. While in-suite mobile ordering perhaps wasn’t as popular as concession stand mobile ordering before COVID-19, it’s certainly being welcomed by suite guests in 2021.
In addition to on-demand ordering, contactless pre-ordering has become another trend post COVID-19. This is particularly useful for any type of catering services, banquet orders or premium suite meal package booking before an event. Customers can access a web portal to select meal packages and number of guests, and check out online. If it’s for a luxury suite or box seating, the suite holder can even set a spending limit for the suite guests to charge to an open tab on the day of the event. While this new use case didn’t exactly stem from the hygiene-consciousness that’s prevalent these days, it’s certainly propelled by the digitization of the traditionally manual processes, as well as the convenience associated with it.
2. There are more accessible ways to start a mobile order.
Before the pandemic, people tended to associate “mobile ordering” with a “mobile app” — meaning you have to download an app in order to order on your phone. Now that mobile ordering has become popularized everywhere, that’s no longer practical. After all, nobody likes having to download a new app every time they visit a new place.
That’s why we’ve seen the use of QR codes and web view applications. Whether you’re at a restaurant, a stadium or even an amusement park, you could almost expect some sort of QR code to either view a menu or place an order.
Right now, most of the QR code applications have been for pulling up a digital PDF menu on your phone. However, FanFood’s system allows your customers to not only pull up your digital storefront (aka the dynamic, real-time updated menu), but also order and pay directly on their phone. The process is extremely simple and doesn’t require your customer to download an app. However, if you have many repeat customers who frequent your stores, they also have the option to download the FanFood app and order within the app.
If you have an existing app associated with your team or venue, you can easily embed FanFood’s web view within your app so guests can order food and beverages directly from your own app. For more on how people can access your digital storefront and start an order, check out our blog on 4 ways to do so.
3. The functionalities are more sophisticated.
As use cases for mobile ordering expand, our team has also spent a lot of time perfecting and customizing the platform for specific in-venue use cases. We’ve released several rounds of new product feature updates that affords the greatest convenience for both your F&B team and your customers.
For example, FanFood can now automatically calculate and optimize the order ETA displayed in the app, so that your customers have a clear expectation on how long they’d have to wait if they place the order now. We can even break down a bigger order and assign different portions of the order to different pantries and kitchens, if you have multiple fulfillment centers. If you have unpredictable order volumes at different hours, you can also set an order limit to pause incoming orders and turn off the availability of certain items.
On-premise delivery has also become more robust: you can bring the order to the customer in their seat, at the table, in the suite, in the car, or other designated areas. The customers only need to scan a location specific QR code without needing to manually input their table number or suite number, and the system will automatically register that information and send it to the kitchen.
4. The ordering experience becomes even easier for the user.
The ordering process itself has also become more robust. You can configure combos and default toppings / upsells to increase your basket sizes and per cap. Here’s a blog on how to best utilize your digital menu on FanFood to increase your F&B revenue. It’s also convenient for the customer — instead of manually checking what they want for their burger, they can have all the recommended toppings pre-selected and ready for checkout.
In addition to getting easier, the user experience is also more optimized for each venue. For example, you can now customize the colors of your storefront to immerse your customers in your brand. You can switch up button colors, store images and add logos to your storefront for a more cohesive user experience. If you don’t have photos, there’s also the option to have a simplified, lean menu look with no images required.
5. More types of venues are rolling out mobile ordering.
Restaurants perhaps have been the quickest to popularize the use of table-top QR code (even though many of them still don’t have the ordering capability and only display a PDF menu), but we’ve seen venues of all types and sizes jump on board during the pandemic.
FanFood is now being used at hundreds of venues across dozens of industries, including school stadiums, professional stadiums and arenas, drive-in theaters, boutique hotels, convention centers and even water parks. While some of these markets had been FanFood partners before the pandemic, since the lockdown we’ve seen less conventional venues offering mobile ordering as well, such as drive-in theaters and amusement parks. In addition, residential buildings and office buildings have started to use FanFood for bulk ordering from local restaurants. We expect this trend to only continue where “scan, order and pay” will become the new everyday norm.