Loyalty, Mobile, Social

15 Features To Consider Adding To Your Restaurant App In 2018

Niall Quinn iOS Developer

Did you know that 1 in every 4 consumers has at least one restaurant app on their phone? (RetailMeNot, 2016). As restaurant apps in 2018 become more popular, more restaurants will be providing them, resulting in greater competition. This means that having a restaurant app has lost some impact as a tool to differentiate your brand from others. But don’t worry. If you optimize your restaurant app in 2018, you’ll see growth and improvements in:

  • Registrations
  • Customer Engagement
  • Customer Loyalty & Retention
  • New Customer Acquisition
  • Brand Perception

Here’s a list of 15 features to consider adding to your restaurant app in 2018, divided into 1) Must-Have and 2) Great-To-Have features.

Must-Have Features To Add To Your Restaurant App in 2018

Smartphone Apps

#1- Mobile Payments & POS Integration

Mobile ordering and payments are a great way to help you understand your customers and their purchase behavior. Mobile ordering is also super convenient for customers and is usually expected from national restaurant chains.

But what about those customers who still use physical payment transactions? How can you track them and their spending? You can integrate Point-of-Sale (POS) systems into your loyalty program or restaurant app in 2018.

It’s expected that even more restaurant apps in 2018 will integrate with POS hardware through scanners, i.e. a QR code on a page in the app. In addition to mobile ordering and payments. The tricky bit is getting customers to adapt to this behavior of producing the app to scan. Starbucks has introduced a clever reward/perk by offering free refills for customers who pay for items in-store with the app. (Business Insider, 2016)

#2 – Mobile Loyalty Program

Loyalty programs are widespread in the restaurant industry. In fact, 41% of consumers say they expect loyalty or rewards programs at fast-food restaurants (Technomic, 2016). Therefore, the value of loyalty programs will continue to be a big focus for restaurant apps in 2018.  Digital loyalty programs and apps are a great way to increase the ROI. We’ve prepared an in-depth webinar on this topic that you can watch at the link below:

Click Here to Watch our Free Loyalty Marketing Webinar

The beauty of mobile loyalty programs is the data they can collect. This data can lead to valuable insights and help identify opportunities. You can capture even more insights by integrating your loyalty program with social networks and your POS system. Loyalty app features also make it easy to personalize the customer experience and to quickly produce performance reports.  Small optimizations to your loyalty program can result in significant improvements in revenue and ROI.

#3 – Online Ordering

Next up on our list is online ordering. The demand for this feature is high, not just for restaurant apps in 2018 – but all retail apps! This rise in demand is due to technological advancements and changes in consumer behavior. Consumers (millennials especially) don’t like to make phone calls (Inc, 2017). The convenience of clicking a few buttons on an app can create a better customer experience.

In fact, online ordering is in such high demand, that Facebook has introduced online ordering to the messenger app! (Engadget, 2017)

#4 – Push Notifications

Now, this might seem like an obvious one. But push notifications are crucial to any app. They’re often misused and abused. If you want your app to be successful, then your push notifications need to be sophisticated and strategic. By that, we mean being responsible and relevant with your push notifications.


The first thing you should do to make your push-notifications more relevant is to add personalization. This means beyond addressing users by their name. But ensuring the time that you send them a notification is appropriate, i.e. not in the middle of the night! Also, if you integrate your loyalty, social and payment data, you can identify what products/dishes your customer is interested in, and deliver communications about that product.

It really comes down to knowing your customer inside-out and giving them what they want. We recommend using progressive profiling with your customers. So asking them questions that will help build a profile for your customer and personalize their experience. For example, you can ask users which channel they would prefer to receive communications from your brand, and on what topics. For example, SMS, Email, or push notifications, about special offers and new store openings, on Thursdays between 5 – 7 pm.

This is a really important activity because 81% of consumers feel loyal to brands that were there when they needed them, but otherwise respected their time and left them alone. (Accenture Strategy, 2017)

#5 – Advocacy Rewards (Word-of-Mouth Marketing)

Advocacy or referral rewards are a relatively new app feature. Traditionally they’ve been used more in B2B businesses, where transactions tend to occur less frequently than B2C. But thanks to technological advancements, it’s now easy to automate advocacy rewards with Popdeem‘s Social Rewards software.

With consumer trust dropping in brands, publications, and journalists – customer advocacy is even more important. Word-of-mouth converts at the highest rate of all forms of promotion. In fact, a study by McKinsey found that marketing-induced word-of-mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising. It also found that customers acquired through word-of-mouth have a 37% higher retention rate. (Forrester, 2017)

Taking into account the power of social media, word-of-mouth now has the potential to reach thousands of people in a matter of days.

Advocacy rewards act as a form of word-of-mouth marketing, which by definition ‘differs from naturally occurring word of mouth, in that it is actively influenced or encouraged by organizations (e.g.  rewarding regular consumers to engage in word-of-mouth.’ Making it arguably the most cost-effective form of promotion.

At Popdeem, we make it easy to encourage customers to share positive word-of-mouth stories on social media with automated, but targeted rewards. Our targeted system gives brands control over their rewards, i.e. to users in a specific area, or who spend a minimum of X dollars a week or month.

Here’s a short video demonstrating how Popdeem’s Social Rewards work.

If you’re interested in social rewards software, why not request a free Popdeem demo at this link – https://popdeem.com/request-a-demo

#6 – Social Integration

Social integration is already a popular feature, but we expect to see it in more restaurant apps in 2018. It adds a whole host of added benefits to your app. It facilitates social sign-on, which makes registration a single, convenient, simple action. As well as social word-of-mouth rewards (discussed above). It also collects valuable profiling data on demographics, interests etc.

#7 – Customer Feedback Portal

Customer reviews and feedback should be one of the first sources you go to for ideas on how to optimize your restaurant app in 2018. It’s important to consistently review your app performance and search for ways to improve to keep up with competitors. Customer feedback portals are a convenient and passive way to collect primary research on your app users. It gives them the opportunity to suggest improvements or help identify any weaknesses in your app.

#8 – Customer Profiling and Segmentation

We touched on this earlier in previous features. Customer profiling helps you understand more about your customers. Then segmentation allows you to tailor things like rewards, push notifications etc. to best suit your customers. Which brings us to our next must-have feature in your restaurant app in 2018…

#9 – Personalization

Personalized communication is becoming a consumer expectation. Depending on the how well your app captures and processes behavior information, you can determine what a customers’ favorite product is and offer them personalized rewards of that product. Personalization is all about creating the sense of a 1-to-1 conversation with customers – to build lasting relationships.

It’s also worth noting that according to Accenture Strategy, 54% of 18-34-year-olds say that ‘giving them the opportunity to personalize products they buy to create something unique to them, influences their overall feeling of loyalty toward a brand or company.’

Great-To-Have Features To Add To Your Restaurant App in 2018


#10 – Influencer Targeting

With the rise of influencer marketing, this is a great-to-have feature. Influencer marketing is an extension of word-of-mouth marketing. It’s based on the idea of trusted recommendations/endorsements.

Some marketers would argue that influencer marketing has lost some of its authenticity, and therefore its effectiveness. But what’s causing authenticity to fall? Well, more people are aware that influencers are paid to endorse brands on social media, due to new rules around disclosure. But celebrities have been paid to endorse brands for years and it’s still effective.

Source: Wired, 2017

Some marketers love influencer marketing, and some don’t see value in it. Perhaps this is a result of viral news stories like the Fyre Festival. (Wired, 2017)

But an exciting new trend is micro-influencer marketing. This is influencer marketing with smaller scale influencers, i.e. users with a few thousand followers. You could argue that micro-influencer marketing is more effective because they tend to have more intimate relationships with their followers, making their recommendations more trustworthy and likely to convert to sales.

We provide software that allows brands to segment their customers by their level of influence, using a proprietary influencer scoring system.

By segmenting your influential customers, you can offer them compelling advocacy rewards of higher value, in exchange for the reach and conversions they can achieve using their influence.

#11 – Rich Notifications

The rich notification is a notification that you can expand to view more information. Rich notifications have been popular in 2017, so we expect more restaurant apps in 2018 to utilize them. They can help increase engagement on push notifications, but it’s important to note that there is a reliance on people to allow your notifications, which may be a small portion of your users.

But having rich notifications will help strengthen your brand as cutting-edge and innovative. Both of which appeal to modern consumers, especially millennials.

#12 – Gamification

Gamification uses game mechanics in a non-game context to reward you for completing tasks. It’s all about motivation, rewards, and the psychological effects of both.

For example, the human brain releases dopamine when you’re pleased, happy, or receive a reward (lifehacker.com, 2014) – it’s also released when you accomplish a goal.


Consider creating a challenge for your app users to boost engagement. But be aware, that gamification is less common in restaurant apps, but it is a great way to encourage behavioral changes.

#13 – Chatbots

Chatbots make communicating with customers a lot easier, but it does require a bit of time to set up. Chatbots are computer programs that simulate a conversation between human users. The majority of restaurant apps will include some form of chatbot technology in 2018.

Want to learn more about chatbots? Then visit our Food Marketing Trends in 2017 post – here.

#14 – Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is a creative and interactive app feature and is not often available in restaurant app. But research shows that 47% of 18-34 year-olds say that engaging with them in innovative and creative ways to provide a multi-sensory experience, influences their overall feeling of loyalty toward a brand or company. (Accenture Strategy, 2017)

An example of a brand that included AR in their app is Walgreen’s. The technology enables customers to search for a specific product in a store, and an AR map appears to show them where to find the product, at what price, and the savings they make by shopping at Walgreen’s. (AdAge, 2014).


#15 – Geo-Targeting Tech

Finally, we have geo-targeting. This technology allows businesses to target people based on their location and communicate in real-time with their target audience. Once individuals opt-in to location-based programs, brands can notify them of deals and promotions when they are in-store, or even when they’re in the vicinity of a store.

iBeacons are another way that brands can engage in geo-targeting. These provide a unique opportunity for brands to deliver relevant alerts or adverts to existing loyal customers and potential new customers.

Take The Next Step To Building The Best App For Your Restaurant

Looking to create a restaurant app in 2018 or upgrade your existing one? Or maybe you’d like to find out more about social rewards software and word-of-mouth marketing? Why not get in touch to arrange a free Popdeem demo by submitting the form below?

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Niall Quinn iOS Developer
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