We all know the moral of the classic tortoise and the hare story – slow and steady wins the race. But does that lesson apply to introducing mobile order-ahead services?
Shake Shack certainly seems to think so. It wasn’t until 2016 that the fast-casual chain finally began to embrace the concept of mobile ordering, building a mobile order-ahead interface for the company’s biggest burger fans.
But, as Abbey Reider, Shake Shack’s director of digital marketing and guest experience, recently recounted to PMYNTS in an interview, there’s greater value in perfecting mobile ordering experience than rushing for a wide-scale rollout of the service.
For Shake Shack, this meant starting small with a select few locations and a basic iOS app. The New York City-based company finally debuted its Android app in July 2017.
PYMNTS recently caught up with Reider to find out more about how — and why — the company decided to take its time offering mobile order-ahead services. She also expanded on some lessons the company has learned in gradually rolling out its mobile ordering service.
Smoothening experience for customers
Shake Shack first began offering its mobile ordering service in 2016, beginning with its restaurants in the Manhattan area and eventually expanding the offering to more than a dozen other locations — including Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., to name a few — by the end of the year.
But the inspiration for a mobile movement may not have come from an effort to boost sagging sales numbers. In fact, according to earnings reports, the company’s sales rose by roughly 44 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 and approximately 42 percent over the course of the whole year. Rather, Shake Shack was looking for a way to keep its expanding customer base happy while giving non-customers more reasons to become Shake Shack super fans. The company saw mobile order-ahead services as an opportunity to further build on its growth.
“We recognized, particularly for the biggest demographics we wanted to reach, we had a very technologically-savvy group of customers,” Reider said. “So, for us, the app was really a no-brainer. We surveyed and listened to our guests to find out their core needs and started building out our app from there.”
Collecting and applying customer feedback, Reider said, was crucial to building out a refined mobile ordering system. The company solicited feedback from customers both before and during the initial rollout through a partnership with Applause, a mobile product testing agency, and put the app in the hands of consumers to gauge what they did and didn’t like about it. Shake Shack also partnered with mobile ordering platform Olo to build the final app, which was eventually rolled out to all 136 of the company’s locations.
Smoothening for cooks, too
For Shake Shack, there was more than one reason to take a slow and steady approach to rolling out mobile order-ahead.
Other than gauging what customers wanted most from their mobile order-ahead experience, it was imperative to make sure the service wouldn’t slow down production in the kitchens, which would ultimately affect in-store customers the most.
It came down to limiting how many stores could accept mobile orders and how many mobile orders a participating location could accept at a time, Reider said. This allowed the restaurant chain to slowly adapt to the increased volume of orders and helped better streamline their operations.
While learning from tests and early rollouts was crucial for the development of the Shake Shack app, what eventually helped nail the process was building an interface which mimicked the company’s in-house ordering system, allowing kitchens to continue operating in much the same way they already were, Reider explained.
“It’s the exact same process as when someone comes into a Shack and places an order,” Reider said. “It’s integrated into our POS system, so when a guest first places an order and chooses the time they’d like to pick it up, the order is then directly filed into the POS. That way, the kitchen can begin cooking it at the appropriate time, and it is ready when that person comes into the store.”
Further shake ups incoming
So far, the slow rollout has turned out to be a successful strategy for Shake Shack. When announcing the debut of the Android app, the company said its iOS predecessor had already been downloaded more than 200,000 times despite only being available nationwide for roughly four months.
And so, Rieder said, the company is keeping its philosophy in place and working slowly on adding new features and capabilities to its app, including personalization options and the ability to build and edit a customer account profile.
Meanwhile, Shake Shack is also slowly embracing new ordering methods. The company recently enabled consumers to place orders get information about nearby locations and find answers to frequently asked questions via its chatbot on Facebook Messenger and Twitter.
With mobile order-ahead capabilities, fast food options like Shake Shack are only getting faster. But if quick-service restaurants (QSRs) want to offer an effective and efficient solution, the answer may, after all, lie in being more like the tortoise than the hare.
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