Mobile Order Ahead

Naf Naf Grill On Serving More Customers, Faster, With Digital Ordering

QSRs are betting big on mobile orders, but consumers are tired of downloading apps. In the August Mobile Order-Ahead Tracker, PYMNTS explores the latest attempts to use channels like SMS and Facebook Messenger to bridge that gap. Plus, find an interview with Naf Naf Grill’s CEO Paul Damico on how combining a loyalty program with order-ahead functionality helped the restaurant add over 100K customers to its app user base and inspired a new store design, inside the Tracker.

Despite the fact that customers want their food fast, restaurants have to work hard to encourage mobile ordering, and to keep customers engaged with incentives to prevent them from deleting the app after use. For Chicago-based Middle Eastern food chain Naf Naf Grill, that means focusing on reward points, while also making order fulfillment as speedy as possible. The fast casual restaurant is a recent addition to the order-ahead scene, having launched its service in January 2018.

PYMNTS recently caught up with CEO Paul Damico to discuss what it took to get the service off the ground, the impact it’s had so far and how mobile ordering is shaping the restaurant’s future growth. The company waited to roll out its mobile order offering until it was sure that processes were in place to keep the pickup line — and falafel bowls — moving fast, and by then, the time had clearly come for it to enter the mobile ordering space.

“Our brand was a little bit late getting into the game,” Damico said. “[But] you have to have [mobile ordering] to play in the fast-casual space right now.”

Prepping the Process

Naf Naf wanted to make sure it could avoid the pickup line chaos that’s plagued some earlier adopters, so it invested in a separate pickup line and point-of-sale (POS) system exclusively for online orders, with separate staff designated for serving either in-store orders or pickups.

“We’re not mixing those two consumers,” Damico said.

Another critical element? Ensuring that digital orders are sent directly to the store’s existing POS system, which makes processes smoother and faster — otherwise, a manager would have to ring each order into the POS. Thanks to the integration between the third-party-provided mobile ordering service and the POS, those steps can be skipped. Now, when a digital order comes in, the restaurant’s POS prints out a receipt listing its details.

“What’s critical to a successful program for online ordering is how strong the integration is into your existing POS,” he said. “If there [are] cracks in those pipes and the communication and data is not flowing, it’s a bit of a nightmare.”

There is, however, one spot of friction remaining in the current system. The physical receipts only have so much space to display information, meaning that order details are printed using abbreviations, which can lead to mix-ups. Customers don’t want to walk off with basmati rice when they asked for couscous, or bite into a chicken shawarma pita without their requested tahini sauce — these errors could leave a bad taste in customers’ mouths about the restaurant, and mobile ordering in general. To keep customers satisfied, Naf Naf trains new staff to parse the abbreviations.

For order pick-up, meals are placed in bags with the customers’ names on them, and customers are trusted not to walk off with the wrong orders.

There is one item, however, that does need special handling: fries.

“We have fresh-made fries, and don’t want those getting cold or soggy,” Damico said.

So, to avoid sogginess, Naf Naf’s fries aren’t packaged with the rest of the order. Instead, customers receive an empty fry cup with their bagged meals, which they then hand to a staff member to be filled with fresh fries.

Leveraging Loyalty to Move More Meals

To keep customers engaged, Naf Naf launched a loyalty program alongside its mobile ordering offering, tying the two together in a single app. Customers earn points for signing up and spending in the app, and can log in-store spending by scanning a QR code on their receipt.

“Points [are] very important, from a loyalty perspective,” Damico said. “We’re seeing a behavioral change … our guests [are] coming in more frequently when we offer incremental points.”

The loyalty program has about 100,000 members thus far, which is making a real difference in the store’s productivity. Roughly 70 percent of Naf Naf Grill’s sales come during lunch, and introducing mobile ordering for pickup and delivery enables the chain to serve more customers at its 30 locations.

“Our lines are so long during our peak periods that when people use the app and skip the line, we can virtually serve twice as many people at the same time,” Damico said.

Additionally, when customers place mobile orders for pickup, they spend more than they typically would when ordering in-store. This may be due to customers taking advantage of the customizations offered when making digital orders, as well as the tendency for customers to ask coworkers if they want to join in.

Designing for the Future

While Naf Naf’s foray into digital ordering is less than a year old, and currently accounts for just 10 percent of sales, the mobile ordering service is shifting how the company operates as well as its plans for the future.

For one, Damico said, it takes fewer employees to fulfill a digital order compared to an order placed in-store. When a customer enters a location and orders, a line of four to five staff members is ready to take the order, add ingredients and customizations as it moves down the prep line and accept payment. But when a customer orders online, one employee can read the order, make the meal, bag it and place it on the pickup shelf.

To download the Mobile Order-Ahead Tracker, fill out the form below:

First Name*

Last Name*



Work Email*



Exclusive PYMNTS Study: 

The Future Of Unattended Retail Report: Vending As The New Contextual Commerce, a PYMNTS and USA Technologies collaboration, details the findings from a survey of 2,325 U.S. consumers about their experiences with shopping via unattended retail channels and their interest in using them going forward.