Restaurants face a dilemma when it comes to mobile ordering: There are plenty of apps to serve takeout or delivery orders, but what about orders placed for dining in-house? Eat Again, among others, seeks to provide restaurants with an alternative platform for ordering and payments geared toward guests who wish to enjoy the dining room.
While delivery services have become popular because customers crave convenience and might not want to dine-in, some customers do want to visit a restaurant. Office workers, for example, might want to leave the workplace to catch up and chat at a nearby restaurant. Even if they don’t choose takeout or delivery, these customers may desire fast and efficient experiences.
“People want to have the convenience of quickly ordering,” Eat Again Founder Thameem Abdulhameed told PYMNTS.com in an interview, adding that sometimes customers do, in fact, want to dine in.
Eat Again allows consumers to order from the menu, pick a particular time when they would like to dine in and pay before they even step foot in a restaurant. The restaurant will receive a notification and can accept the order. The food is then ready for the customer when he or she arrives and is brought to the diner’s table. After the meal, he or she can simply walk out of the restaurant and avoid the hassle of waiting for the check.
As an alternative for those who want to order in the restaurant, Eat Again offers a post-paid option, which allows diners to peruse the menu and talk to a waiter. To start this process, a diner can check in through the app and make what Abdulhameed calls a simplified reservation. Restaurants, in turn, are able to get a heads up on the number of guests who will be arriving. After the meal, the diner can pay the check through the app or walk out of the restaurant, as the app automatically charges for the meal within 30 minutes. The company hopes to add more payment options in the future.
Helping Restaurants Be Prepared
Beyond providing consumers with faster service options, Eat Again seeks to help restaurants better plan for a diner’s arrival. As Eat Again can tell restaurants ahead of time what customers are ordering, “they have some time to prepare the food,” Abdulhameed said. At the same time, the app helps restaurants manage the flow of their orders. In the event that a restaurant is simply too busy to handle an order, it can turn it down and the app sends a notification to the customer.
In addition, the service helps to take some of the time and friction out of the traditional payment process. For example, a server might have to visit a table several times to allow a customer to pay for his or her order: to bring the check, take a credit card and then return the card to the customer. With the service, “they just settle everything through the app,” Abdulhameed said.
The Mobile Order-Ahead Space
The news comes as Dine Brands, which oversees Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill + Bar, is currently exploring a service that would offer this blend of mobile and in-restaurant dining, enabling customers to order ahead and have their items ready when they arrive. Applebee’s sees the potential to tap more customers who want the dining experience but are tight on time, as Scott Gladstone, vice president of strategy and development for Applebee’s, told PYMNTS in an interview earlier this year.
Now, current practices suggest that customers do have an appetite for using such technology. The restaurant already provides on-table devices that enable diners to place orders, play games or swipe a card to pay a bill. There has been consistent growth in usage of these devices, suggesting that customers may be ready to apply ordering technology to dine-in experiences. "We’ve seen success with that, and that’s an indication of guests’ willingness to interact with mobile or technology within the restaurant," noted Gladstone.
Will more restaurants adopt mobile order-ahead technology within their dining rooms? Time will tell, as online ordering platforms aim to save time and provide convenience for diners and restaurants alike.