Teething problems expose service challenge facing chains

Hundreds of people queue during the official opening of South Africa's first Starbucks store, also the US coffeehouse chain's first store in Sub-Saharan Africa, in Johannesburg on April 21, 2016. / AFP / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA        (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

Mobile ordering will fail unless it can integrate effectively with venues’ existing processes and manage digital queues, according to a hospitality tech boss who says the teething problems that Starbucks has faced with its mobile ordering system highlight the challenges confronting operators.

Growing numbers of quick-service venues around the UK are embracing mobile ordering having seen large players implement systems that promise reduced waiting times, improved sales and slick customer data collection.

However, Tom Dewhurst, CEO of Ordoo, insists there are “lessons to be learned” from simply overlaying new digitised systems onto a physical format.

He cites the challenges encountered by Starbucks, which has introduced mobile ordering via an app to some of its stores.

“Starbucks’ widely reported new mobile ordering system is creating bottlenecks and long queues in stores. As customers wait to pick up their pre-ordered items, people are being put off from even stepping inside. Research from Columbia Business School shows that increasing a queue by even five people can lead to a 10% drop in sales,” he said.

The coffee giant is now even considering having to completely changing the layout of its stores to accommodate mobile order pick-ups, Mr Dewhurst claimed.

The team behind Ordoo believes successful integration of mobile ordering relies on managing the digital queue; the system needs to improve the interaction between venue and customer, not just increase footfall.

“Starbucks sends the customer a waiting time estimate based on how busy the store is, meaning the customer might get there and just wait for 10 minutes at peak times,” Mr Ordoo said. “There is also no interaction between Starbucks’ staff and the customer to tell them if an order is ready. The company just prints out and leaves a paper ticket or sticker with each order.”

One way that venues can solve this major source of bottlenecks is through technology that takes into account how busy a venue is and builds that into the customer journey and operations.

This means the digital ticketing flow can be controlled and the customer will receive an alert when their order is being made to reduce waiting. Staff can then tell them it is complete through an in-app notification, saving between 10-20 seconds per order at peak times.

“Venues can clearly see digital orders stacked logically in chronological order, and all this is communicated promptly to the customer,” commented Mr Dewhurst, whose is now rolling out the Ordoo mobile ordering customer retention platform across the country.

“Too much demand for mobile ordering really doesn’t have to be a problem. In fact, the answer is simple. We have solved this issue by enabling digital communication between the venue and their customers using simple, frictionless tech. Hospitality has always been about effective interaction with your customers, and we’re just digitising this.”

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