J.L. Lewis, in the restaurant business for nearly a decade, understands the importance of being able to speak directly to customers.
That is why the owner of Leon’s on the Restless Ribbon, 3301 S. Peoria Ave., is pumped about the launch of a mobile application that takes advantage of the mushrooming use of smart phones.
Tulsa-based Anyware Mobile Solutions, 1717 S. Boulder Ave., Suite 700, is launching its DineInsight mobile application for restaurant owners, operators and franchising organizations. The owners will be able to brand their own mobile app, said Jeff McMains, ReForm XT vice president. The application is the first in a series of industry-specific apps powered by ReForm XT.
Leon’s, in business since September 2008, is one of two local restaurants first on board with the app. Leon’s and Gaetano’s Pizzaria in Jenks, 12141 S. Elm St., both launched the app at the first of December. Anyware, a division of MacroSolve, is pushing the application for sales nationwide and in Canada in the coming weeks.
Leon’s uses a customized app that features content that can be managed and changed in real time, said April Sailsbury, MacroSolve marketing and investor relations manager.
Once downloaded from the iPhone app store, it is used by customers to provide feedback and opinions. In return, customers can receive special incentives, such as coupons, loyalty rewards or insider news of special events.
“Customers can take a survey where they are, on the phone, sitting in the restaurant,” McMains said. “If they have a bad experience, we alert the manager. The app is specific — down to the table.”
The mobile phone is a good move for local restaurants struggling in the recession, Lewis said.
“It gives us direct access to customers and enables us to provide better service,” he said.
Unlike simple text messaging, DineInsight can be used to detail specials with text and images or provide a locations map.
Any information the restaurant wants to promote can be included, McMains said.
“It allows them to gain critical customer insight, gather market intelligence and directly target customers with incentives and other promotional materials,” he said.
Customers have free access to specials and money saving deals, Lewis said.
“I plan to use it a number of ways,” Lewis said. “Right off the bat, we’ll show off specials. We’ll create a customer forum where customers can type their questions, compliments, concerns.”
Lewis also plans to create a page for occasional specials that only the app user sees.
“Like having $1 beer at happy hour,” he said. “Only the app users will know about it. It will give us that club feel.”
Another possibility for the application is making it the center feature of a delivery service, Lewis said.
“Customers will be able to type in their order and we can have it to their house in minutes,” he said.
DineInsight brings a new dimension to customer relations and marketing in the restaurant industry, McMains said.
“Based on the customer feedback we’ve had from restaurants currently implementing DineInsight, we believe this mobile app will transform the way targeted promotions, brand loyalty and customer patronage are driven and measured in the restaurant industry,” McMains said.
The app targets the food service sector, but it has unlimited uses and is designed to complement a print or broadcast advertising campaign, Sailsbury said.
MacroSolve is asking a $500 set-up fee for the app. There are monthly pricing fees based on the number of transactions and how the restaurant plans to use the app, Sailsbury said.
“For one of our restaurants, the cost is about a fourth the price of their monthly printed advertising campaign,” she said.
The key is marketing directly to the customer, McMains said.
“An owner can use it to supplement their current marketing,” he said.
If restaurant owners do not care about surveys, but care about pushing specials, it is a tool they can use to reach the customer literally right where they are at — “with their phone,” McMains said.
“For MacroSolve, DineInsight solidifies our position as a leader in mobile apps for small- and medium-sized businesses, while also creating deeper penetration for us within specific industry verticals, such as the restaurant, retail and hospitality sectors,” said Clint Parr, MacroSolve president and CEO, in a statement.