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June 2014 - ChainWise

News & info from ChainWise, the chain restaurants app

4 Ways I Find Restaurants Near Me

June 27, 2014 | By | No Comments

You’re in a city you don’t know very well and you’re hungry. You could spend an hour or more trying to find a meal with all of the restaurant apps, GPS maps, and dining websites out there. But who wants to spend that kind of time searching when you could be eating a delicious meal instead?

Here are the four ways I quickly find restaurants near me. Use them on your next family vacation, road trip, or business trip.

Ask Siri

Find Restaurants Near Me

Siri is the best way to leverage Google’s data to find nearby restaurants.

This option is especially useful if you need to be hands-free while driving. Google has the most reviews and data about restaurants in every city but it’s not very accessible. Just ask Siri for the best restaurants near you. You’ll get a list of restaurants with reviews and lots of other information.

If you’re like me, you often forget that you have a personal assistant on your iPhone. I have been using Siri a lot more lately to find restaurants near me.

Ask A Local

Everyone loves being asked about their favorite restaurants. Ask anyone from the random woman on the sidewalk to the guy at the hotel front desk and they are almost always happy to point tourists in the right direction.

In fact, when I asked this of a stranger in Chicago last year, he gave me a great recommendation and then handed me a card for a free entree. You never know!

You will get better recommendations if you specify a price range, cuisine, or know if you’re in the mood for fast food or a sit-down place.

If you’re shy, summon the confidence to ask a stranger by putting yourself in their shoes. Wouldn’t you be happy to send a visitor to your favorite restaurant?

Use the ChainWise iPhone App

Find Restaurants Nearby

Use ChainWise to see your favorite nearby restaurants on a map and get directions.

There are hundreds of restaurant apps but only one of them eliminates the time and hassle of searching through unfamiliar restaurants full of reviews that are both love and hate. You’re hungry now!

The new Chainwise app is free on the App Store. Simply choose your favorite restaurants the first time you open it and then you’re forever just a couple of taps away from finding a meal you know you love. Every US city is covered and you can even set a price range. I’m partial to this app when I want to find restaurants near me.

Ask Your Social Network

Ask for restaurant recommendations on Facebook or Twitter. You might be surprised by how knowledgeable your friends are about towns and cities you didn’t know they ever visited. When you use Yelp for reviews, you can’t be sure if that glowing review is actually from the owner. Your friends and followers are far more reliable and will be eager to point you toward some of their favorite dining spots.

That’s How I Find Restaurants Near Me. How About You?

Do you have a better way to find restaurants nearby? We would love to hear it! Fill out the form to send us a note and we may include it in the list.

Chains Serve Up Their Own Smart Restaurant Apps

June 10, 2014 | By | No Comments

Brand-specific restaurant apps have become a top priority for restaurant franchises. Those late to the game are developing their first diner-friendly apps and chains that wisely saw the mobile app revolution coming are adding sophisticated new features like dynamic ordering. “Cut the pickles”? There is now an app for that.

Restaurant Apps Demanded by Diners

Mobile savvy customers are demanding mobile apps to diminish even the slightest inconveniences of dining out or grabbing take out. Restaurant apps that do that best are winning these customers. So what used to be thought of simply as a tool for operations is now becoming a profit driver.

A panel discussion at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago delved into the latest trends in customized mobile app development for diners.

Of course you can use ChainWise to help you locate your next meal. But mobile app growth within the restaurant sector has focused on what happens after you have carefully selected your dining destination.

Fast casual and fast food restaurants are scrambling to meet customer demands to connect to their favorite brand in more complex and customized ways than ever before.

restaurant apps

Panera is one of many several brands with new apps that allow diners to skip the register.

For example, earlier this year Panera Bread Co. announced it had made a whopping $42 million investment in technology upgrades, enabling its customers to order online as well as with their mobile app and iPads.

Apps Rush Restaurants Into the Data Debate

As dining establishments seek to meet the insatiable consumer appetite for technology, some are finding more than a few challenges along the way, including the question of what happens to the customer data collected.

Restaurants that develop their own complex mobile apps, allowing patrons to order and pay for meals, retain control over the information collected. But what about eateries that outsource their app development?

If there’s a third-party intermediary involved in helping that customer choose the soup of the day, the data collected may not be readily available to the restaurant. That raises concerns for consumers. In most cases, diners expect their data to be kept confidential by the restaurant they are eating at.

The issue for restaurant owners comes into play because typically the “one who enrolls, is the one who controls.” In other words, whomever first enrolls the customer into the online interaction of taking the order or other services controls the database and the statistics that can be derived from it.

As one panel member noted, the problem is that the behavior and identity data associated with top customers can be worth five to 10 times their value as a loyal diner. Bundles of data on these top tier diners are extremely valuable to companies that aren’t even related to dining. For restaurants that recognize this, third-party apps for onsite restaurant services are simply out of the picture. They can’t take any chances with such prized information.

White Castle, for example, now has online ordering, mobile ordering and even kiosks in some test markets. They spec out their own app, designing it to suit their needs. Only then do they turn to an outside point-of-sale vendor for a bit of coding and tweaking.

The Future of Restaurant Apps

Most industry watchers believe that despite a few challenges, with smartphone usage expected to stretch beyond 70 percent in the near future, the advantages of customized iPhone and Android restaurant apps will continue to grow.

As with most emerging technologies, there are advantages as well as challenges. For chains, restaurant apps that allow the customer to tap into services—to order a meal, for example, rather than just look at an online menu—offer a unique opportunity. These restaurants see an opportunity to develop a personal, one-on-one relationship with customers. That is something the hotel industry has benefited from for years but which, until now, has eluded the restaurant industry.

While you may enjoy the convenience and hassle-free process of placing your order through an app, the restaurant also benefits. It learns about your behavior—giving it a leg up on trying to influence your future actions.

That’s not all. Some restaurants are reporting that in-store kiosks are up-selling customers at a rate more than 50 percent above a traditional human server. In addition, more than one representative of restaurant chains on the panel stated that online orders are nearly double that of non-online orders, on average.

In addition to feeding sales, there is a longer term goal with restaurant apps. One of the panel members noted that the they want to develop two-way communication between patron and restaurant—even when the customer isn’t in the store. That relationship could lead to major improvements—new menu offerings, nearly instantaneous responses to complaints, and much more.

Written by Lori Weaver. You can find her on Google.

The Stars of the Fast Casual Restaurants Boom

June 6, 2014 | By | No Comments

The restaurant scene in your city will look completely different in a decade or less, the result of the quick rise of fast casual restaurants. Do restaurants like Chipotle, Panera, and Noodles & Company dominate your list of Faves in your ChainWise iPhone app? If so, chances are you have frequented at least one fast casual franchise recently.

Fast Casual Chain

The fast casual chain Moe’s Southwest Grill is rapidly growing.

What is a Fast Casual Restaurant?

Fast casual has the affordability and relaxed atmosphere of fast food. They combine that with higher quality ingredients typically found in casual “sit-down” restaurants. The other identifying feature, which contributes to the affordability, is counter service instead of waitstaff. The fast casual dining segment is now the fastest growing sector of the restaurant industry. The most recent sales data shows no indication of fast casual being a passing fad.

Diners Win As Nearby Restaurants Compete

Whenever an industry experiences this kind of abrupt change, the consumer usually comes out the winner. Diners have more choices available to them and the increased competition has kept prices in check. A larger number of restaurants are vying to become top-of-mind with hungry patrons looking for just the right spot to get a meal.

The MVPs of Fast Casual Franchises

Last month, the industry announced the 2014 Fast Casual Top 100 Movers & Shakers in the restaurant business during an awards gala at the National Restaurant Association‘s trade show in Chicago. The event was sponsored by Networld Media Group and FastCasual.com. Judges were asked to identify the top 50 brands among nearly 900 industry nominations. Winners were selected based on criteria like innovation, social responsibility, growth and overall contribution to the restaurant chain business. Along with recognizing brands, the judges also acknowledged 20 of the top execs who were thought to be the most innovative and influential. The executives particularly excelled in the areas of menu, healthy eating and technology use.

In addition to looking at chain restaurant brands and leading executives, the program recognized innovative menu items and technology trends in the fast casual sector. If you are a fan of Smashburger, Chipotle Mexican Grill or Fazoli’s, you won’t be surprised to learn the restaurants placed first, second and third, respectively, for top brands.

Fazoli’s CEO Carl Howard walked away with honors as the industry’s top executive. Greg Creighton, chief operating officer of Smashburger, said that the fast casual burger chain saw a niche that fast food burger chains could not fulfill. His franchise targeted fast food’s weaknesses: quality, service and dining atmosphere.

Creighton said Smashburger sees a healthy appetite for higher quality burgers and chicken sandwiches, as well as salads. Smashburger’s phenomenal growth is not likely to slow anytime soon. The restaurant has grown to 267 locations in just seven years. Another 400 are set to open before the end of 2015. One of Smashburger’s secrets to success, in addition to an innovative menu, is its ability to establish a loyal local following in the communities where it operates. Every city with a Smashburger location is given its own special burger to honor local traditions. Smashburger also offers locally crafted beers, which is an industry segment experiencing its own meteoric rise. The option to have a drink adds to the chain’s hometown appeal.

The top menu trend recognized during the function was bite-sized food and snacks, while the most influential technology trend was identified to be mobile apps like ChainWise.

It’s likely fast casual dining will continue to make its mark. Of the $231 billion limited-service category, fast casual options now account for $34.5 billion, according to foodservice research firm Technomic. The fast casual segment is truly the engine of growth in the overall restaurant industry. Sales increased 11 percent in 2013 for the fast casual segment versus just 3.5 percent for the overall industry.

Written by Lori Weaver. You can find her on Google.