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BJ’s restaurants enact mobile pay-and-order system for flexibility

BJ’s restaurants recently launched a mobile application that places features and services directly in the hands of guests so they can improve their own dining experience.

The chain views the app as a way to provide new benefits and increase membership in BJ’s Premium Rewards program. The strategy differs from other fast casual implementations such as tabletop tablets, with more proactive assistance for diners to streamline their dining experiences, saving valuable time.

“Our decision to forgo tabletop technology in favor of a mobile solution reflects our belief that customers desire flexible solutions that accommodate their unique dining needs and experiences,” said Tim Hackbardt, vice president of marketing for BJ’s Restaurants, Huntington Beach, CA.

“Guests are experiencing getting in and out for lunch in about 37.5 minutes once they are seated and they use Dine-In Order Ahead along with Mobile Pay.”

BJ’s Restaurants, Inc. currently owns and operates 151 casual dining restaurants under the BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, BJ’s Pizza & Grill and BJ’s Grill brand names.

Catering to time-sensitive schedules
The app is designed to improve the dining experience for the occasions when time is most precious, such as work colleagues breaking for lunch during a busy day, a mom hoping for an efficient meal with her children, or a group of friends grabbing drinks and appetizers before a concert or a big game.  

Using Dine-In Order Ahead, guests can save valuable time as their order is placed while they are being seated instead of having to wait for a server to take their order. Those who do not want to order ahead can simply use the Preferred Waitlist feature to view current wait times and move up in line ahead of other guests before they even get to the restaurant. If they also use mobile pay, guests can view and pay their check in-app.

Whenever customers use Dine-In Order Ahead, Curbside or Take Out Order Ahead, or Mobile Pay, they also automatically receive BJ’s Premier Rewards points for eligible purchases, which are good for free food, dollars-off savings and other special rewards.

Guests can track how many points they have directly in the app feature.

Fast-casual innovations
With the growing number of smartphone mobile ordering and payment applications, restaurant info tech divisions have progressed from a cost center serving brands’ operations to a crucial part of the revenue stream.

As fast casual chains including Applebee’s and Chili’s are rolling out tablets to improve customer service and mobile ordering, Cheesecake Factory asserted in February that utility trumps tacking on mobile as an add-on, and it will continue to keep it simple with more basic mobile marketing services to lure consumers into restaurants, such as SMS.

The challenge in deploying these tabletop experiences though is that the technology cannot eliminate face-to-face interactions since customer service is a key part in the dining experience.

Panera Bread announced last month plans to combine several technologies inclusive of in-store kiosks, online and mobile ordering, to slash the wait time on lines in-store, a change which will be completed by late 2016, after execs admitted during a recent conference last October that they were turning customers away due to long wait times.

Meanwhile, Starbuck’s recent beta launch of mobile pre-ordering in South Korea enables rewards members to make pre-payments for beverages through the native Starbucks app. While numerous quick-service restaurants have embraced mobile pre-orders to reduce wait times for customers with reportedly mixed results, almost no other retailer offering mobile payments has figured out a formula of simplicity and flawless execution near Starbucks (see story).

Removing friction
Since inception, QSRs have relied on a system which natively results in long lines. Ambitious vendors such as Panera and Starbucks are pioneering the next wave of quick-tech geared at speeding up service.

As customers are more frequently demanding a connection to a brand via mobile, restaurants are considering an increasing number of technology options to meet those demands.

“BJ’s new app revolutionizes the dining experience for our guests by giving them the opportunity to save both time and money – all from the convenience of their own mobile device,” Mr. Hackbardt said.

“Rather than invest millions in hardware that will need constant upgrades, we’re leapfrogging the competition by focusing on the technology that customers carry around with them every day.”

Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York