The use of mobile apps, text messages, and the internet to order food from a restaurant or other foodservice outlets grew by 18 percent last year and now accounts for 1.9 billion foodservice visits, reports marketing data firm The NPD Group. Currently, more orders are placed using websites. But the number of orders placed with a mobile app are growing more strongly, according to NPD’s daily tracking of how consumers use restaurants and other foodservice outlets.

Dinner is the meal most often ordered digitally, and families are the heaviest users of digital ordering, reports NPD.  Fifty percent of digital orders come at dinner time, and 35 percent of digital ordering includes parties with kids.  People under age 35 and those with higher household incomes are among above-average users of digital ordering. 

Deals and promotions play an important role in digital ordering, finds NPD. When consumers order digitally, they are twice as likely to order on a deal, and that deal is usually a coupon. Twenty-nine percent of all digital orders used a coupon. Other top deals used were discounted price, daily special, and combined item special.

Additionally, the ability to pay with mobile boosts customer satisfaction scores and encourages guests to visit for reasons related to loyalty, reports NPD. 

“Digital ordering is now really all about the mobile app,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “Consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable using mobile apps, if restaurants or foodservice operators don’t have a mobile app, consumers may very well choose a restaurant that does.”

Casual dining chain Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, for example, hired a firm called Order Talk Inc. to roll out new digital ordering capabilities to Cracker Barrel locations in 43 states. Cracker Barrel customers will soon have the ability to search for their nearest location; view all online offerings; and select order options for pick-up and pay online through a PCI compliant, secure program.“In the digital age we live in, customer satisfaction remains a priority to us. With orderTalk we can deliver such satisfaction while extending our products and services into the digital world,” said Leon de Wet, vice president of Information Systems and CIO of Cracker Barrel.