Restaurant Product Managers Discover Too Much Of A Good Thing

Product managers need to be aware of the impact of changes to their product
Product managers need to be aware of the impact of changes to their product
Image Credit: Monito – Money Transfer Co

As product managers, the one thing that we’d all like to have is more customers. We dream of the day that we’ve created a product development definition that will cause our customers think about our product and then as quickly as they can take action to get their hands on it. These hopes and dreams are no different for product managers who work in the restaurant industry. These product managers have the same set of things that they want. A little while back they thought that they had found a way to make it happen: create mobile applications to support their restaurant! Well, good idea, but it came with some side effects that nobody had counted on…

The Impact Of Making Your Product Mobile Friendly

As a restaurant product manager, you would think that venturing into the world of mobile applications would be pretty much a given, right? One of the biggest hang ups that customers have when dealing with a restaurant is that it can take so much time to go out to the restaurant, order your food, have it made, brought to you, and then eat it. Who has that kind of time these days? The product manager’s thinking behind creating a mobile application for a restaurant was to speed this process up. Customers could pre-order restaurant food and then drop by and pick it up. This seems like a good idea that would shine on anyone’s product manager resume. However, this is where the problems first started to show up.

One restaurant chain that introduced a mobile application to help with pre-ordering found almost right away that they had a problem. Customers who had pre-ordered food would get into the “place your order” line when they came into the restaurant. That ended up making that line a lot longer for everyone involved. It turns out that these customers didn’t want to look like they were cutting in line. The product managers solved this new problem by adding signs to the store and making special places where pre-ordering customers could come to directly in order to pick up their food without having to stand in line. Staff were also trained to guide pre-order customers to the right spot.

Too Fast?

The purpose of introducing a mobile application into a restaurant environment is to speed things up. However, what if things are already as fast as they can get? This is the problem that a popular fast food restaurant’s product managers ran into when they introduced a mobile app for their restaurant. Customers already believed that they could quickly order and receive their food in the restaurant’s drive-through and so nobody was using the app. What’s a product manager to do?

The product managers realized that they were not going to be able to change how their customers viewed the amount of time that it took to get food at their restaurant. In fact, who would want to change people from thinking that they were very fast? Instead, the restaurant product managers took a different approach. What they decided to do was to target their mobile app towards a different set of customers. They knew that they had customers who would place large orders. They wanted to all these customers to do this online and then not have to worry about delaying the drive through line. Additionally, the app could provide these customers with a time that their large order would be ready so they’d know when to drop by the restaurant to pick it up.

The Problem With Coupons

The technology around ordering food continues to evolve. With the arrival of voice-activated tools from both Amazon and Google, restaurants are now trying to create ways to allow their customers to place pre-orders using this new technology. Where this can start to cause some problems is when customers start to place orders for one of the most popular types of food out there: pizzas. The reason that this can be so hard to do is because 75% of pizzas that are ordered are ordered with a coupon. If a coupon is a local coupon that will only be honored in a couple of stores, then the voice assistant may run into some problems with it.

Another challenge that product managers are running into is that customers really don’t pay all that much attention when they are placing a mobile order. What this means is that all too often the customer will show up at the wrong restaurant location to pick up their order. This can easily happen if the customer is traveling home and they place their order while in transit. The app software will find the closest restaurant at the time and assume that this is the one where the customer will be coming to pick the order up. Product managers are trying to deal with this problem by placing a large button on the ordering process in order to confirm where the order should be made available to the customer.

What All Of This Means For You

In our modern age, almost all of our customers now have some form of smartphone. What this means for product managers is that we now have yet another way that we can reach out to our customers. In the restaurant industry this is especially important because a mobile app can reduce the amount of time that a customer has to wait to get their food. However, product managers in the restaurant industry are discovering that there can be a downside to introducing a mobile app.

One of the initial problems that product managers ran into when they introduced mobile applications to speed up the ordering process was confusion on the customer’s part. Customers didn’t know where to go in the store when they showed up to pick up their order. This has been corrected by the use of signs and staff training. Another problem that product managers ran into was that their fast food delivery was already so fast that customers didn’t see the need for the mobile app. Product managers have since started to target the mobile app to those customers who place very large orders and want to know when they will be ready. Finally, when restaurants try to use the latest in voice recognition technology to place orders, using coupons becomes a challenge. This will be resolved over time, but it is an issue today.

Restaurant product managers have to keep up with the times. Using technology to decrease customer wait times sounds like a very good idea and it’s what our product manager job description tells us to do. Product managers have to understand that there will probably be some growing pains associated with all of these changes. As long as they are willing to live with what does not go correctly, then they will have prepared themselves for the future!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that restaurants should offer a discount if a mobile order gets screwed up?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So here’s a quick question for you: what is the shortest time that you’ve ever worked at a product manager job? Product managers are generally considered to be valuable members of the product team who work on the product development definition and we can have a direct impact on the bottom line of the product project that we are involved in. We’re valuable and generally a company would be resistant to getting rid of us as long as our product is doing well. That’s why I was surprised when I got fired after two weeks on the job at my new product manager position.