Trends in Restaurant Apps

Jul 18, 2022

Going to a restaurant, picking out food, and eating it there is so 2019. Now, dining out is so much more than the food. It starts with research, online menus, deals and promotions and even ordering ahead. Now, dining out is a whole experience attached to technology, particularly apps. Restaurants are experimenting with new in-app programs to attract the post-lock-down world and offer further incentives to dine out.

One of the leaders in restaurant apps is McDonald’s. No surprise there. The “Golden Arches” crew has been at the forefront of technology for a while, offering coupons, deals, and free food through their app. The on-point creators of the McDonald’s app use culturally popular ideas and incorporate them into their promotions. According to, McDonald’s took advantage of the Mercury retrograde this past May, a cosmic event popular in astrology. They offered a free sandwich with the addition of a small fry to any in-app order. To solidify the promotion, McDonald’s also teamed up with a tarot card reader and astrology expert to give a few lucky app users a free reading on TikTok. Not bad for a burger joint. This year, says Thrillist, they launched Camp McDonald’s, a virtual getaway stacked with promotions and live events daily.

Waiting at a restaurant is also a thing of the past. Lines, drive-thru’s, and contact altogether are becoming passe. Launched in February of this year, the Panera app offers contactless dine-in service, says Restaurant Dive. This means that customers can skip the register, order on the kiosk at the front of the restaurant and go straight to their seats; no lines, no contact, no waiting. Diners will get an alert on their phone when their food is ready. This is especially helpful during the 6-feet-apart, Covid world. Panera is also known for its unlimited coffee program, originally called the MyPanera+Coffee, which, for a monthly fee, offers all the hot beverages you could want. According to Today, Panera upgraded their program, renamed it the Unlimited Sips Club, and includes their Charged Lemonade, tea, coffee, and  fountain drinks.


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App Trends: Real Case Studies

During the lockdown, many fast-food restaurants flourished because of the limited contact, but also because of loyalty. Places like Chipotle, Panera, and Taco Bell have loyalty programs through their app, rewarding frequent customers with incentives to come back, says NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores). The Taco Lover’s Pass, which was available earlier in the year, offered a subscription for tacos. Customers who signed up for $10 a month on the restaurant app received a taco a day for 30 days.  According to the website, the data showed that 20% of the loyalty program subscribers renewed their subscription after trying it.

Dining out has always been fun, and it’s become second nature to check our phones before entering a restaurant, either for coupons, promos, or free sign-up bonuses. Restaurants like these have upped the game for dining out with their innovative apps, making individuality a collective experience. Whatever you want is something you can quickly get, maybe even for free.