Restaurants, Coffee Shops and Mobile Internet Adaptation

Mike Erlindson

I’m starting to see a few really interesting trends in restaurants and coffee shops in terms of mobile Internet adaptation. In the old days (2011) these businesses may simply have a Website with a searchable list of locations or an online menu. At the very least, stores would have free Wi-Fi access to keep customers in-house as long as possible.

Starbucks Card
Starbuck’s card. Never leave home without it.

What seems to have changed is the proliferation of mobile Internet usage. By most accounts, the amount of mobile traffic has doubled from Q1 2012 and Q1 2013.  It is expected that by 2015, there will be a massive paradigm shift and mobile Internet will be bigger than desktop Internet. A lot of publications are even starting to refer to desktop Internet as “fixed” Internet.

The smart restaurants and coffee shops are taking advantage of this trend. One of the key leaders in this area is not surprisingly Starbucks.  I have both the mobile app and the gold card which allow me to buy my tall lattes without cash or a bank card. Three baristas at Starbucks can serve a line of 10 people in a few minutes. The Tim Horton’ s across the street takes four times as long despite having three times the staff.

I can manage my account online which includes refilling the card and I also get rewards of free coffee based on usage. I’m starting to get addicted to the process almost as much as the coffee.

Buffalo Wild Wings is the second restaurant that is doing something interesting. After you first sit down you are presented with the menu and daily specials. On the back of specials there is usually a QR code offering promotions or discounts. If you’re using your mobile data you can scan the QR code and go directly to the coupon page. If you want to use the free Wi-Fi at BWW you’ll first be taken to a page asking you to agree to terms and conditions. On the confirmation page you have a link to the email sign-up form.  If you sign-up you may be sent a $5 coupon directly to your email.  A month later you’ll be emailed more coupons – usually on a Friday. You’ll get stuck in an infinite loop of coupons and restaurant revisits. It’s genius.

Buffalo Wild Wings

The great thing about this is you are already captive in the restaurant – you’re either waiting for the server to take your order or you are waiting for your wings. They are counting on guests checking their phones while they wait because this is what humans do now. They’ll either catch you when you connect for free Wi-Fi or as you browse the marketing materials on the table.

Buffalo Wild Wings Email Coupon

Recently I was in Jack-in-the-Box in Los Angeles. I walked into the restaurant and noticed a line-up of customers in front of the server. Nothing abnormal about this except there was a do-it-yourself ordering machine to the right of the service counter. I ordered a Sourdough Jack®, at the machine and swiped my credit card. The machine spit out an order number and immediately I jumped to the front of the line.

Jack in the Box DIY terminal

This technology is still in its infancy. What if you could combine this machine with a loyalty card or an app like Starbuck’s so you don’t need your credit card? What if the system sent you coupons like Buffalo Wild Wings? The system could reward you for loyalty, speed up your order and keep you coming back.

About The Author

Mike Erlindson is the President & CEO of Soulfx Technologies. He manages the design and development teams and has worked on hundreds of projects for clients in a wide range of industries. He previously worked at the Southam Infolab, Cyberplex and was Senior Producer of The Toronto Star Online.

He’s been both an Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Ontario and an Associate Professor at Centennial College teaching classes on User Experience Design and Client Service for Technology Consultants.

His entire career intersects content and technology. Always on the cutting edge, his masters degree research paper about online newspapers won the top award of his graduate school class.

Mike can be found at:

About Soulfx

Soulfx specializes in digital strategy, user experience design and cloud software development. Our software applications help clients become more efficient which increases revenue and decreases costs. Client industries include health sciences, pharmaceuticals, financial services, insurance, government and education. Contact Soulfx or call 1-877-827-4555 xt. 228