Jan 11, 2024
 min read

Strategies for Maximizing Restaurant App Engagement

This article outlines:

Why app user retention is so challenging

9 ways to boost restaurant app user engagement, loyalty, and satisfaction

The key to reducing app user churn


Every restaurant brand wants to increase mobile app downloads, but the real challenge is user retention. Research shows the worldwide mobile app retention rate across 31 categories is 25.3% on Day 1, before falling to 5.7% by Day 30.

With 3.56 million mobile apps in Google Play and 1.86 million in the App Store, it’s not hard to see why—countless apps are vying for our attention at any given time.

So how do you keep your restaurant app users coming back, spending more, and engaging with your brand in new ways?

The answer is a combination of intuitive design, user-centric features, and hyper-personalized communication. By implementing the following strategies, you can make your restaurant mobile app an essential part of the guest experience.


9 Ways to Boost Restaurant App Engagement

Intuitive User Interface

A frictionless user interface (UI) is critical for keeping guests engaged in your restaurant mobile app. Ensure the navigation is straightforward and prioritize a seamless checkout process so guests never have to wonder how to order or pay for their favorite menu items from their preferred location. Leverage feedback and reviews to continually enhance the guest experience.

Push Notifications

Keep your restaurant app users informed and engaged via push notifications. Perfectly timed nudges about exclusive discounts, new menu additions, holiday promotions, or something as simple as dinner planning can help drive app orders (e.g., “Fresh out of dinner ideas? Today only get $5 off when you order a taco family meal in the app. 🌮”) Just don’t overdo it. Too many irrelevant push notifications could prompt users to turn them off or delete your app altogether.

Loyalty Rewards

Integrate your loyalty program to enable repeat guests to accrue and redeem rewards every time they order through your app. Offer points for every app purchase and enable users to cash them in for discounts or free items. Use the guest’s purchase history and communication preferences to tailor offers to their interests and behaviors (e.g., free cheesy bread the next time they order pizza on a Friday via the app.) This not only incentivizes app usage but also fosters a sense of appreciation among your loyal guests.

Which Wich showcases its user experience and rewards program on the App Store

Tailored Recommendations

71 percent of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. And 76 percent get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. It’s no wonder the highest-performing restaurant apps leverage data to tailor the guest experience to each individual. Personalized content (“Welcome back, [Name]. It’s great to see you again”) and recommendations based on purchase history (“Psst … our egg rolls and kung pao chicken are a match made in heaven 😋”), local favorites, etc. can boost guest satisfaction and keep app users coming back.


Entertain and motivate users by incorporating game design elements like badges, rewards, points, and scoreboards that offer a sense of achievement. When coupled with prizes, these fun challenges can build awareness, engagement, community, and sales. For example, Olo helped Denny’s launch a gamified rewards program with personalized challenges that unlock exclusive rewards (e.g., visit four times in one month for a free Grand Slam breakfast).

App-Only Content

One of the best ways to retain users is by offering exclusive content and promotions only available in the app. Once guests understand the perks of being an app user—early access to new menu items, insider swag, LTOs, etc.—they’re more likely to make it part of their dining routine.

Cinnabon provides exclusive offers to app users


Restaurant subscriptions like Panera’s Unlimited Sip Club or Taco Bell’s Taco Lover’s Pass have soared in popularity by offering guests new ways to save on their favorite menu items. By creating a subscription exclusive to app users, you can increase downloads, visit frequency, long-term loyalty, and profit.

Gift Cards

Enable app users to redeem and purchase gift cards directly from your app. A convenient and seamless process will ensure your restaurant is top of mind for gifting occasions like birthdays, the holidays, and “just because.”

Regular App Updates

To keep users active, prioritize regular app enhancements and bug fixes. Whenever you unveil a new feature or have improved existing functionality, clearly communicate the change to users—with an emphasis on the benefits. This is especially important when an enhancement is made in direct response to user feedback. Your efforts to improve the guest experience will speak volumes about your brand’s dedication to their happiness.


The Key to Reducing Churn

For your restaurant app to become an essential part of your off-premise experience, it needs the same level of care and attention as dine-in guests receive. By taking a user-centered approach to your app design, functionality, messaging, and communications, you can help ensure users keep placing app orders—and refer their friends. Furthermore, brands that leverage data to serve up personalized recommendations, high-value rewards, and perfectly timed push notifications will ultimately drive the most profit and long-term loyalty.

Want to drive more restaurant app user engagement? On average, Olo customers see a 108% higher conversion rate with our online ordering app. Learn more and talk to our team of experts about Olo Ordering today.

Photo Credit Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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