Food is the fuel of a healthy social media account – the five most popular foodie tags on Instagram alone yields close to four hundred million images. Behind the snaps, however, is a savvy culinary industry that’s breaking new ground (and profit margins) with some of the world’s best business apps.

A new way to sell

The recently announced Domino’s Zero Click delivery app, which allows customers to order their favourite pizza in 10 seconds by simply opening an app, is the latest in a long line of tech innovations around fast food. There’s a lot at stake here: In 2015 the Australian takeaway industry posted a profit of $860 million, and mobile apps have become a vital way to grow sales, encourage customer loyalty, market products and offers, and reach hungry new people.

Starbucks launched its Order & Pay program in 2010 so customers could get their fix faster by pre-ordering and paying through a mobile app linked to a loyalty card. Fast forward to 2016, and more than 21% of transactions from the company’s US stores come from mobile. The app uptake has been so successful that some of Starbucks’s brick-and-mortar stores are being remodelled to better accommodate the mobile experience. In 2015, a 538-square-foot “espresso shot” sized location was launched in New York’s Wall Street area to cater to time-poor, tech-savvy customers. The micro-store has few tables, zero chairs, and is equipped with mobile point-of-sale units so that customers can get their ‘to go’ faster than ever.

Apps, loyalty

Starbucks’ mirco store

Taking it further

Though Starbucks closed most of its Australian franchises in 2008 (well before the retail ‘app boom’), some of Australia’s biggest franchises have crushed the mobile market with ideas ranging from pizza art to board games.

Just 24 hours after its launch in early September 2016, Monopoly at Maccas was number one on the Australian free app chart. The app uses a smartphone’s camera combined with codes on purchased products to doll-out free burgers, travel vouchers, and even cars. Three different augmented reality mechanics are used to bring the board game to life; players can tap a chance card, spin a card deck, or roll dice to win.

After one week, the company reported that 200,000 punters had already won. Further, a Melbourne man sparked a movement by asking people to donate their winning food tickets to the homeless. The idea went viral on social, and while ‘Maccas was hesitant to initially endorse it (claiming that food tickets were not transferrable) they quickly re-issued a statement confirming they would “honor any ticket presented in a restaurant.”

Take a slice

In 2009, Domino’s built and released its first pizza app for $250,000, allowing hungry customers to order, customise, and track their pizza from a local store’s oven to their door.  Success was immediate and deafening – forcing the company to hire around 1,000 new staff to accommodate the demand. So if you wanted to put a dollar value on an emoji, this would be a good place to start.

At last report, 40% of all company sales were digital, with 26% coming via mobile. In 2014, Domino’s evolved the app into Pizza Mogul, which lets customers design and order their own completely customised pizza, and then share and “sell” the creation on social media. For every personalised pizza ordered, the creator earns “Mogul dough”, which can be used to buy more pizza or donated to a charity, such as the Starlight Foundation. In 2015, Domino’s delivered a net profit after tax of $64 million, up 40% on the previous year. These days, the app can track your location and only start cooking when you’re nearby enough to pick it up, fresh out of the oven. Domino’s is currently working on a pizza delivery robot called DRU, but that’s for another timse.

Delivery apps are the future

If all this food talk is making your stomach rumble, fear not: there’s a new industry desperate to get food to you as quick as possible. In Australia, there are almost as many digital food delivery services as there are cuisines. MenuLog, GrubHub, Delivery Hero, Foodora, Deliveroo – the list goes on, and each has different perks depending on your flavour. MenuLog, for example, offers many first-time discounts; Delivery Hero allows users to pay in cash; and Foodora (formerly Suppertime) only features fancier restaurant and uses cyclists to deliver meals (its couriers pedalled over 38,062 kilometres in just one year of operation). Deliveroo, which also uses bike couriers, has seen orders grow at a rate of 30% per month. When it launched in Australia late November 2015 the company serviced 80 restaurants; it now hits over 600.

Currently stirring the pot is Uber. In April 2016, the disruptive transport app launched UberEATS, which pairs its fleet with local restaurants to deliver food. While there are rumors of a forthcoming $5 delivery fee, so far UberEATS has forgone the fee to remain competitive in the foodie land grab.



You don’t have to be in the food biz to take away some insight here: by noting consumer habits and needs, food industry apps address and evolve the point-of-purchase experience.

A sense of fun (or gamification) and transparency is key: whether it’s simply tracking a product’s progress, encouraging customers to regularly check back in, or evoking a sense of play through interactive elements. To riff off an old adage: the way to someone’s heart might be through their stomach…but right now, the way to their stomach is through their smartphone.

  • The best food apps that are changing the game in business
  • Innovation that is helping people get food faster and easier
  • Macca's are even gamifying the ordering process

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Tanya Phull

Head of Social Media

Tanya Phull,
Head of Social Media

As head of social media at Vodafone, Tanya is an expert in customer engagement and emerging platforms. As an American-born expat and wanderluster, Tanya is always equipped with the best tech tips for travellers.