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Chicago restaurant chain to drive sales via mobile commerce

January 19, 2010

Consumer can order bao using their iPhone

Consumers can order bao using their iPhone

Wow Bao, a Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises Inc. quick-service restaurant specializing in steamed Asian buns called “bao,” has entered the mobile commerce arena to increase sales.

Wow Bao has launched a mobile ordering application in Apple’s App Store that lets consumers customize, order and pay for their meal from their iPhone or iPod touch. Developed by Wow Bao’s online and mobile ordering services partner Exit41, the Wow Bao application is the first of several new Lettuce Entertain You Enterprise ordering applications to launch in early 2010.

“Wow Bao is a cutting-edge restaurant concept, both in the way that we look, the exotic food we serve and we way we execute quickly—with two-minute processing,” said Geoff Alexander, vice president and managing partner of Wow Bao at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Chicago.

“We believe in technology—we have self-service kiosks at our three Chicago locations, meaning customers don’t have to wait in line,” he said.

“The iPhone app fits the concept of who we are—our clientele fits the demographic of the iPhone, so we wanted to keep pace with how technology is progressing.”

Wow Bao, a Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises restaurant with three locations, specializes in steamed buns, an Asian portable snack food, potstickers, soups and salads, rice bowls and homemade ginger ale.

Exit41 specializes in integrated online, mobile and call-center ordering services for restaurants offering catering, takeout and delivery.

Exit strategy
First Wow Bao launched an online ordering platform, and now customers with an iPhone have access to its menu anytime, anywhere.

Exit41 handles all of the online ordering and created the Web site. It tapped a third party to build the iPhone application.

The company’s custom-branded mobile iPhone application is the latest addition to its Enterprise Suite of ordering products for restaurants.

Using a real-time point-of sale integration approach, the iPhone applicaion shows current menu, prices and taxes, as well as previous orders and preferences.

Key features of the iPhone application include stored account information for quick login and a GPS-enabled restaurant locator, complete with map and directions.

In addition, the application features a streamlined menu presentation for ease of ordering and customizing of items, as well as stored, secured credit card information for one-click mobile payments.

Wow Bao and Exit41 are also working on a version of the application for Research In Motion’s BlackBerry smartphones.

How now Wow Bao
Consumers can order via the Web site or mobile application up to a week in advance. Wow Bao ships to anywhere in the United States.

The target demographic is tech-savvy consumers ages 19 and up.

“With the iPhone explosion, I thought we should go that route,” Mr. Alexander said. “We created the iPhone app so that our customers could place an iPhone order on the bus then pick it up in the store on their way home from work.

“The core iPhone demographic is in the mid-twenties and mid-thirties range,” he said.

Wow Bao has signs at its registers and its food pickup areas with calls-to-action asking customers to join its community, including “Follow us on Twitter, friend us on Facebook, download our iPhone app and join our text-messaging club.”

Wow Bao started its SMS club in August, and it is up to almost 1,000 opted-in consumers. Every two weeks they get a discount offer from the restaurant.

In-store signage asks consumers to text the keyword BUNS to the short code 30364 to opt in to receive mobile coupons.

Cellit Mobile Marketing powers Wow Bao’s SMS initiatives.

Wow Bao also runs marketing initiatives with the location-based mobile social network Foursquare.

Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises has also promoted the Wow Bao iPhone application to its email database, which includes approximately 110,000 people.

Wow Bao employees also place fliers with the various mobile calls-to-action in consumers’ takeout bags.

“The goal behind the iPhone app is to increase sales and engage our tech-savvy audience,” Mr. Alexander said. “We also want to add a game to our app that lets users pass a bao from iPhone to iPhone.

“When you pass it X amount of times, you get a free bao, free potstickers, etcetera,” he said. “A game would help differentiate our app and make it more interactive.”

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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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