The use of mobile apps, text messages, and the internet to order food from a restaurant or other foodservice outlets grew by 18 percent last year and now accounts for 1.9 billion foodservice visits, reports The NPD Group. While currently more orders are placed using websites, orders placed with a mobile app are growing more strongly, according to NPD’s daily tracking of how consumers use restaurants and other foodservice outlets.

Dinner is the meal most often ordered digitally, and families are the heaviest users of digital ordering, reports NPD.  Fifty percent of digital orders come at dinner time, and 35 percent of digital ordering includes parties with kids. People under age 35 and those with higher household incomes are among above-average users of digital ordering.

When families are searching for that all-pleasing, quick dinner option, how will they find your local restaurants? The latest AudienceSCAN survey found 37.4% of Online Food Orderers took action based on sponsored search results (like on Google, Yahoo or Bing) in the past month. Make sure your local restaurants offering digital ordering are making the most out of their SEM!

Deals and promotions play an important role in digital ordering, finds NPD. When consumers order digitally, they are twice as likely to order on a deal, and that deal is usually a coupon. Twenty-nine percent of all digital orders used a coupon. Other top deals used were discounted price, daily special, and combined item special.

In fact, the AudienceSCAN study revealed 11% of Online Food Orderers Purchased at least four daily deals (like Groupon or Living Social) during the past 6 months.

Additionally, the ability to pay with mobile boosts customer satisfaction scores and encourages guests to visit for reasons related to loyalty, reports NPD.

Restaurants can promote their online ordering features and mobile wallet pay options in TV commercials. The AudienceSCAN survey reported 43% of Online Food Orderers took action after watching TV advertising in the past month.

“Digital ordering is now really all about the mobile app,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “Consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable using mobile apps, if restaurants or foodservice operators don’t have a mobile app, consumers may very well choose a restaurant that does.”

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies, or with the SalesFuel API. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.