Consumer-focused industries need to keep up with the increasing use of personal technology, and the restaurant business is no exception. As of 2015, 64% of American adults own a smartphone and 7% of those users rely heavily on their smartphone as their primary internet device.

With more customers using smartphones to look up menus, order food, and join loyalty programs, restaurants are needing to amp up their online and mobile access.

A tech-savvy restaurant will not only appeal to diners, but also help managers and servers streamline internal processes like scheduling.

Let’s look at the top 5 emerging technology trends that will give your restaurant an edge in 2016:

 

Loyalty Programs

 As we’ve mentioned before, a loyalty program is a great tool to boost customer retention. Restaurants with POS systems that continually collect customer data can use this information to personalize rewards.

With access to unique customer preferences, restaurants are able to target individuals in a way that will improve their experience and keep them coming back.

As of now, only 11% of loyalty programs offer personalized rewards based on a customer’s purchase history even though customers have begun to expect personalized offers and services.

In order to create a seamless dining experience for customers, restaurants should also consider integrating their loyalty program into a mobile app.

 

Mobile Apps

Diners can order food, make payments, find rewards, and even join a restaurant’s wait list with a mobile app. With such a large percentage of adults with smartphones and online access 24/7, restaurants will be ahead of the curve if they implement a comprehensive and easy-to-use app.

 

Mobile Payments

One of the big trends for restaurant apps is mobile payment. In 2015, 28% of smartphone users made a mobile payment, the majority of which used a mobile app to do so.

A standout brand in terms of mobile payment adoption is Starbucks – nearly 15% of customers pay with their phones, and 60% use their phone to reap loyalty benefits.

While every restaurant can’t be a Starbucks, taking the step to accept mobile payments may be a good start.

 

Wait Lists

Another trend for mobile is restaurant wait list management. Mobile apps have started to replace restaurant pagers, as in the case of Famous Daves. Guests no longer have to crowd around an entryway; they simply join the mobile queue and arrive at the restaurant when their table is ready.

As a bonus, users can peruse other mobile offerings, such as loyalty programs or payment options, while they wait.

 

Online Ordering

To be relevant to Millennials, online ordering is a must. With the overwhelming amount of food delivery choices and their rise in popularity, restaurants need to ramp their game in order to stand out from the crowd.

“Customers are no longer tied down by distance, convenience or ambience,” says Ameego, and competition is fierce. Restaurants will have to rely on superior reviews and awesome food to put up a fight.

Another way restaurants can stand out is with voice ordering. The Domino’s app has introduced “Dom,” a voice recognition pizza expert that lets customers order without lifting a finger. On top of voice ordering, Domino’s even lets customers order pizza with a few choice emojis by tweeting or texting. Technology like this will demand innovation from similar quick-service restaurants in the coming year.

 

Dynamic Digital Menus

This years’ National Restaurant Association’s Tech Pavilion unveiled “smart” digital menus that are projected to replace paper menus over the next few years. These menus are rising in popularity because they’re able to display dynamic, personalized messaging to diners based on what they’ve ordered. Over time, digital menus can save restaurants from extraneous costs like menu reprinting as well as improve the customer experience.

One digital ordering company, Menuvative, uses an algorithm that will offer wine pairings based on the food guests order. This intuitive technology has increased guests’ orders up to 10 percent.

 

Electronic Scheduling

 Intuitive restaurant technologies aren’t just making the lives of customers easier. Employee scheduling, training, inventory, recruiting, ordering and reporting are all processes that could be managed with technology.

One platform, When I Work, allows restaurant managers and employees to set schedules, request time off, swap shifts and view the schedule via smartphones and tablets. With this platform, the scheduling system is standardized so managers can easily see who is available to work, and employees can ensure their requested time off is honored.

 

Final Thoughts

Restaurant technology is evolving, and businesses hoping to compete will have to start offering customers conveniences like mobile apps, personalized loyalty programs and online ordering. The benefit of this technology will be better customer experiences, leading to better customer retention.

Not only will profits increase from the customer side, but restaurants can also keep costs down internally with technology platforms that help managers order and schedule employees more efficiently.

What technology will your restaurant start using in 2016?