R MAGAZINE – Technology is here to stay in the restaurant industry. Intuitive software not only helps managers, servers, and hosts operate more efficiently, but it also enhances the dining experience. In fact, 79% of consumers agree that restaurant technology improves their experience as guests.
In the consumer-driven hospitality industry, it’s critical to stay on top of trends that may impact business and help drive revenue. For restaurants that are skeptical of the potential benefits technology can offer, here’s another statistic to consider: 73% of restaurant operators agree that technology provides a competitive edge and improves profitability.
So, how exactly does technology contribute to happier customers and higher profits? Let’s take a look at how a few different types of tech can enhance the dining experience:
Point of Sale Software
Though point of sale systems (POS) is no longer a new technology, vendors continue to optimize this software in order to boost operational efficiency and provide greater insight into business performance. In most full-service restaurants, customers don’t ever directly interact with the POS; nevertheless, having one can improve the dining experience.
When used properly, a POS system ensures smooth and well-paced service and empowers servers to accept credit cards or split checks. Managers and owners can also use the insights from an intuitive system to inform their staffing decisions, influence menu creation, and determine the most profitable hours of operation. These are all key aspects that improve the overall restaurant experience. For example, managers can ensure they have enough staff to deliver exceptional customer service during busy hours, and popular menu items stay consistent during menu changes.
Many quick-service restaurants and cafés also take advantage of an iPad POS to improve the customer experience. This handheld system can reduce the length of lines, speed up checkouts, and eliminate order errors. Say goodbye to clogged up lines during rush hours and misinterpreted orders due to poor handwriting; servers use this tech throughout the restaurant, communicating with the kitchen instantaneously. Customers receive the correct order faster and automatically have a better experience.
This trend is catching on in many quick-service restaurants: studies have shown that over 57% of restaurants are looking to add tablet-based POS software in their next tech upgrade.
With a reservation management system, restaurants have the ability to capture reservations made online and via phone all in one place. That way, hosts can review all the guest information for a particular shift using a single interface.
When hosts can manage table assignments based on all captured reservations to ensure guests are seated in a timely manner, everyone’s experience improves the hosts, the customers who made reservations, and walk-in guests as well. With a real-time view of reserved tables, the host can quote more accurate wait times for everyone. Unusually long or misquoted wait times are a common reason for restaurant walkways, which result in a loss of potential revenue.
Mobile App and Ordering
In a world where 92% of your customers search for restaurants via a mobile browser and 75% of them choose which restaurant to eat at based on mobile search results, a mobile restaurant strategy is critical. Your on-the-go customers will appreciate having the ability to make reservations, place orders, and engage with your establishment from their phones.
Starbucks is one example of a quick-service café that has benefitted from a customer-facing mobile app. This coffee giant invites customers to order and pay for drinks on their smartphones. As of 2016, 21% of Starbucks transactions are made through their mobile app, with around 11 million people currently signed up for the app.
This strategy not only saves customers time and hassle; it also helps reduces café lines to improve the experience of guests who order their drinks in-store. When creating a mobile strategy, a restaurant should at least make sure their website and menu are mobile-friendly so customers are able to view hours, see menu options, and make reservations on their phones.
Social Media Presence
Social media channels are yet another a great way for restaurants to boost customer engagement because they are accessible easy to read. For example, restaurants can optimize their social profiles by including hours of operation and quick links to online menus.
When creating social updates, restaurants might focus on daily specials, events, and even discounts to entice visitors. Maintaining updated social profiles also boosts any mobile strategy you have in place because users can easily search and view Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram profiles on their phones.
Social media has also become a popular platform for restaurant customers to address concerns. With an active social presence, restaurants can respond to and mitigate complaints in a timely manner.
Lastly, restaurants can engage with their customers by sharing or responding to user-generated content tagged on social media. Guests will feel extra special if their favorite restaurant reposts one of their social media updates and thanks them for visiting.
There’s no shortage of restaurant technology that can help to increase operational efficiency, improve customer experiences, and even boost profits. When the customer has a better experience – whether they’re actually dining in the restaurant, making a reservation, or placing an order online – they are more likely to visit again and again. That being said, customer loyalty is a necessary ingredient for success in the restaurant industry: lowering customer churn rate by 5% can increase your profitability by 25-125%.
What sort of technology does your restaurant use to improve customer experiences?
Bio: Warner Siebert is the SVP of Sales & Marketing for CAKE, a Sysco company. Hailing from New York City by way of Baltimore, Warner began helping restaurants when he founded BuzzTable in 2011, which was acquired by Sysco in 2013 and rebranded as CAKE Guest Manager. A coffee aficionado, Warner spends time hiking with his dog and enjoying all that Silicon Valley has to offer.