Technology has impacted nearly every industry under the sun, and restaurants are no exception. Many tasks — ranging from employee scheduling, order taking, inventory management and even customer communication — are now conducted using advanced restaurant technology.
For some restaurant owners, this may seem like an unnecessary step in the industry. Many still see technology as an infringement on the guest experience. But American restaurant-goers have made their opinions clear.
- 25% of consumers say technology weighs into their decision of where to eat out.
- 39% of smartphone users would pay at restaurants with their phone if the option were available.
- Online ordering is projected to soon overtake over-the-phone orders for the most popular method of ordering delivery.
While there are still a skeptic few, many restaurant owners have listened to what customers have asked for, and have responded with the following actions:
- More than half of QSRs (quick-service restaurants) and fast-casual restaurants either offer or plan to offer mobile payment capability within the next year.
- 71% of restaurants currently use POS software.
- For QSRs, online ordering is the #1 most important feature when considering a POS.
Higher demand for outstanding restaurant technologies has resulted in a series of mutually beneficial changes for both restaurateurs and their guests. Both now see safer and easier transactions and end up spending less money.
Here are a few examples of restaurant technologies that have proven to be useful to both restaurant owners and restaurant goers.
Restaurant Tech Benefits
1. Internal Online Ordering
What it is: Online ordering is not exactly new, but internal online ordering operates as an alternative to third-party aggregate sites. Internal online ordering operated as an in-house system, which means online orders go directly through that restaurant’s own point of sale system. Many nationwide chains, including Domino’s and Chipotle, have taken this route.
How it Helps Restaurants: Third-party online ordering sites can charge up to 15% commission per order. That might be okay if it was a 15% commission per customer, but because it’s per order, you pay that fee every time a customer checks out from that site. Restaurants continuously sacrifice a large chunk of their precious profit and even run the risk of having customers see a competitor on the site. With internal online ordering, there’s usually a flat fee to run the operation in-house instead of a per-order charge. Convincing customers to order on your site instead of an aggregate site saves you per-order profit every time.
How it Helps Customers: Consumers love discounts. If your restaurant uses an internal online ordering system, you can use a discount to incentivize them to order there instead of a third-party site. For example, if a third-party site charges a 15% per-order commission fee, you can offer a 5% or 10% discount on your own online ordering site. This saves both you and your customers money on each order. You can share this discount amount, code and ordering site on receipts, your website, and your menus.
2. Social Media
What it is: You probably don’t need to be sold on the importance of social media. Hundreds of millions of people use social media on a daily basis. It has redefined the boundaries of communication between businesses and their consumers and demands your attention.
How it Helps Restaurants: Expand your brand beyond your walls. Posting photos of your food, your staff, and your happy customers allows your loyal customers to see you as more than just another restaurant. It’s also a great avenue to promote deals, specials and discounts exclusive to those who follow you.
How it Helps Customers: Some of the most popular posts on social media are food posts! You’ll brighten your followers’ day with an artsy shot of pizza, coffee or a cocktail. If you promote discounts for your followers, it also makes customers feel appreciated for getting a new deal right on their feed.
3. Kiosks and Tablets
What They Are: We’ve gotten used to the way transactions take place in restaurants. In full-service restaurants, customers order from a waiter or waitress, who walks to their point of sale terminal to punch in the order. At quick-service restaurants, customers order from the cashier, who completes the order behind the counter. Two new pieces of technology are changing the way you perceive order taking at both of these restaurants — FSR-friendly tablets and QSR-friendly kiosks.
Servers can use tablets to send orders to the kitchen quickly and decrease wait times. Kiosks put the ordering experience in the consumers’ hands so they can ensure order accuracy.
How They Help Restaurants: Tablets help with order speed and accuracy. Payments can be made right at the table and orders can be fired immediately. Kiosks free up your employees, are a fantastic opportunity for upselling, and also enhance order speed and accuracy, since there’s no chance for miscommunication between customer and cashier.
How They Help Customers: No one likes to wait. We’ve already established the arduous ordering process at full-service restaurants, and when paying the check, customers can get frustrated with the 5-10 minute process of their server bringing the bill, coming back, taking the payment, going back to their register to swipe a card or make change, and then returning. With tablets, orders fire to the kitchen and guests can pay at the table, so they can be on their way after an efficient restaurant experience. At QSRs, kiosks diffuse those long lines during the lunch rush and ensure customers get exactly what they ordered. They’ll appreciate the efficiency and attention to detail their order receives.
4. Digital Loyalty Programs
What They Are: Loyalty programs have existed for years, but not like they do now. Instead of a flimsy rewards card that a cashier will stamp with a hole puncher to earn a tenth sandwich/coffee/ice cream free, restaurants now have better options. Syncing a digital loyalty program with a customer database allows restaurateurs to unlock significant data about their individual customers, which in turn creates a more personalized guest experience.
How They Help Restaurants: It’s all about the data. Restaurant owners gain valuable insight with loyalty programs, which show the patterns of an individual’s buying behavior. These programs ultimately result in more frequent visits of higher spend values, with customers spending 39% more when they are close to unlocking their next reward.
How They Help Customers: Free stuff! Also, knowing they can accumulate points at their favorite restaurant will help your customers make a definitive choice on where they should go to dinner that night.
5. Mobile Payment
What it is: In the wake of EMV (the “insert chip” credit card machines), a new solution for quick payments has arrived. Consumers have taken to registering their payment card information to their mobile phones. By simply holding up their phone to a digital reader, the payment registers without tangible cards or cash involved.
How it Helps Restaurants: You’ll keep the line moving during those busy times instead of printing out receipts or making change to the penny. Mobile transactions are safer and speedier than EMV transactions, taking only 5 to 12 seconds (that beats the time spent putting the card in chip first and waiting for them to sign a receipt). Since payment info is linked to the user’s phone (which hardly leaves their palm), the transactions are more secure and your restaurant will be safer from credit card hacks.
How it Helps Customers: Mobile payment helps customers the same way it helps restaurants. Customers won’t have to fumble through their purse or wallet — all they have to do is open their app and hold it to the scanner. They can also accumulate rewards through apps like LevelUp, which saves them money.
Restaurant Technology: A Win-Win For Businesses and Customers Alike
Restaurant owners and restaurant goers want the same thing — technology that enhances the guest experience without interfering with it. These five restaurant technologies prove the restaurant experience can be simplified without sacrificing great hospitality.
Customers benefit from a more personalized trip to their favorite place, rewards and convenience, while restaurants see quick and secure transactions, more satisfied and frequently-visiting customers, and collections of information that can make their business better.
In short, restaurant technology is both a convenience and a necessity that your business would be better off embracing sooner rather than later.
Contributed by AJ Beltis from Toast, Inc.