Digital devices have changed how we get our news, how we get around and how we interact. Now they are changing how we choose restaurants, read menus and pay the check.
In a lot of ways, our industry is undergoing the biggest transformation since hamburger joints added drive-thru windows.
As the examples below will show, disruptive restaurant technology is going to define future winners and losers in the restaurant marketplace. Innovators who adapt to these new systems will have an advantage in converting new customers, and others will be left out in the cold.
Many restaurants are still catching up on what integrated systems can offer, but the benefits are becoming hard to ignore.
Integrated ordering systems (like this one) allow restaurant managers to manage all aspects of their order entry – including menus, POS entry, in-restaurant and kiosk ordering, and more – from one easy-to-use program.
Prices, content, images and more can be managed and updated from anywhere, including your smartphone, with an integrated system. Menus can be updated for one, multiple, or all stores immediately, saving time and preventing confusion among staff and shift leaders.
Integrated systems work especially well with…
A tabletop ordering system puts guests in charge of their own dining experience in ways that restaurants could not offer until recently.
Connecting customers directly to the kitchen with a tablet or built-in tabletop system can reduce labor costs and free up servers to concentrate on customer service.
Also, ongoing research shows that digital menus increase average orders by as much as $10-15, since customers can easily order extra appetizers, drinks, desserts, and other items they may not have asked a server for. Big, bright pictures of your menu items on a tablet are another strong visual cue for customers to add to their orders.
As we have mentioned previously, mobile devices like smartphones and tablets have become the method most often used for digital data consumption, and their use continues to rise.
Setting up a website or app-based ordering system can provide a multitude of rewards. Like tablet menus in your restaurant, online ordering drives higher sales totals per order because of the ability to personalize choices and add extra ingredients.
An easy-to-use online platform also brings customers back for repeat business as they become familiar and comfortable with your ordering process. And the ability to capture email addresses and other customer data means that you can invite users back with discount offers and other promotions.
Applications and websites like Yelp, Foursquare and UrbanSpoon have changed the way many customers choose their dining locations of choice – especially young people, who are more reliant on smartphones.
These apps use two criteria to recommend restaurants to their users. The first is geographic – the smartphone or computer generates suggestions based on your location, which is drawn from GPS data. The second is based on user interaction – previous visitors rank and review the restaurant based on service, quality, atmosphere and other elements.
These apps are not new to most restaurant managers. But many are not taking a proactive approach to the benefits that these programs can offer.
Restaurants that interact with customers over the web and take control of their online reputation have an advantage over those that do not. Responding to online reviews, offering discounts for app “check-ins” and advertising through these programs can drive traffic and improve your restaurant’s image in the online community.