When you think about restaurant technology, you probably think immediately of your restaurant POS system – and these devices are certainly wonderful tools for maximizing your productivity and hence your profits — but what about the customer experience?
To make the best possible use of technology in your restaurant, you need to go a step further and ask yourself how you can use it to provide a truly unique experience for your customers.
Millennials and Generation Zers, in particular, the key demographics for businesses to attract, are not merely familiar with technology; they may feel disappointed or even threatened by its absence.
Good food, efficient service, and a pleasant, convivial atmosphere, of course, remain important to them. But the old “place order and wait for food” model strikes many younger people as outmoded and frustratingly slow.
Fortunately, though, there are some simple ways you can make use of technology to enhance your customers’ experience while also helping your bottom line.
Modern POS systems make it easy to allow your customers to order directly – either from their table using WiFi-enabled tablets, or from home.
Having an easy-to-navigate, interactive website is crucial to good customer engagement and you can get really creative with this. For example, why not post videos in which your chef describes his recommended dishes, specials and upsells?
In the same way, you could have your Head Barman or Beverage Director talk through your wine, beer, and cocktail lists and encourage customers to leave comments or ask questions. And using the latest generation of message chatbots on your site or Facebook page can be a great way of responding in real-time and building relationships.
Now imagine that a group of friends agree through their favorite social media platform to meet for a meal at your restaurant. Rather than wait until they all arrive to start the process, with the right app you can take each person’s order individually in advance and have their food delivered to the table at the appropriate time. Linking your app to your POS then allows you to split the check exactly as required by your customers.
Applying technology even in this relatively simple way is a win-win: your customers get a quicker, smoother and more enjoyable group experience while your productivity is enhanced by a far more rapid table turn.
Clearly it’s not an option for fine dining establishments, perhaps not for casual dining either, but for fast-casual outlets with a limited menu, it’s now possible to offer customers the opportunity to create their own dishes.
By selecting ingredients rather than dishes from the menu, culinary-minded customers can order exactly what they want and have it prepared in advance by your kitchen. They can get as creative as they like with sauces and sides, and any extra work for your chefs will be made worthwhile by the enhanced customer enjoyment and engagement.
These are just a few ideas to illustrate some of the changes to the traditional restaurant model that technology is now making possible.
And in a period of falling restaurant traffic – particularly among millennials and Generation Zers – the businesses that succeed will be those that embrace as many of these opportunities as possible.
Providing unique and memorable experiences is likely to become at least as important as the quality of your food and drink offerings in attracting and retaining customers. And the imaginative use of technology will be a key means of achieving this goal.