Are you harnessing technology to its fullest extent at your restaurant? If not, you could be getting left behind. Technology is quickly infiltrating every aspect of restaurant operation, from the kitchen to front-of-house operations, says a new study from the National Restaurant Association, Restaurant Industry 2020: A Snapshot of the Future. Here are some ways technology is already changing—or soon will transform–the face of restaurant operations, and ideas for ways you can profit from it.
- Online: Many restaurants already let guests place orders online for pickup at the restaurant, or use tools like OpenTable to let customers make their own online reservations. The NRA says in the near future diners will be able to search local restaurants online and choose places to eat based on current wait times.
- Mobile: Savvy restaurant owners are using text messages to send their regular customers or social media fans and followers special offers, discounts or real-time alerts about events going on in their restaurants. An integrated paging system can offer the option to text a guest’s mobile phone when their table is ready, eliminating the need for bulky alert devices.
- Menus: The NRA reports that almost 40 percent of consumers say they’d be likely to use menus and/or electronic ordering systems on tablet computers. Younger (18 to 29) restaurant-goers are the most likely to be interested in this option. Using tablets to take orders at the table can not only speed order-taking and reduce errors, but it can also enable you to customize special menus. For instance, you can create different menus tailored to different dietary needs (such as a vegetarian menu, a low-calorie menu or a gluten-free menu). Tablets can also let guests dig deeper into nutritional information or learn the “backstory” of where their food was sourced. Tablet menus can even be tailored to upsell by suggesting add-ons when guests select certain items.
- Fun & Games: Providing each table with a tablet loaded with games, videos or interactive content can keep kids entertained while their parents sit and relax (and order more appetizers, drinks or desserts, since the kids aren’t pestering them). During late-night or happy-hour dayparts, tablets can provide interactive games (like trivia contests) to keep the young adult crowd entertained and spending.
- Payment: Using mobile checkout solutions such as accepting payments via a smartphone or tablet saves time and paper. You can also use tablets to capture customer data during the payment process. For example, offer the customer email or text-message coupons in return for giving you their email address or cell phone number.
- Surveys: You can use tablets to conduct quick surveys of your guests before they even leave the table. No more dealing with comment cards or waiting for guests to complete online surveys after they leave your restaurant. Now you can get instant feedback on how guests perceive their experience.
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