I have to ask. Is the typical restaurant patron ready for technology to be a meaningful part of their meal or do they still prefer conversation with an informed person from the waitstaff? Personally, technology is cool, especially when it improves how something is done. However, as with most things in life, it has its time and place.
As a manager or an owner of a restaurant, you have to ask, “What could make our customer experience better today and generate results for our business?” Many products and concepts are circulating the industry that could provide expense reductions, differentiation versus the competition, increased opportunity for revenue or enhanced customer experiences, in turn creating an opportunity for increased loyalty.
What areas of the business and customer experience could be positively affected by technology? Here are a few considerations:
Marketing – creating awareness across the many possible patrons within the sites and venues where they spend their time. These segments may entail a spouse making a reservation, an Event Planner researching the details of a corporate event or an Administrative Assistant making reservations for a business dinner. Placing your product in front of these people at the right time is imperative.
Research – An increasing number of people need to research a place to eat before they are able to consider it for an option. The research they need ranges from the type of restaurant, type of food, price levels and whether the party’s dietary needs will be met to both customer reviews and write-ups from local critics.
Experience Management – While the customer has minimal interest in a restaurant reservation becoming a dominant part of their life for any amount of time, there are Pre-arrival, Pre-seating, Meal and Post-departure considerations that may make the overall customer experience memorable, enjoyable and even preferable.
Visualizations – Introducing the central most themes of the dining experience in a visual manner may prove beneficial to your patrons. This includes the setting itself, its associated facilities, the food of course, dietary information and any other detail that conveys your uniqueness as a business.
Customer Cost Savings – For budget conscious consumers, how could they eat at your restaurant within their spending limits. And for those more interested in the experience, how will the items designed for their palate entice them.
Upgrades – represent opportunities to present additional purchases at the most opportune time and in the best light. Is the best time to pitch appetizers at the table or while the customer is waiting to be seated and what type of appetizer is manageable for customers when not at a table?
Menus – require printing, are fixed in terms of content and may not be connected to the website or digital menu. While this is the best solution for selected restaurants, a digital menu experience that fulfills customer expectations online and in the restaurant is definitely worth considering for the future. This is a need in today’s market for locations that have a dynamic, regularly changing menu.
Ordering – The needs of each business are different in this area as ordering may be for delivery, for pick-up or pre-ordering for an on-site dining experience.
Service – There are many excellent service personnel in the industry and this function represents many jobs across the world. This facet of the hospitality industry has the potential to be the most impactful with regard to both the customer experience and operations management. If more transactions take place at the table and are facilitated by technology, the role of the server could change significantly. Where appropriate, it may enable restaurants to place more time against preparing a table for guests and fulfilling requests. This in turn allows the technology to receive orders and facilitate guest requests. It also creates much more flexibility for formulating the tailored customer experience that you want to provide for each person and group that walks through the doors.
Payment – Today’s multi-step dance has minimal value other than testing your patron’s math skills. All that is truly required is a brief review of the finalized check and the click of a button for approval with payment automated to the most optimal debit or credit card that will give a guest the most rewards. It simply doesn’t need to be any more complicated than this. Payment options now allow an experience close to this offered in many forms.
Each of these areas, and many others, could be positively influenced with the application of technology. And today, the technology exists.