In an increasingly connected world, a restaurant isn’t just a simple exchange of cash in and food out. Rather, it is a nexus of technology that connects the customer with the restaurant to create a seamless experience whether it be in person, via an app or delivery.
Restaurants use technology platforms to manage transactions online, over the phone and in person. Additionally, tech may use tech to manage customer loyalty programs and run marketing efforts. Other systems may track inventory, ordering, delivery logistics and scheduling. While external systems may manage customer reservations.
The combination of technologies is designed to make operations more efficient while generating more revenue and ultimately benefiting the restaurant’s bottom line. Customer service is an important element of this as well and by improving the customer experience with technology you will create a loyal customer base. Technology often opens up new channels of discovery for customers to find you and order from your establishment.
So, what smart technologies should modern restaurants employ to boost biz and appeal to new tech-driven generation?
1- Take Orders and Payments in Multiple Forms
Gone are the days where customers would always arrive with cash to pay for their food. Today, customers expect to be able to pay in cash, credit and even apple payment. They may want to sit and order food, order in advance, or even order for delivery. Restaurants need a modern point-of-sales system (POS) that can support all these different options.
Computer-run point-of-sale systems have been around for some time, but the modern versions are much easier, and less expensive, to program and use than ever before. Getting a smart POS is as easy as downloading an app to a tablet or smartphone and ordered a peripheral credit card reader.
Instead of printing and signing receipts, transactions can be completed by a touch screen. Receipts can be sent by email or texted to a customer’s phone number. Servers can carry their own POS devices and handle transactions right at the table. This simplified process of settling tabs brings a great deal of convenience to the customer experience.
Additionally, consider a POS that also supports online and phone orders delivery and aids delivery drivers. A POS should support them is need to manage cash or run transactions. The POS should also support order ahead options if the customer want to pick up an order on the run. With more and more ways for customers to order, it is important to find a flexible and all-encompassing POS system.
2- Build An Incredible Customer Experience
These days, dinners are demanding that eating out provides great food and a great experience. In a recent survey, 75% of respondents said that unique dining experience are worth paying for and pop-up dinning is at an all time high. A great experience can include everything from wonderful ambiance and decor, to personalized customer experience or even loyaltly benefits.
One way technology can help create a customer experience is through online reward programs. In the past, most rewards programs were around punch cards which customers had to remember to bring and could be forged. New reward programs can be integrated within a POS or as a standalone online program. Having a rewards program or loyalty program allows you to track customers purchasing habits and test which offers are the most appealing. Additionally, these programs can be a great way to generate repeat business from your most loyal customers.
Gathering more data can also help create incredible customer experiences. For example, if your reward program that requires the customer to provide an email address and a birth date, you can email them a birthday coupon. If they come in with the coupon provide an extra surprise like dessert or free drink. Outside of birthday celebrations, you can send newsletter and keep them up to date with the newest dishes and promotions.
Technology can also be a way to get feedback and improve the customer experience. Ask for feedback online or in an app and uncover common complaints. If the music is regularly too loud or the food is always too slow, work to improve these issues to create a better experience.
Finally, often the customer experience starts with a phone call, and restaurants should leverage a virtual VoIP line to create the best first impression. Today, customers may want to call or text at any hour to get information or ask for a reservation without long hold times or the ability to get the answer they’re looking for. VoIP communication platforms are essential for today’s restaurants.
For single location restaurants these communication tools can route calls to a cell phone or even turn voicemails into text messages to ensure customers get the answers they need. When larger franchises use VoIP platforms, calls may be routed through call centers to determine the customer’s need before being directed to a specific location. In this instance, it’s incredibly important for representatives to quickly answer customer’s questions, make a reservation or resolve an issue they had while visiting a franchisee.
3- Allow Easy Online Ordering
Online ordering is a growing segment of the restaurant business, where customers want to order online and then arrive to pick up the meal themselves, get it delivered, or then sit to a meal at the restaurant without waiting.
Having the right technology platform to handle online orders is critical. Diners are increasingly growing more accustomed to going online or using an app to put in an order, and many are becoming averse to calling in orders at all. Onilne ordering should support both delivery and pickup as consumers now expect to be able to order in advance for both. Without an online ordering system set up, that customer might pass on your business and eat somewhere else.
4- Provide Delivery Services
A boon of delivery services has made it easier for restaurants to generate more sales without hiring their own drivers.
Technology-driven services such as Favor, Grubhub, Postmates and Uber Eats are growing in popularity and adding more restaurants to their lists. Your business may benefit from more delivery adoption without ever having to hire a delivery driver. Working with these companies is a smart and cost-effective way to be more accessible to your customers, but you will need technology to support them. Orders via an app should be tagged and coordinated correctly with delivery drivers to ensure each order gets to the right spot.
5- Make Reservations Easy
More and more customers are making reservations online rather than just walking in. This is especially true for large groups which can be a big revenue generator for restaurants. As a result, working with a reservation platform is of vital importance.
Being a part of a reservation platform is as much about streamlining scheduling and reducing phone calls on your end as much as it is about being visible online and reaching new customers who only make reservations online. Additionally, ensure your reservation system works with a few third-party apps as well. Customer will both book directly with a restaurant but also use apps like OpenTable, Resy, and SimplySeated to book a table in advance.
As you can see, modern technology enables restaurants to connect with customers like never before.
The ways that customers order food has changed drastically in a short span of time. While customer may have been willing to wait on hold to place an order, speed is now a top priority.
Customers expect to be able to make a quick phone call, or order food, or reserve a table on an app. Keeping up with ever-changing tech may seem like quite the challenge, but at the end of the day, all of these technologies are designed to make operations more efficient overall. They also will help your restaurant business reach a new generation of customers who rely on technology to choose and make purchases from restaurants.