The more you understand how technology has influenced the restaurant industry, the better equipped you are to keep pace with changing trends and leverage the tools that will help your restaurant remain reputable. Here are three technologies that are changing the restaurant industry, and how to incorporate them into your business.
Restaurant POS systems. A restaurant POS system allows you to accept credit, debit cards and cash to give customers payment flexibility, but the technology is much more than an alternative to a cash register. Used correctly, restaurant POS systems can help you gain efficiency in front- and back-of-house processes; reduce waste associated with errors in meal preparation and ingredient spoilage; and design strategic promotions to help you sell the right kinds of inventory, based on your restaurant’s traffic patterns and demand throughout its hours of operation. Ultimately, a restaurant POS can improve the profit margin you realize from every dish.
While POS systems vary in their features and functionality, many can help reduce mistakes and miscommunication regarding order and food preparation between servers and kitchen staff, and streamline inventory management to reduce waste and ensure that your restaurant has optimal levels of ingredients needed to make popular dishes during peak hours. The systems can also help you put controls in place to ensure every dish and drink has a consistent presentation and taste, regardless of who prepares it. Many restaurant POS systems integrate with rewards programs to simplify how customers can earn and redeem points for participating in a restaurant’s loyalty program.
Online reservation systems with mobile payments. The ability to make a reservation benefits the customers as much as it does the restaurant operator: Customers have the peace of mind they won’t wait to be seated, and restaurants are better equipped to staff appropriately based on the expected diner turnout.
Yet the latest online reservation systems take the benefits event further: They don’t just give customers control over when they dine; they allow them to dictate when and where they’ll pay. By incorporating mobile payment functionality into online reservation systems, customers control the dining experience from start to finish. Whether they want to pay as soon as they finish eating or on the cab ride home from the restaurant, mobile payments allow customers to settle their bill, split it with other diners on the table, and leave a tip from a mobile device. (The services require that the customer store his or her payment in the information via the secure app, so there’s no chance the diner can skip out on the bill entirely.)
Instant feedback and two-way communication with guests. While very few guests will complain directly to a restaurant manager about an issue while it’s happening, online review sites tend to get diners talking — for better and for worse. As one restaurant manager tells The Washington Post, about 80 percent of her customer complaints come from online forums. While receiving unhappy reports after the fact isn’t ideal, it’s better than not knowing why a customer didn’t return (or worse, not being able to resolve the issue before customers spread the word about a poor experience).
Plus, online review sites give you an opportunity to publicly demonstrate your commitment to giving every customer the best possible experience — even when the occasional diner has a complaint. Ultimately, customers want to know that their business is valued, and that their opinions are heard. Establish your restaurant’s profile on popular online review sites and social media. Then, commit to using it as a form of two-way communication that requires your immediate engagement, for positive and negative feedback. The more active you are with such technology, the more control you have in shaping the brand image you want for your restaurant, and tweaking the many elements that contribute to guest experience, based on the feedback you receive.
Technology is changing the restaurant industry for both guests and restaurant operators. However, it all contributes to a better diner experience and a more sustainable business model for those who learn to use the latest tools to their advantage.
Author bio: Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing firm based in Naperville, Illinois. She has over 20 years experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management and marketing. Connect with her on Twitter at @BluePay_CMO.