Last year, the restaurant industry experienced significant changes. From an increased focus on guest data and security, to the expanded partnerships of reservation and search platforms, technology has transformed the way we approach and run restaurant businesses. This year, we can expect a few key trends to take center stage in the industry - primarily an increasing number of technology integrations and partnerships, a growing importance of ADA compliance and of course, the prioritization of personalized guest experiences.
More (and Better) Tech Integrations
Last year, new technology integrations and partnerships made the experiences for guests and operators more seamless, from Instagram’s Reserve button to Yelp's NoWait kiosks. Over the next few months, we will see more tech integrations that streamline restaurant operations and connect the front of house to provide a better experience for guests.
One such tech integration will bring voice to restaurants. And with an estimated 50% of all searches conducted via voice by 2020, the restaurant industry is already on the road to adoption. Today, 16% of people use their personal voice assistants to make reservations, and now voice technology will help streamline operations for restaurant staff. For instance, servers can ask Alexa, “Has anyone at table 12 dined with us before?” or “Are there any guests celebrating anniversaries tonight?” This skill will arm staff with important information about their guests without them ever having to interact with a physical interface.
As restaurant technology becomes more integrated into the front of house experience, operators will have more information at their fingertips and will be able to more seamlessly deliver the memorable experiences diners crave. In fact, according to SevenRooms research, over half of Americans want their waiter or waitress to remember them from a previous visit. Voice will meet and surpass these expectations, becoming a critical part of any restaurant operation.
A Focus on ADA Compliance
Compliance is often last on the list of priorities -- far behind more immediate matters like staffing, scheduling and payment issues. However, restaurants who don’t prioritize compliance open themselves up to costly legal action and negative reputations like thousands of others in 2018.
Given the fact that over 40 million Americans have a disability, this represents a huge number of potential diners and employees that expect ADA compliance to be met. It’s important to remember that restaurants, like any other business, are required to provide accommodations when necessary to serve and communicate with customers who have disabilities.
Restaurants can take this on by making sure they have a Braille or voice-recorded menu, proper wheelchair accessibility, and staff who are educated on key policies, like allowing certified service dogs inside the restaurant. The most important part of compliance is effectively training staff to know how and when to make these accommodations.
Dining out should be a memorable experience that brings family and friends together over good food and lively conversations, and restaurants should work hard to make sure their venue is allowing that for each and every one of their guests.
Emphasis on Personalized Experiences
While technology plays a bigger role every day in the restaurant experience, operators need to stay focused on the most important piece of the puzzle: the guest. This means using technology in the right ways to deliver personalized, memorable experiences without overwhelming the diner.
Diners like technology, but they also value human hospitality in their in-restaurant experience. And the research agrees, with one in four Americans preferring the ability to request the same waiter or waitress who already knows their preferences. Guests expect the conveniences and personalization that technology offers, but want it implemented with a human touch. Restaurants will win the loyalty of diners by utilizing advanced reservation and guest data technology to offer special personalized touches, like bringing out a guest’s favorite wine before they order it, or offering menu recommendations based on their past orders.
Over the course of this year, we will see incredible innovation in the restaurant and hospitality space. Operators will be empowered by voice-enabled technology to help streamline workflow and seamlessly customize guest experiences. And restaurants will take more care to prioritize every guest by improving ADA compliance to provide the experiences everyone craves from dining out. I’m excited to see the industry continue to revolutionize and bring advancements to dining experiences this year and beyond.
About the Author:
Joel Montaniel is the CEO & Co-Founder of SevenRooms, a reservation, seating and guest engagement platform, where he leads business strategy and sales. Prior to founding SevenRooms in 2011, Montaniel served as the Chief of Staff at LivePerson, leading strategic, operational and cultural initiatives. He started his career at Credit Suisse within the Real Estate, Finance & Securitization Group. He graduated with a B.A. from Georgetown University.