4 Things Every Restaurant Needs to Be Digital Savvy
A comprehensive digital strategy is essential to restaurant operators who want to meet guests’ evolving expectations.
Rising demand for contactless transactions, efficient drive-through, pickup, and delivery presents a challenge but also a big upside: 75% of restaurant operators now consider off-premise dining to be their best growth opportunity, according to the National Restaurant Association’s State of the Industry 2020 Report.
In our experience, a restaurant can adopt a truly digital-savvy approach by focusing on four major areas: contactless payments, mobile ordering, customer communications, and thinking outside the box. Here’s our roadmap to implementing digital best practices:
ACCEPT CONTACTLESS PAYMENTS
There was a time when providing guests with a touchless payment option was considered a nice perk. Now, in light of the pandemic and guest expectations around safety and efficiency, contactless transactions are table stakes. In fact, according to recent research from Podium, 84% of Americans now use social distancing services like contactless payments—and 86% expect to continue to have access once the pandemic is over. Juniper Research estimates that worldwide contactless transactions will triple by 2024.
Providing customers with an easy, touchless way to pay is essential in the fast-paced, high-turnover quick-service environment. It can also enhance the dine-in experience, ensuring that the tableside payment process moves as quickly — or as leisurely — as a guest desires. A contactless strategy requires two essentials:
1. Easy customer-facing tools that make guests feel they are driving the transaction, such as QR codes and RFID and NFC transactions (using either a bank card with a chip or a mobile wallet platform such as Apple Pay or Google Wallet).
2. Flexible POS software that not only drives contactless experiences but also monitors real-time data and insights across all operations to help restaurants respond to customer habits and expectations.
PROVIDE MOBILE ORDERING
Guests want choices, and offering online ordering integrated into a mobile app — either third-party or native — provides more than convenience and efficiency. It increases volume order, revenue, and guest satisfaction. Data from both Starbucks and KFC, as well as several research studies of consumer habits, suggests that 90% of customers regularly order using mobile devices, up 30 percent from 2019.
A white-labeled third-party solution can be an effective option because it combines “the best of both worlds”: Your restaurant’s customized branding and messaging backed by the third party’s API, speed, and network.
For restaurants that want to provide mobile ordering without an app, the right web-based ordering solution can be easy and effective. Its user interface should be optimized to adapt to both desktop and mobile, so that the ordering experience looks and feels as clear and efficient as that of an app.
Whether a restaurant opts for a white-label app or web-based ordering, their platform should also prioritize revenue growth, such as with seamless upselling offers, a loyalty program, and the ability to remember customer favorites and offer easy re-ordering.
COMMUNICATE WELL WITH CUSTOMERS
The rise of contactless transactions and mobile ordering has increased restaurants’ ability to collect guest data and contact information, presenting more opportunities to communicate directly with consumers. At the same time, social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow brands to share messaging to a growing audience. But when communicating directly with customers, brands should focus on delivering value — whether it’s entertainment (like Burger King’s recent “Whopper Dance” collaboration with TikTok) or offering discounts, combo deals, and other perks. Some examples:
A restaurant’s social media messaging should feel inviting — share high-quality food photography to make your audience hungry for more. Post modest, time-bound deals and discounts (such as mid-week dinner or drink specials). And, just as important as enticing your audience, keep them informed about how your brand is giving back to local communities, such as partnering with food banks, community centers, schools, and scout troops.
Sure, you may be collecting guest emails like never before — but make sure you’re communicating with your guests the way they want to be spoken to. Often, following up on a mobile order with an email asking “How was your experience?” is much more effective in building loyalty than a simple “Thanks!”
Personalize your communications: The right POS can allow for integrations that let you customize upselling offers based on a guest’s ordering habits and preferences. If a loyal customer orders a cheeseburger once per week, for instance, offer her a bacon cheeseburger at a discount one week, then offer her a third option your customer data suggests may appeal to her.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
When we say “think outside the box,” we mean both literally and figuratively. Restaurants in 2020 have pivoted outside traditional dine-in paradigms to embrace outdoor seating, including repurposed parking lots, play areas, and sidewalks to accommodate socially distanced guests. Staying open to creative use of real estate — say, leveraging a roomy, flat rooftop or backyard — can go a long way toward enhancing revenue. Just be sure to upgrade networking as needed so that guests who are ordering and picking up off-prem have access to reliable WiFi.
Some essential, tech-driven methods for restaurant brands to think imaginatively:
Data and analytics: By consolidating data across multiple units and deploying analytics software, restaurant operators can access predictive data across all areas of operation, from inventory to workforce management to food safety, as well as understand customer needs, preferences, and habits.
Alternate ordering: In addition to mobile ordering (above), alternative models such as kiosks and handhelds can provide guests the control and convenience they crave with ordering — with plenty of opportunities to create add-ons and other menu suggestions.
Loyalty: No restaurant is too big or too small for a loyalty program that offers rewards, points, and special discounts — and, thanks to cloud-based software solutions, it’s never been easier to integrate loyalty software into your POS.
Upselling: Upselling: Techniques such as prompted upselling, combination pricing, and “happy hour” promotions can easily be integrated into POS to meet your guests where they are — whether in person, on a mobile device, or through web-based ordering.