Technology has become a vital part of today's workforce. Its adoption and use have enhanced communication, sped payment processing, enhanced marketing, and improved customer service. As a result, large and small businesses alike have used tech to put customers at the center of everything they do. Why? You need only look at the percentage of consumers who are more likely to purchase from a company that knows their name and purchase history, and then recommends products based on those preferences. According to research by Accenture Interactive, 75% of consumers welcome personalized offerings and spend their dollars with those businesses that can keep pace with their tailor-made demands.
To be one of those companies for which consumers eagerly open their wallets, you must first give customers what they want:
- To be recognized
- To receive relevant recommendations suited to their tastes and style
- To be remembered
If you can meet those signature demands, your restaurant's brand value goes through the roof. Fortunately, technology lets restaurant operators deliver the personalized service that diners crave. And along the way, your restaurant brand becomes more well-known, and your business grows stronger and more agile in the process.
The key to letting technology transform your restaurant is to choose solutions that help your operations. It may sound like a no brainer, but you don't want to saddle your team with tech tools that create additional burdens. When today's restaurant operators implement reliable solutions, they remedy operational pain points instead of adding to them. On the flip side, operators who choose the traditional pen and paper way of doing business will never reach scale or remain competitive for any length of time. Technological innovation drives today's hospitality industry, and those businesses that showcase that will positively impact their brand value.
So, let's look at the four ways that technology increases your restaurant brand's value and what that entails.
When automating any restaurant process, the result means less manual work for restaurant staff. By dropping a manual process for an automated one, employees can focus on their primary objective — interacting with customers so that they have an exceptional experience instead of merely an adequate one. Front-of-house technology solutions allow your restaurant staff to devote their time to the task at hand. They needn't fool with manual processes that take them away from the tableside interactions that build brand rapport.
By adopting technologies that streamline management processes, a brand can quickly expand into new markets. This expansion might happen through added physical locations or addressing the booming off-premise dining trend. Today's back-of-house technology solutions can turn this expansion chaos into calm. You'll sleep easier knowing that once you've implemented recipe viewer technology, you can push that information to all your kitchens at the same time, across state lines, complete with preparation instructions and corresponding photos of how the meal should look.
Operators who don't have a McDonalds, Wendy's, or KFC global expansion view, likely will still want to address the staggering off-premise dining trend that shows no signs of slowing down. Last year, a co-produced study published by CHD Expert and Off-Premise Insights indicated that off-premise restaurant sales would likely top $300 billion by 2023. The same research also foreshadowed the increased importance for restaurant operators to be tech-forward in all segments.
The shifting consumer habits leave some restaurant operators only one option — scramble to keep up with consumers who want what they want when they want it. Whether you blame Netflix, Amazon, eBay, or Chewy for changing consumer behavior, it doesn't matter. The change is here, and restaurateurs who don't address this shift will fall out of the race and face dwindling customers. Non-perishables used to be the only thing consumers ordered online. Still, with the emergence of third-party delivery companies, and AmazonFresh Grocery Delivery service, consumers are ordering and consuming perishable food at home.
The consumer change in dining behavior has caused a host of problems for restaurants. Those operators new to the game, are struggling to package meals for quick delivery, to keep the kitchen apprised of incoming orders, to throttle orders when the demands go beyond what the kitchen can handle, and let the host know when the meal is coming out of the kitchen for drivers. A front-of-house technology that seamlessly communicates with the back of the house can alleviate those operational pain points that come with expansion.
A restaurant must obtain quality feedback, then act quickly to improve. Restaurants that do so, reap enormous rewards for their brands. Soliciting feedback helps consumers feel heard and valued; their input to their restaurant of choice matters to them and the business. With the use of mobile apps, reviews, guest surveys — all deployed through technologies — restaurant brands can interact with guests more consistently. Additionally, restaurants can gain almost immediate feedback, that when acted upon, can increase brand value by keeping negative reviews out of the public eye.
Chili's Bar & Grill has continued to gather valuable insights since 2013 as one of the first movers in the casual dining industry to adopt tabletop survey technology. As a result, the restaurant chain has gained real-time feedback from 25 percent of its guests who use the tablets to complete surveys at the end of their meal, according to Forbes contributor and customer service consultant Micah Solomans' 2016 article.
Today, more and more restaurant brands are embracing even newer technologies for compiling immediate guest feedback after their guests' dining experience. Whether it's a star rating on a touchpad or a guest survey that quickly pops on the customers' smartphone for a response, operators are enacting guest survey technologies to gather feedback.
Whether you offer a fine-dining, fast-casual, or quick-serve experience in an independent, multi-unit, or large chain environment, soliciting feedback is paramount. Often, operators put too much time between the experience and guest comments (think: table-placed guest survey comment cards of the past). Things move fast in today's business climate. This lag between experience and guest feedback inhibits actions that could be taken quickly to head off a diner who has had a less than optimal experience. Or a negative online review complaining of music being too loud or restaurant temperatures not to their liking. Technologies now exist that can quickly put your diners' sentiments in the palm of your hand for evaluation and immediate operational improvements.
Finally, no place in business has technology impacted restaurants more than with payments. You might think that getting quicker payments for your meals is a prime benefit to owners, and it is. However, consumers love it too. We all hate waiting! Consumers see no point in lingering at a table, so when a restaurant doesn't address their time constraints, your brand value decreases. Use technology to provide an easy and convenient way to pay from the table, and you treat your customers to easy payments while increasing table turns that add to your bottom line at the end of every month.
Before meeting with a technology partner, sit down and make a list of your operational pain points. Then, write down what you want to achieve a year, three years, or five years from now. Do you want to expand beyond your single location? Expand across state lines? Add takeout dining to attract younger customers who have driven the off-premise phenomenon? Or, do you want to survey your customers to help determine the next changes to be made in your business? With that recorded list, you are ready to reach out to one of the many technology vendors who can help lead you to a solution that fits your needs. The technology should be seamless between FOH and BOH, should not become immediately obsolete, and offer years of benefit with less pen and paper aggravation. Your restaurant brand will thank you!
About the Author
Lee Leet is the CEO of QSR Automations, which he founded in 1996. QSR has become an industry leader in technology stack integrations, after developing industry solutions that advance restaurant innovations and empowerment. QSR has created ConnectSmart Kitchen, a kitchen automation solution, and DineTime, a guest management platform to help restaurants efficiently manage resources, time, staff, and the dining experience.