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6 Lesser Known Uses of Beacons in Restaurants

Equipped with mobile devices, consumers today value personalized, contextual mobile engagement, built around their current location, interests and buying preferences. According to a recent Mblox survey, 80% of consumers prefer receiving personalized, context-aware branded content through their mobile app. Therefore, it is highly likely that, merging mobile marketing efforts with iBeacon technology could result in higher click-through, quicker conversion, more sales and greater loyalty.
For years, just like retailers, the restaurant industry relied on customer check-ins to have a better understanding of the frequency of visits and the range of social media shares offered by customers. One of the many challenges faced was the inability to connect with customers and have meaningful interactions. Integrating beacons with a mobile strategy will help level the playing field by responding to customers’ timely contextual content needs. 
Although beacons are popularly considered to be a retailer-focused opportunity, restaurants have a lot to gain from this new proximity-detection technology, as it allows them to have meaningful, personalized conversations with customers. Here are a few ideas on how restaurants can put beacons to use:
1. Let customers order-ahead
This is particularly useful for QSRs with a high-purchase frequency. For example, if a restaurant offers customers something that they consume on a daily basis, such as coffee, doughnuts etc., then allowing customers to order ahead will help reduce waiting time. In fact, a number of mobile commerce apps such as Q app have helped restaurants increase average order value by successfully integrating order-ahead capabilities into operations.
What frustrates customers even more, is having to wait for coffee when they arrive, even after having ordered ahead via the mobile app. Avoid this by installing a long-range beacon, that will send an alert to kitchen staff once the customer is within a certain distance from the location. This ensures that staff has the order ready.
2. Let customers know how crowded the restaurant is, before arrival
Keeping customers informed about how busy a restaurant is at a particular time is one way to allow them to cut down on the time they need to wait.. Deploying beacons around a restaurant will in turn provide real-time information on how many people are actually dining there at a given point in time.
3. Push customized notifications with offers on a customer’s favorite dish
Beacons are best used for pushing contextually relevant notifications to customers. It’s important to not overwhelm users with notifications, as it could nudge them towards opting-out or un-installing an app. The key here is to have a deep understanding of the value offered to customers and deliver it in the best way possible.
For example, allow customers to bookmark favorite dishes on the mobile app. This is so that when they walk by a restaurant any day, the restaurant can automatically push notifications with an enticing offer on the dish the customer bookmarked earlier. 
4. Organize scavenger hunts
As in the case of events, gamification plays a crucial role in offering enhanced customer engagement at restaurants. This helps you prevent boredom by involving your customers in various events that are held at your restaurant, by delivering personalized deals and messages. A few pubs in lower New York, recently used beacons to gamify a traditional pub crawl. As a part of Beacon Crawl, an interactive bar crawl event, beacons were installed in the sponsor venues and various locations to guide crawlers to secret spots where they were greeted with welcome notifications and clues to unlock special drinks and offers via beacons. Further, they enhanced engagement by awarding crawlers for completing tasks, such as sharing content via social media, meeting other crawlers, ordering food etc.
5. Deliver custom menus and pricing to valued customers
Another way of personalizing customers’ dining experiences is to deploy beacons to deliver custom menus to valued customers based on previous orders and visit history. To push things a little further, deliver custom pricing, rewarding those customers who pay frequent visits. Even better, offer customized discounts for first-time customers, encouraging them to come back often.
6.  Gain better insights into restaurant traffic
Beacons can be used to collect massive amounts of untapped data such as the number of beacon hits and customer dwell time at beacons within a specified time and date range, busiest hours throughout the day or week, number of customers served etc., and  make improvements on better allocation of staff and services.
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