A SHIFT TOWARD SELF-SERVICE AND PERSONALIZATION
We believe the shift toward off-prem and contactless solutions reflects an overall desire on that part of consumers for self-service and personalization. “Contactless in 2021 becomes another channel for the operator to provide to the customer and adds a dimension of flexibility to allow the customer to dictate the nature of the transaction,” says Malbec.
HT’s 2020 Customer Engagement Technology Study: What Do Guests Want Now? suggests that more than 60 percent of restaurant customers surveyed consider drive-thru and online menus, ordering, and payments to be key factors when they are choosing one restaurant over another. HT's 2021 Restaurant Technology Study: Building the Next Normal suggests that a full 96 percent of restaurant operators have either adopted online ordering for pickup or plan to do so this year.
“Giving the guest options for how they want to order, pay, and even receive service just helps to continue to define hospitality,” says White. “The end goal of our business is to build relationships between the service provider and guest. Service is specific to the individual guest and those organizations which flex to meet the guest needs vs. expecting the guest to flex to meet theirs are the ones who end up on top.”
While self-service and personalization in the QSR and fast casual space was already on the rise pre-pandemic, Fiorarancio points out that they have accelerated across full-service dining as well. “If you asked me in January 2020 how long before self-service and personalization became mainstream, I would have predicted a few years. I believe the pandemic has sped up deployment and adoption of these technologies by at least one or two years, and if anyone is opening a restaurant in 2021, I’d be shocked if they didn’t have some kind of strategy around digital ordering.”
LOYALTY & ANALYTICS
In addition to self-service and personalization, contactless transactions have the potential to bolster restaurants’ efforts in loyalty and predictive analytics by leveraging data like never before. From offering perks and deals to frequent customers to drilling down on customers’ ordering habits and preferences in order to create streamlined menus and opportunities for upselling, all that data can be a goldmine. But challenges remain when tracking guest behavior — and in integrating various solutions so that they can speak to one another in a meaningful way.
“Some contactless payment solutions require (or make it simple to provide) attainable guest identifiers that can be used to tie the guest to the transaction,” notes Joe Tenczar, Chief Strategy Officer, Sonny’s BBQ and CIO & Founder, Restaurant CIOs. “Transactions that do not require email address, phone number, or self-identification make this link very difficult otherwise. In many cases a loyalty program is in place only to have guests identify themselves and tie them to their purchases. If this can be done in other ways, there is generally more data and more success in understanding guest behavior. This behavior, at the micro level, will allow segmented/ targeted marketing including programs that benefit from understanding the customer lifetime value.”
The Open API Framework offered by the Restaurant Technology Network (RTN) offers a breakthrough in integration. “The past year and the rise of contactless transactions have literally put the restaurant’s POS system into the hands of their guests via mobile order/pay,” says Fiorarancio. “There are now seemingly hundreds of contactless transaction solutions on the market from startups to established market leaders. The challenge of taking these solutions and integrating it into an existing tech stack is still a problem in our industry and my hope is that initiatives such as RTN’s Open API Framework and additional competition in the space encourages providers to make their products easy to integrate with solutions so restaurants of all size can consider a ‘best of breed’ approach to technology that can be fully integrated with loyalty, analytics, CRM, etc.”