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Executive Insight: Offering Guests Options

Laurent May, Head of Ready

As restaurants scramble to adapt to the new normal, how can technology help by delivering efficiency, security, and ROI?

The new normal has created a new baseline for restaurants and one that isn’t going away after the pandemic. Guests now expect options that afford them safety and convenience while being able to interact with restaurants in a contactless way that doesn’t feel clunky, robotic or non-intuitive. That’s where tech comes in. Restaurants are leveraging tech to deliver a dining experience that creates that direct connection, while facilitating operational efficiencies through things like faster table turns, cost saving direct takeout, streamlined staff service points, increased tips, higher order volumes and accuracy - the list goes on. 

From digital menus instead of single use print outs, ordering on your smartphone instead of with a server or kiosk, the option to redeem rewards at the point of payment and leave a short review for data insights- all these efficiencies can be implemented quickly, without the need to invest in hardware. Customers carry the power in their own hands, literally, by being able to manage that full experience from their own device - and restaurants can reap the benefits and begin to see ROI straight away.

Technology is enabling restaurants to both connect with customers directly and open new ways of serving up a great experience with continual improvements, which in the end is the goal for operators and their tech partners alike.

As restaurants adopt and refine off-prem solutions such as pick-up, drive-thru, and delivery, what new challenges, such as security and food safety, does off-prem present? How is technology meeting those challenges?

Some of the biggest challenges we’ve seen actually stem from restaurants’ ability to pivot quickly to offer alternative solutions. In order to take advantage of this time, restaurants are working closely with their technology partners (or searching for new ones) to develop long-term digital transformation strategies to fortify their businesses post COVID-19. The challenge in this scenario is restaurants with a 5-year roadmap for digital transformation are needing to pivot to turn them into 3 – 6-month plans.

We’ve also seen a shift from dependence on the 3rd party delivery companies. They made sense when dining rooms were open and fixed costs were supporting operations but relying on that as the key channel for serving your customers is not sustainable, presenting the most pressing challenge in these uncertain economic times. Here is where we have seen restaurants looking for first party delivery, pick-up, and virtual drive-thru solutions to better be able to manage and own that process. Technology can facilitate the direct relationship with diners that were previously being paid for through third parties, while extending the service options available to restaurants forced to shrink on-premise capacity to accommodate social distancing.

Restaurants are collecting more consumer data than ever before -- how can technology leverage that data to enhance direct-to-consumer communications, personalization, and loyalty?

It’s such an exciting time for restaurants right now to really engage with and fully utilise the insights guest data can offer to help sustain and grow their business. The limits to what this could bring to the dining experience, brand engagement and customer retention are almost endless, providing they have a two-pronged approach.

By using technology at the point of payment specifically to collect and analyse key data points like average spend, tips, popular menu items etc paired with the invitation to guests to rank service factors and contribute commentary in real time - we have clients poised now more than ever before to be proactive and not reactive when it comes to guest data. Leveraging the transactional data with the ‘experiential data’ is the key. It is equal parts art and science and where the true value of data can come to life in terms of real value to the guest.