Restaurants are facing new challenges as rising inflation rates, staff shortages, and the enduring effects of the COVID-19 pandemic create another wave of anxiety among businesses and consumers alike. As the cost for goods and services continues to rise, combined with the impact of a tight labor market, many operators are leveraging technological innovation and personalization to safeguard their businesses from greater disruption.
A hybrid dining experience
Throughout the early days of the pandemic, which were littered with lockdowns, restrictions, and understandably cautious consumer behavior, restaurants had to quickly adapt to a new way of reaching and retaining customers to avoid permanent closures. As a result, more businesses began embracing a variety of omnichannel solutions to effectively bridge both online and brick-and-mortar storefronts. This has led to a proliferation of dining options, ranging from enhanced mobile ordering to contactless pick-up, plus the expansion of at-home delivery, all of which enable customers to continue to enjoy meals from their favorite local restaurants, without having to dine in-person.
Restaurant operators who have recognized the value of expanding beyond their physical footprint to embrace innovations in digital hospitality are not only building a personalized experience for diners, but they’re also reaping the benefits that can provide a competitive advantage. Even with the return of in-person dining, consumers continue to favor the speed and convenience of the omnichannel experience they’ve come to expect, further demonstrating the importance of utilizing multiple sales channels to ultimately reach more customers.
For in-person customers, creating opportunities for diners to organically share social posts can be a gold mine: if the restaurant has an Instagram-friendly shot or incentivizes customers to share pictures or videos of chef-crafted dishes, drinks, and memorable experiences – this content is then amplified through Instagram’s new Map feature, which enables viewers to see ‘stories’ they may be interested in, wherever they may be.
Adopting integrated payments technology
When it comes to creating a truly frictionless customer experience, providing more checkout options can help restaurants maintain a competitive advantage as consumer expectations shift and new payment methods become increasingly more popular. Even as the living costs continue to rise and consumers look for ways to control their spending, leveraging a mix of payment options will enable businesses to operate more efficiently while reducing wait times for customers, as well as the demand on service staff.
- Embrace contactless technology at all checkout points, including self-service kiosks,to provide customers the convenience and physical safety that many have come to expect. Since becoming more widely available in the U.S., many customers and businesses find solutions such as 'tapping to pay' to be faster, ultimately speeding up the transaction process. Paysafe’s latest consumer research, which was released in June 2022, reveals that two-thirds of consumers (67%) indicate that they now regularly make contactless payments with their credit or debit card.
- Speaking of self-service, implementing kiosk ordering, QR codes, and the option for guests to pay up-front amid an ongoing labor shortage can help restaurants turn tables faster without overwhelming staff members.
- Optimize the dining experience for guests by offering a pay-at-the-table option. Implementing mobile-based point-of-sale (POS) systems that offers the full functionality to power the checkout experience from anywhere within a store empowers service members to take care of a customer directly at the table – not just at the register. By plugging into mobile-compatible software that transforms smartphone devices and tablets into an autonomous POS system, service staff members can reduce wait times and ultimately speed up the transaction process.
- Level up your POS systems to accept traditional forms of payment and alternative payment methods (APMs), such as digital or mobile wallets. With over a third (39%) of American consumers confirming that their payment habits have changed since the onset of the pandemic, offering quick and easy checkout solutions that take into account how customers want to pay is key to winning new business, strengthening relationships with existing clientele, and converting one-time visitors into return customers.
Getting social with customers
If there’s one thing the last two and half years has taught us, it’s the power of connections. For restaurants, social media is a golden opportunity to build meaningful relationships with customers, gain a deeper understanding of who they are, enhance brand loyalty, and even reach new audiences. But simply having an online presence isn’t enough to safeguard businesses’ operations – remaining engaged and active in this space is also key. The benefits are vast. However, here are few important factors to keep in mind when considering implementing a robust social media strategy.
- Social media is an affordable and effective tool for self-promotion and customer advocacy. As businesses look to cut back on marketing spend, reinvesting that time, energy, and creativity into establishing an authentic social presence builds trust, spurring a sense of advocacy among loyal customers.
- Social media enables businesses to interact with consumers across various communities by utilizing geo-targeting campaigns. Whether expanding your presence on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest, most popular social platforms provide tools specifically tailored to small businesses, allowing them to reach both new and local audiences through location-based campaigns. This has become increasingly popular within the hospitality industry as hungry tourists and visitors look for local places to dine.
- Social media is the ultimate customer service tool. Active engagement over social channels enables businesses to impart meaningful interactions with consumers. Making proper use of the way customers engage with your brand online can help establish loyalty, promote brand awareness, address questions and customer concerns, and provide useful information, such as new menu items, updated business hours, or events and promotions. Restaurants can also leverage their social platforms to conduct surveys and gather direct feedback.
- Restaurants can leverage social media for recruiting purposes and also lean on their online community to re-share job postings. While there isn’t a simple solution to solve the labor shortage, utilizing social promotion to fill an open position is a great way to start. Not only are you reaching out directly to your community, but other followers can take this strategy to another level by spreading the word across their networks.
By establishing a balance between technological innovation and personalization, restaurants can focus on creating an enhanced customer experience, driving sales, and ultimately thrive amid ongoing economic uncertainty.
About the Author
Afshin Yazdian, President, Merchant Solutions at Paysafe. Afshin joined Paysafe in July 2020 and leads the company’s Global Merchant Solutions team focused on providing processing solutions to hundreds of thousands of merchants around the world. Afshin brings extensive leadership experience with FinTech organizations.