Viewing entries tagged

Technology in Restaurants- What does the Future Hold?

Technology in Restaurants- What does the Future Hold?

Recently, our fearless leader Lonny went to a rather popular chain restaurant with his kids and when he arrived at work the next morning, there was only one thought on his mind. This thought wasn’t about the quality of the food (which for the record, wasn’t great), but rather, the fact that the restaurant had tablets built into every table.  This interesting feature opened up a debate in our office about the pros and cons of bringing technology to the dinner table. 

First, let’s tackle the obvious - how technology is applied in the restaurant space is key.  Meal time is an opportunity to do more than eat; it’s a time for people to get together and actually talk to each other (believe it or not, there are some who still engage in face to face conversations from time to time.) I don’t love the idea of adding a permanent distraction in the middle of the table that gives people even more of a reason to ignore each other.  Who hasn’t walked into a restaurant, stumbled across the following scene (or have even been a part of it) and thought, “Yikes, this is wrong!"

Phones down, eyes up people!  Not a great look, to say the least, but it is safe to say this is not the end result restaurants are looking for.  So let’s take a moment to collectively agree that when we sit down with our friends, families and loved ones for a good meal, we try to actually interact with one another.  Glad we got that out of the way…

Now, this is not to say there isn’t a use for this kind of “table tech.”  In fact, notable chains like Olive Garden and Chili’s have recently partnered with Ziosk, a company specializing in tablets for the diners that actually offer a greater level of engagement with the restaurant itself.  Ziok’s tablets allow diners to view the menu, submit an order, alert their server, pay a bill, etc., all meant to help streamline the dining experience.  To be clear, these are NOT set out to replace your traditional wait staff, but to offer them another way to interact with the customer.  I doubt you’ll find many diners get up in arms over a more efficient dining process…

What I find particularly intriguing here is the “business-to-consumer” application.  Could be the marketer in me, but if there is a tablet (read: easy access consumer touch point) available at every table I immediately think to ways we can tie in third parties.  The possibilities are seemingly endless:  Traditional advertisements, discounts and customer loyalty tracking / awards, promoting branded menu items (i.e.: Friday’s line of Jack Daniels meals), etc.  Simply put these technological integrations offer marketers a fresh, dynamic and cost effective medium to reach consumers; that’s essentially the marketing holy grail!

Moving past the consumer application, some restaurants have taken it a step further and are applying technological solutions in the kitchen.  Imagine this, in real-time restaurants can track orders, keep tabs on inventory, and ensure the entire process happens as efficiently as possible.  That can be a game-changer for some restaurants, many of whom likely don’t know the answer to simple operation questions that fuel their business.  True labor costs, material costs, food costs per-menu item, food waste ratios etc. are critically important to a restaurant’s longevity, but are often difficult to compute.  These sorts of technological integrations could prove to be a saving grace for chefs and restaurateurs across the board. 

The truth is, technology’s vice-like grip on our everyday lives isn’t letting up anytime soon, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing…

How's your Mobile APPetite?

Mobile apps are nothing new. In fact, according to a 2015 survey, 89 percent of the time people spend on media platforms is through mobile apps. Because of their increasing popularity, it should be no surprise that mobile apps have found their way into the food industry through individual restaurant apps. Here are four reason why restaurants should be creating apps:

1.       Loyalty

Mobile-based loyalty programs are much more personal than those that involve a hard-copy punch card. A 2014 study found that, 65 percent of restaurant customers are willing to download a restaurant’s app if it offers exclusive perks or deals, and a whopping 80 percent of those customers will return to the restaurant to redeem.

Effective rewards programs do not have to be elaborate or difficult. Starbucks, for example, has a very simple rewards feature on its app that gives customers a free coffee after they spend a certain amount of money. Beyond giving out points for purchasing items, loyalty programs are also a great way to incentivize customers to refer friends and family to the restaurant.

2.       Easy Reservations and Online Ordering

Apps that allow customers to make reservations without the stress of calling is a sure-fire way to help fill seats. Reserving a table on your phone appeals to costumers because of its convenience.

Online ordering is another valuable feature for any restaurant’s mobile app. Roast Kitchen in New York City has a mobile app that allows consumers to place their lunch order and select their preferred pick-up time so that they can drop by at their convenience and avoid waiting in long lines during the lunch rush.  In fact, my coworkers and I are much more likely to order lunch from Roast Kitchen than almost anywhere else based purely on the ease and convenience of its mobile app!  

3.       Social Sharing

If you want customers to engage with your brand, you’ve got to make it easy on them, right? Mobile apps give diners a convenient platform on which to write reviews, share feedback, or post photos of their experience. Social media is essentially free marketing for restaurants so encouraging people to post regularly through your mobile app is a great way to grow word-of-mouth awareness. Plus, the easier you can make it for a customer to share a good review, the better.  

4.       Push Notifications

Push notifications notify users of new deals, events, or specials, and they allow restaurants to communicate with customers even when the app is not running. Tacolicious in San Francisco started sending out push notifications for its “Margarita Monday” happy hours and now every Monday their bar is fully crowded with people. Tacolicious owner Joe Hargrave said, “We couldn’t be happier with customer response from the Tacolicious app. Online ordering has increased and our Margarita Monday happy hour push notifications filled the house!”

In addition to alerting consumers to upcoming specials and unique events, push notifications serve to just keep your restaurant top-of-mind so that the next time the user is seeking a good place to eat, they’ll know right where to turn.

In a world where cellphones are attached to their owners 24/7, and those owners are spending the majority of their smartphone time on mobile apps, it makes sense that business see a boost when they create their very own applications. There are countless ways to take advantage of these revenue boosters and attract more customers, so it’s a wonder more business haven’t boarded the mobile app bandwagon. You can be confident it won’t be slowing down anytime soon…