Restaurants no longer face a choice between having a digital presence and functioning as brick-and-mortar vendors. They must be both nowadays. As they advance with the times, the test ahead for restaurants will be remaining true to their values, missions, and brands.
On the other hand, restaurant marketers still find it difficult to reach patrons in the age 18-35 demographic. “The power of mobile technology is radically altering customer expectations,” declares database and software enterprise giant Oracle as a result of a massive survey titled Millennials and Hospitality: the Redefinition of Service. “Today, mobile technology is requiring hospitality operators to reassess the service they offer – and redefine it.”
I have observed three emerging trends that will shape restaurants and the way that they interact with their patrons in the near future. Here is my take on these three emerging trends:
Table Restaurant Management
Restaurateurs are teaming up with software developers to create apps and other tools that catalog the menu by a selection’s name or ingredients, offer real-time views of tables, process sales and delivery tickets, and send orders to the kitchen. New restaurants or those considering totally revamping their processes will get the most value out of software options.
Effortless Order allows restaurateurs to set up an online ordering menu, which their patrons can access from any desktop, laptop, iPad or smartphone. Restaurant owners can use the software to give patrons the options of pick up or delivery as well. Each restaurant gets its own app, which patrons can download. Patrons can then order directly using the app.
This type of software has several benefits. First, it allows restaurants to remain competitive. Your staff will make fewer mistakes, since patrons will do their own ordering. The software also allows you to keep your existing customer base, and to enlarge it. The sizes of your orders are likely to increase, since online orders tend to be 15 percent larger than conventional ones, probably because patrons feel rushed when ordering by phone.
Other aspects of restaurant operations, such as power conservation and waste management can also be directed by the emerging technologies. For example, automation can enhance an IT department’s use of virtual and cloud resources, powering down resources during idle times, and allocating extra resources when required.
Digital ordering and payments will soon become standard for the restaurant industry. By 2020, smartphones are projected to become the wallets of their users, and cash will be a relic of a bygone era. Market research company eMarketer has forecast 210 percent growth in the total value of mobile payments in 2016 – tripling from its current $9 billion to $27 billion.
However, one of the challenges with mobile wallets is merchant and consumer adoption. Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay have had a hard time driving demand and changing patron behavior. Payment platforms are expected to continue the fight to increase usage and consumers in 2016 – so what should you do? Find out which mobile offering will reduce patron difficulties the most and adopt it for your business.
A common point for credit-card fraud is when servers take patrons’ plastic away and run it up at the register. That often-endless wait for the card and bill to return doesn’t win fans, either. Patrons will be happier if the server hands them a restaurant iPad where they can self-checkout, so their credit cards don’t leave their sight.
Most cellular users are now on smartphones, and it’s easy for business owners to see that their workers are now used to touch screen technology. This brings us to another reason why it makes a lot of business sense for restaurateurs to look into providing a tablet POS system – the learning curve behind a tablet POS system is far less, and restaurants will find that they can devote less time and money to coaching workers.
Apart from payment options, new developments are also being seen in loyalty programs and marketing. Starbucks has already integrated mobile ordering with the brand’s loyalty program, and Taco Bell allows customers to customize orders, save favorite items, and pay via mobile phone. Americans are lazy, and restaurants can profit from that. InstaCart, DoorDash, and even Uber are eager to get in on the restaurant delivery game.
New Ways to Advertise
Competition in the restaurant industry is brutal, and margins are still tight, and so restaurants are finally beginning to embrace technology not as a nice-to-have, but as a must-have. Service providers such as Effortless Order are also including the ability to stay in contact with customers via SMS text messages, email, or through the phone app.
Restaurants have four basic ways to distribute their inventory:
1. Mobile or online through their own app or website
2. Mobile or online through general third-party apps or reservation sites
3. The old-style phone-in method
4. Call centers
The current embracing of smartphone technology could spell transformation for restaurant’s advertising and marketing. Conventional marketing, coupons, and other old-style methods people have used in the past, are going to be in dramatic decline. The money previously spent on old-fashioned advertising will be redirected to social media and to developing a true relationship with patrons.
Ordering via mobile app gives restaurants new ways to capture customer data, and it also tends to increase the average bill. With the upsurge in online and mobile advertising, in-store tablets may become more recognized and seamlessly integrated as part of the fast-food experience.
Family and fast food eateries, cafeterias, and diners alike are experimenting with restaurant media, a budding type of retail marketing that reaches patrons while they eat. Fliers, billboards, and paper tray covers have been used for decades by the fast food industry as in-store promotion media; digital signage is fast replacing these forms of advertising.
This trend will have significant effects on the manner in which restaurants will administer their distressed inventory through both coupon campaigns and allocations. The social media has similar effects, and is also a powerful marketing tool.
For broad-based awareness of your restaurant and its personality, technology is effective for marketing. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other interactive social media outfits, as well as blogging to post items linked to your restaurant’s food style, for example, may increase knowledge of its resonating points of differentiation. Blogs can also add value to your website’s visibility and search engine ranking and are a useful technique for publicizing updates about the restaurant and new promotions.
A loyalty program is a great device to increase patron retention. Restaurants with access to unique patron preferences are able to target these persons in a manner that will improve their experience and keep them coming back. Restaurants should also consider incorporating their loyalty program into a mobile app so as to produce a smooth dining experience for customers.
Two-thirds of patrons overall say they’re more likely to support a restaurant that offers a loyalty program, and it’s the number-one feature named by baby boomers as a desired tech option. In implementing these new methods, remember that technology isn’t just for millennials: consider the button and font sizes of what appears on the screen to accommodate easy viewing.
Conclusions and Implications for the Industry
Reputation management is more important than ever before, with smartphone connectivity and access to review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. Engaging with patrons and responding to their needs publicly through these and similar forums can go a long way in driving future reservations.
From menus and marketing to accounting and analytics, from how we locate restaurants to how we pay our tabs, the new technology is impacting every practical area of the food industry. Too few restaurant establishments are moving fast enough to keep pace.
With the typical patron now examining his or her phone 150 times per day, and buying a new phone every two years, it’s a marvel that so few restaurant companies are spending on digital, mobile, and social tools that can assist with everything from cutting costs to driving revenues, delivering valuable insights into their businesses, improving efficiency, and enriching the guest experience.
If you are concerned about how grub hub and eat 24 are actively marketing clients in your area; and would like to know how you can protect and grow your customer base, then we encourage you to talk to one of our friendly industry experts.
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