The hospitality and food service business is a major player in the economy. It goes without saying that people’s blood, sweat and tears account in part for the steady growth of the industry and it would seem appropriate that restaurant owners look to current technologies, reinvesting funds to enhance profit and customer satisfaction.
Technology trends are a funny thing. We as consumers embrace them on one level but might question them on another as having the potential to waste our well-earned money only to be taken over by another in a few months’ time.
Restaurants however have been one trade to employ a range of technologies and have embraced these as a vehicle for delivering what the customer wants; fast, quality service and excellent choices.
So if you see yourself as a player in the industry, here is some food for thought representing just a few choices for service providers.
Can I Take Your Order?
The extremely popular trend of having an iPad or similar table menu and ordering systems on restaurant tables not only frees up your staff, but can act as a sales person and marketing team all rolled into one.
Memories fail on even the most experienced wait staff when under pressure. Eliminates human error on handwritten order pads. Happy staff can equate to happy diners.
Not only can your patrons choose, order and pay for their meals, but can join your loyalty program, log onto their social media accounts and watch their favorite television show all while enjoying your venue.
And just to take it one step further, remember the old mini juke boxes on the tables where you can dial up your most loved tunes? Well, there’s one step up from that now currently on offer. Say hello to your robotic bartender. With the ability to mix and deliver your Cocktails and drinks on tabletop the idea is to augment the actual bartender, not replace.
Implementing an electronic payment system would seem on of the oldest forms of convenience for customers. We have been living with Point of Sale electronic payment by card for some time, and it’s hard to imagine any retail outlet not having the availability. These days, payment using SQUARE, and soon to be worldwide Apple-Pay will also become the norm. While we are not a completely cashless society, it’s not far off.
Mobile and Online Ordering
The smart phone and mobile devices have become invaluable to the restaurant trade. They are and will continue to be, a tool to be welcomed and utilised for the entrepreneur start up trader, and the experienced restaurateur.
Stay at home diners can order home delivery, or pic-up takeaway as long as your site has the provision to keep up with demands for this basic of technology.
A simple survey of your patrons as a way of justifying any financial outlay, may well prove that many would certainly, if given the option, pay the cheque by wireless device.
Digital Menu Boards
Having large LCD screens showing your range of cuisine provides electronically, an ability to change pricing, menu items and wine lists daily.
They can removes costs of sign writers, printers, and save staff time where employed to list on chalkboards and type written paper menus. Electronic boards can display ingredients, any allergen information, or dietary requirement e.g. gluten free, nut free, dairy free without the staff having to remember.
Consumers are beginning to love the idea of having information on where their food is coming from and more importantly, what’s in it.
The displays can be use simply as a specials board or Invited patrons to special event nites.
The appeal of these types of menus is that technology has soared, and in line with that prices have come down. These kind of monitor no longer runs into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Toil and Trouble
It is not just front of house where new technologies are being incorporated. Kitchens and food preparation areas are too becoming a focus for proprietors concerned with keeping up with requirements for occupational health safety and hygiene best practice.
Monitors and cameras are being installed to ensure food preparation and cleanliness compliance is met.
Hazard reduction is also very much in the forefront of new technologies with LED lights illuminating work areas and equipment that are heat based or areas where slippage may occur such as dish washing workstations.
Workplace injuries can account for increased amounts of staff absence with the downtime affecting your customers and ultimately, your profits. This kind of technology alerts staff and acts as a reminder to be more vigilant in potentially hazardous areas of their workspace.
Is this now old hat compared to some advances currently on offer? High speed internet access may have certainly been (and still is) an expectation for the Café scene. Coffee goers demand access, and free access to enable work and play with ease. More restaurant type venues are looking at this as a value add not dissimilar to hotel industry.
Providing a ‘hotspot’ can provide diners options which is great but whether it acts as a customer retention tool remains to be seen.
Who knew we would be running rapidly toward the age of the Jetsons. I personally, cannot wait for the roast-dinner-in-a-tube dispensing machine and the Sky-High diner. It should really come as no surprise as human beings fervently devour new technology
Interestingly though, the jury is out for some as to the value of new technology such as payment options and on table electronic menus, with some rendering them as novelties that will be eventually lost to more traditional customer service based efforts.
Regardless, it certainly remains a case of what best fits your restaurant and what will appeal to your customers. That generally comes down to quick excellent and effective service without any glaring anomalies.
As a matter of research. The National Restaurant Association shows reports on technological trends in restaurants and is worth a look to see current topics and challenges.
Don’t forget, lines go down and technology does fail us at times. The answer would be also to ensure your restaurant has the ability to deal with such hiccups and revert back to a by gone age, even momentarily.
The thing about any new technologies, regardless of industry, is that they evolve so quickly. The next biggest trend is sometimes already superseded, we just don’t know it yet. This is not a bad thing. It means that there’s people out there that understand your industry and its needs, from both a business and customer point of view.
So, all we can do is embrace what’s on offer at the moment, with one eye looking to the future.