In the recent Restaurant Technology Industry Report, we saw that restaurant customers practically identify convenience with technology. They want to be able to place orders through a restaurant’s website, and they certainly prefer to pay with cards.
What does this tell us? If you want to improve the dining experience of your customers, restaurant owners and managers need to keep an eye on technology. Most restaurants don’t have the budget to implement all the technological wonders that pop up every day. But, you can learn where the future is headed and plan your budget in a way that allows your staff behavior and restaurant procedures to be more tech-friendly. Needless to say, most tech features will ultimately return an investment, if planned and implemented properly.
Are you ready to go high tech? The investments don’t have to be huge, but they can certainly boost the efficiency of your restaurant business. With that goal in mind, here’s 10 technology features — some on the bleeding edge and some perhaps already at your location — that illustrate the future of the restaurant industry.
[Note: Just remember, technology should never completely replace face-to-face interaction with your restaurant customer. There still needs to be a positive customer service experience with every visit.]
1. Interactive Tables
Okay, maybe your restaurant doesn’t desperately need interactive tables, but you may definitely consider this upgrade if you’re aiming for the high-tech effect. These tables look like giant tablets. They enable the customers to go through the menu, place orders, play games, set the mood, or even browse through the map of the neighborhood.
2. Feedback Features
Restaurant-goers love leaving feedback, and you’ll be making that easy for them with this feature. It doesn’t have to be a huge investment; you can simply add happy/sad face buttons to the interactive features when a customer pays the check. That simple interface can capture the customer’s immediate impressions of the experience.
Keep in mind that customer feedback (especially when tied to an actual purchase) can help you improve your restaurant’s service and offerings.
3. A Perfect Website
Before reserving a table at a restaurant, customers will certainly visit your website. This is your chance to show how cool the vibe of your place is, and how welcoming an environment you provide. Your website should not just feature the menu and the prices, but all other information about the restaurant as well. Keep it short, but if you’re not a natural scribe, you could hire writers to present the place in the best light.
Make sure to enable online orders and reservations, too!
4. Kitchen Display System
Kitchens get quite hectic during busy hours. And printed tickets contribute towards the mess. When you mount a kitchen display system on the wall, it will clearly show all orders to the team, and the time they’ve already been in process. This will enable simpler and more effective organization, as well as the ability to prioritize and keep delivery times to a minimum.
5. Online Booking with a Floorplan
When a customer is trying to book a table online, wouldn’t they love to see a floorplan, so they can pick their table? We’re not talking about a simple floor plan with these programs. The perfect one would inform the customers about the availability at any given time, so they won’t opt for a table that’s already been booked.
Programs entering the market now use the color system – green means that the table is available, and red means that the table is reserved. If the customer wants to drop in right now, they should also see what tables are currently occupied, marked in yellow.
The drawback? A program like this would require a very tight tableturn process for your staff.
6. Meal Progress Bar
When people order food, they want to know exactly when it’s going to arrive at their door. The meal progress bar at your website or app would be a great way to keep them calm. It will let them know when the food is being prepared, when it goes out for delivery, and when it arrives at the door.
7. Touchscreen Ordering
Sometimes people can’t pronounce what they read in the menu. That’s embarrassing for them. Sometimes they just want to go through the ordering process quickly and effectively, without the need to talk to a waiter or cashier too much. Touchscreen ordering works perfectly for this type of consumer.
If you implement a system of this type (either in tablet or kiosk), your customers would be able to check the menu, with each item accompanied by great photos that demonstrate the food and drinks. They just tap the screen and order whatever they want.
8. Online Payment Options
Even when people eat at restaurants, they would still like the option of online payment. Most of us are using mobile apps that allow us to pay on the go. If you enable the customers to pay using your online site or mobile apps, they will be able to quickly go through the process without having to wait for the server.
9. Free WiFi
Offering free WiFi for your customers is a smart business decision. Although you’d rather see them having real conversations and enjoying their time away from smartphones, it’s not about what you want. It’s about what they want, and they certainly want the option of free Internet.
Some of them have to check their email, and others would like to share the moment on social media (giving your restaurant some strong word of mouth publicity). Some people even have to work while eating lunch. They will be happy to do that through free WiFi.
10. Loyalty Programs
When you provide a loyalty program for your customers, they will certainly keep coming back. You may use a turnkey, third-party service, such as Rewards Network, to attract more people to your restaurant and keep the hassles to a minimum.
Customers don’t need membership cards or IDs; they will simply register their credit and debit cards with the loyalty program of their choice from Rewards Network’s portfolio and they will start getting weekly emails that promote your business. Once they use the linked card to pay in your restaurant, they will earn their rewards of choice — and keep coming back to earn more.
Want to know more about how Rewards Network’s loyalty program works for your restaurant — with no upfront cost or installation needed?
Chris Richardson has been working as an editor at a publishing agency in London, UK for 5 years. He is also a professional content writing expert in such topics as career growth, self-improvement, blogging, and technology innovations. Feel free to connect with him on Google+.