From automation, to delivery disruption, to the meat-free movement and more, the restaurant industry has been going through times of utter change. It’s the ultimate all-you-can-eat-buffet, and then some. Despite this ‘smorgasbord’ of influences, one key ingredient has been driving disruption above all others, accelerating change at unprecedented levels: technology.
Let’s take a look at some of the trends shaping the restaurant industry today and tomorrow.
1. Evolving the restaurant beyond four walls
In the US alone, three out of five consumers order delivery or takeout at least once a week, the National Restaurant Association reports. Similarly, 50% of dinner meals purchased from a restaurant today are consumed at home. As consumers look for experiences that blend the excitement of eating out with the convenience of staying in, restaurants must evolve beyond their four walls to meet new demands. This means giving guests the freedom to get their favorite food from your restaurant whichever way they prefer: order ahead, show up to eat on the premises, order online and pick-up in restaurant, or order online and pay for delivery via a third-party – it’s their choice.
In order to offer such possibilities to consumers, restaurants need to have technology in place that helps them deliver a seamless consumer experience. Ideally, that means a solution that provides a single, unified view of customers across channels, and is built to connect together your back-office, kitchen, customers, HQ, and beyond.
2. Evolving the in-restaurant experience
From in-store designs and layouts that make restaurants spaces more ‘instagrammable’, to immersive experiences that take guests into the very essence of a brand, the in-restaurant experience has gone through great transformation in the past few years. At the center is the desire to provide restaurant guests with an experience that is unique, unforgettable, and the highest quality possible.
But what does a great dining experience entail, exactly? For some types of restaurants, this calls for knowing guests more closely, offering them their favorite free drink while they wait to be seated. For other establishments, a great guest experience is a quick and hassle-free one, delivered with self-serve kiosks or self-ordering devices at the table to help people in a hurry save precious time. Either way, the key is to understand your customers and know why they are in your restaurant. Then, you can tailor the experience to cater to their needs (with a little bit of help from technology).
To do all this, you need technology that brings together a customer’s order history (from all channels), dining preferences, loyalty level, and potentially even social media data. Tech that takes these different data sets, unites them into a single view, and provides you with actionable insights can make the difference between an average customer experience and an awesome one. Plus, it might bring valuable positive reviews on social media.
3. Employees are your heart and soul
Employee turnover rates are notoriously high in the restaurant industry, with some estimates going as high as around 75%. Many factors play a role, from wage levels, to a stressful environment, to limited opportunities for growth. No matter how you look at it, high employee turnover rates are simply not good for business.
So how can technology help? By making your employees more efficient and productive, and enabling them to do their job better. This can apply to your entire staff, all the way from the back office, to the kitchen team, to the front of house staff. Give your servers a mobile Point of Sale device, and they won’t just have a modern tool to take orders in their hands. They will also get a sense of empowerment from being able answer customer questions easily, and the pride of knowing they are giving a top-class, frictionless experience.
With more and more young, tech-savvy workers joining the industry, being known as a forward-thinking employer that empowers staff members with modern technology can be a major differentiator to your competition in the search for talent.
4. An Artificial Intelligence-infused restaurant business
Although restaurants have typically been quite slow to adopt technology, increasing pressure from consumers has forced them to update their systems, implementing tech such as mobile POS and self-service kiosks. At the same time, innovation keeps on moving. Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered systems are already being used to optimize staffing schedules, streamline supply chains, and providing better customers service through voice ordering and chatbots, just to make a few examples. Restaurants collect vast amounts of data, but this is often organized into disconnected sets stored in separate databases, which are difficult to analyze and use. Thankfully, there is a solution. Uploading data to the cloud can give restaurant the extra storage capabilities and computing power they need. Cloud-based AI can be a cost-effective, powerful tool to analyze your data, helping you better serve your customers, cut costs, and even understand your strengths and weaknesses.
But where do you start? AI isn’t necessarily a fast-track ticket to success, and it should be approached with a planned approach. Start by identifying the areas of your business where AI could help you drive improvements – perhaps it could be your customer-facing mobile app, or inventory management. Then you can define an AI roadmap that includes pilot projects where you can test the application and impact of AI to your business. Finally, take the learning to other parts of the organization.
Would you like to learn more about how innovative technology can help you reach your business goals? Contact us.