As more Americans become vaccinated, a rapid resurgence of diners are clamoring for reservations at restaurants across the country. Restaurant bookings in May were up 48 percent compared to May 2019, and revenues are increasing as on-premise dining picks up heading into a busy summer season.
Although there has been an increase in-person dining, Americans are being more selective about the establishments at which they choose to dine. Many patrons have not been to a restaurant since the start of the pandemic and are looking for personalized and unique experiences that remind them just how incredible the restaurant environment can be. By leveraging advanced tech solutions, operators can take advantage of this crucial shift in demand and make the most out of this dining resurgence.
Streamlining the In-Person Experience
Today’s diner has come to expect a new experience, one that is driven by technology. Diners have not only adapted to the technology changes that restaurants have implemented throughout the pandemic, but simply prefer them. In fact, tech solutions can directly spur customers to visit restaurants. Almost one in four Americans (22 percent) say that the ability to join a virtual waitlist before they arrive would convince them to dine in, while 17 percent noted that contactless ordering would inspire a visit. With the right technology, restaurants can create a seamless journey that diners prefer from discovery, to booking, to the dining experience itself.
With the right technology, restaurants can create a seamless journey that diners prefer from discovery, to booking, to the dining experience itself.
At the start of their visit, guests are looking to be welcomed and seated quickly, so operators can implement virtual waitlist solutions to help reduce crowding at the host stand and table management tools to optimize their floor at 100 percent capacity. Operators can also use SMS messaging to seamlessly communicate with diners about wait times and health and safety measures, provide more details about the experience, and offer personalized perks to guests.
Once guests are seated, operators can cater to in-person diners who prefer contactless interactions with QR code ordering at every table and mobile payment solutions that eliminate the need to sign a receipt or wait in line to pay. A recent survey found that 40 percent of Americans want to continue to view the menu, order, and pay with their phone even when the pandemic is over, so contactless solutions will be crucial in helping diners feel comfortable during their outings.
When these technologies work together, they can help keep customer health and safety at the forefront, while also facilitating incredible guest experiences and personalized services at scale. The key to this tech-driven approach is being able to leverage guest data.
Guest Data Brings It All Together
The most effective restaurant tech solutions all have one crucial element in common: they collect and are driven by data. In the hospitality sector, guests are generally comfortable supplying their personal and preferential data, because they know it will lead to a better experience. In fact, 50 percent of U.S. diners say they are comfortable sharing their information with restaurants to receive discounted offers or promotions.
By incorporating technology that can consolidate and utilize customer data automatically, restaurants can identify and deepen relationships with their best customers, pinpoint opportunities for growth, and make every diner feel valued. This can range from knowing a guest’s dietary restrictions and empowering servers to make suggestions based on past order history, to noting regulars’ table preferences, to remembering that a customer’s last visit was on their birthday.
These small details can make a guest feel at home and eager to return for another in-person dining experience – directly translating into added dollars for the restaurant’s bottom line. However, the biggest advantage of having control of guest data is being able to maintain that personal connection even outside your restaurant’s walls.
Connecting with Customers Beyond the Front Door
Guests are enthusiastic to return to in-person dining, and restaurants have an opportunity to extend that excitement both before and after their visit through marketing automation. At a basic level, guest experience platforms can leverage data to help operators facilitate better communication with their customers.
The biggest advantage of having control of guest data is being able to maintain that personal connection even outside your restaurant’s walls.
Marketing automation fosters these relationships by enabling operators to connect their point-of-sale (POS) system with their CRM platform. This creates a single guest profile containing all the data operators need to send tailored email communications that keep highly targeted customer segments engaged.
Before guests arrive, marketing automation can boost revenue by rewarding positive reviewers with exclusive perks or encouraging delivery-only patrons to visit the restaurant for a dine-in experience. It can even enable surprise and delight moments like a free dessert or an invitation to an exclusive wine tasting based on a guest’s favorite bottle. After guests dine, automated marketing emails can help bring guests back in with tailored offers for exclusive experiences or even encourage future bookings at sister restaurants based on past dining history.
Tech Solutions Looking Forward
Keeping guests happy as we head into the summer will be crucial in maintaining their long-term loyalty. To meet and exceed guest expectations, technology solutions should be woven throughout their dining experience – from discovery and booking through to the visit and post-visit marketing. The best approach will combine innovative on-premise solutions that make the in-person dining process seamless with tools that use guest data to personalize guest experiences and power highly-targeted outreach. Regardless of what form the tech takes, one thing is certain: restaurants that continue to leverage advanced guest management solutions will build a loyal and lasting customer base.