Common Misconceptions About the Restaurant Phone Situation

Even among current business owners, there are a lot of misconceptions about interaction between consumers and staff members. Here are a few that are related to phones in the restaurant industry.

1. Phone calls are going to become obsolete in the near future.

Due to the rise of automation, technology, texting, chatting, and other forms of easy communication, some people erroneously believe that phone calls are going to become obsolete. There is a definite decline, to be sure, but they’re not going away any time soon. In the specific case of the restaurant industry, there are multiple reasons why people will still regularly make calls: they have a problem with an existing order, they have special requests or dietary needs and need to speak to a person, they want to check in for a curbside pickup, they have complex concerns, and more. In an industry where hospitality matters, some types of concepts (not all) will need to  still provide that human touch in conversations. Because of this, you can never assume you don’t need to worry about your phone at all.

2. I have a great app, so I don’t need to worry about phone calls.

It is, of course, imperative that you have a fully functional website or app for taking orders and offering your menu. It’s crucial in today’s on-the-go technology-driven world. But you may be surprised to find that most people have two or fewer brand-specific restaurant apps on their phones. With so many available apps, it’s actually unlikely that your customers will want to download, install, and regularly use your app.

Instead, most consumers are opting for third-party delivery services  for their food ordering even though they’d rather order directly from a restaurant. 70 percent of consumers “say they’d rather order direct, preferring that their money goes straight to the restaurant, not a third party,” according to research from Preoday. So why are they still ordering from those third party apps? It’s more convenient, as a single app gives users access to a vast number of restaurants as a single channel. In that same study, businesses admitted they would rather have their own app or website but it was hard to move away from a third party service once you’ve started using one, which makes sense because those delivery services can increase order volume by 10-20 percent.

Those consumers who really want to order directly from you are more likely to either use your website or call you than download and install your app.

3. I don’t have enough staff to take calls.

To complicate things further, everyone in the hospitality industry is aware of the staffing shortages currently facing every business in the industry. High turnover and personnel issues, some due to Covid, have created huge holes in restaurant staffing. The biggest problem here is that calls are coming in whether you have staff or not. Dine-in guests are taken care of as a priority, because taking phone calls while someone is waiting in person causes sharp spikes in unhappy customers. This means that you’re going to have to find a way to deal with calls.

There are several options available as solutions. You can search for – and hopefully hire – a qualified person to answer your phones. The drawback is that staff is hard to find, and you may only need someone for a few hours during peak mealtimes. Then again, the personal touch is always appreciated by customers. You could also hire an answering agency, which still offers the benefits of human interaction with less work for you to staff. Though, these answering agencies may have problems with very specific or unusual questions and may still not be able to staff by the hour for peak mealtimes. 

Finally, with the strong leaps in automation technology that we’ve seen in recent months, you may be interested in a phone automation service. There are many options currently available, with a variety of features. Some offer AI answering, some offer self-serve menus, and some offer SMS/text-enabled messaging. They are also surprisingly affordable, so if, like the majority of restaurants in the industry, you are facing staffing and communication issues, phone automation may be the perfect solution for you. It is important to determine what your business’s specific needs are in regard to phone calls, then do research to find out which phone automation company will best suit those needs.

Best of all, with phone automation and the use of other technologies, even with staffing shortages, supply issues, and rising costs, you can still successfully run your restaurant, complete with efficient processes and happy customers.

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