How Quick Serve Restaurants Will Tap Technology in 2018

There’s a common misperception that millennials are the primary generation using restaurant-related technology options. However, they’re not the only group showing interest in using technology when dining out. According to new research conducted by the National Restaurant Association, baby boomers are also using computers and smartphones to place orders. The study reports that 56 percent of consumers age 45 – 56 have recently used technology options in restaurants, with four out of ten using computers to review menu items in the past month.

As more people become accustomed to interacting with restaurants through digital modes, these solutions will be offered more frequently in-restaurant to ensure experiences are consistent. In 2018, we should expect more QSRs to blend their in-person and online offerings for a better customer experience and streamlined operations.

Step it Up with Self-Service

Self-service kiosks provide a wide range of benefits to both operators and consumers. For diners, immediate benefits include skipping the line and increased order accuracy. Kiosks can also customize the experience for each diner based on their previous order history, and intelligent recommendation engines can pair food items together, offering complimentary drinks or desserts. The suggestions provided to customers can be altered to accurately reflect the restaurant’s inventory in real-time. For example, kiosks won’t suggest the customer order fries with their hot dog if that menu item is running low. However, if there is a surplus of fries, the kiosks will suggest that menu item over another, like onion rings.

As self-service becomes more mainstream in the year to come, we should expect to see more payments conducted through mobile loyalty applications and the gamification of self-services. As an example, customers can earn points with every purchase, and can later be rewarded once they’ve achieved a certain point milestone. Additionally, restaurant owners will be more transparent in providing calorie counts and dish ingredients as customers make their digital selections, creating an overall better brand experience. 

The BOPIS Opportunity for the Modern Restaurant

One of the greatest progressions in QSRs to date has been the drive-through. Looking ahead, buy-online/pickup-in-store (BOPIS) through mobile and online ordering is the next wave of convenience and simplicity restaurants without drive-throughs are offering diners. Mobile applications will allow customers to save their menu preferences, schedule pickups and deliveries, automate payment, and reward customer loyalty. After the order is placed either on mobile or online, it’s up to the restaurant to make sure the pickup is just as streamlined, convenient and enjoyable.

To achieve this, restaurants are employing the help of touchscreens and self-service kiosks to create interactive welcome experiences to digitally greet guests and minimize lines. From these welcome kiosks, diners can pick up their orders or check on the status of their food. Restaurant managers can program promotional offerings, such as drinks or desserts, during the checkout process, too. By adding these personalized touches, restaurants can perfect their pickup process to keep customers coming back.

Next-Level Loyalty Programs

As restaurants continue to adopt self-service, loyalty programs will evolve. Technology is creating new and exciting ways to interact with customers and personalize their experience. Facial recognition, for example, is poised to make a huge impact on loyalty and reward programs in 2018.

Through facial recognition, self-service kiosk systems can recognize a customer right away to greet them with their preferred orders, and suggest promotions based on their loyalty benefits. KFC’s in China are actually using facial recognition today, and all customers need to do to pay is smile. As a growing number of restaurants look for fun ways to engage diners, we should expect to see more installations similar to the one used by KFC. 

Streamlined Table Seating

Technology can also help streamline the customer experience with self-service table seating platforms. These kiosks will allow diners to set their table preferences or select from the first available open table. They will also be able to share whether they prefer to sit in a booth as opposed to a table, or if they have no preference at all and would just like to be seated quickly. This frees up the hosts and hostesses from having to spend time answering questions about table availability and pay more attention to ensuring guests are having enjoyable dining experiences. Customers’ mobile phones will be leveraged for notification, enabling patrons to move about without a restaurant pager.

All in all, recent advancements in touchscreen technology will allow QSRs and restaurants to customize the dining experience to each person based on their preferences and purchase history. Integrating these kinds of solutions can improve the overall customer experience, and arm restaurant employees with the information needed to better service diners and increase brand loyalty.