Ensuring guests experience true hospitality is tantamount to running a successful restaurant. Thanks to restaurant technologies, it’s possible to not only deliver a superior customer experience — the crux of hospitality — but also take things to the next level.
Yes, the importance of a good customer experience has always been key. However, between staffing shortages, high customer expectations, and pent-up demand due to the ever-in-flux restaurant landscape, it’s more integral than ever before.
Thankfully, restaurant technologies can play a dual role. When properly deployed, they can transform the employee experience by improving daily operations, syncing front-of-house and back-of-house communication and execution, and delivering a memorable dining experience that won’t send staff to the walk-in cooler for a good cry.
What Makes Hospitality So Vital to the Dining Experience?
Picture the perfect dinner party: thoughtful food selection, a welcoming host, and an ambiance that takes your mind off of the troubles of your every day. Whether it’s stringing colored lights at a backyard barbecue, lining a walkway with luminaries, or creating a relaxing, mood-setting playlist to set the tone, it’s those little touches that make guests feel special, welcomed, and cared for.
Unfortunately, the idea of hospitality is often misunderstood in restaurant management. People tend to equate hospitality with service, thinking that they've done their job if their waitstaff is quick and polite, the menus are clear and attractive, or the tables are clean and well-organized. In reality, hospitality isn't as simple as just service.
Hospitality is greater than the sum of its parts. It's a feeling you foster and an experience you deliver to the heart of the customer from the heart of your restaurant. Understanding and delivering on that leads to repeat customers who, in turn, spread the word.
Likewise, there’s a reason many restaurants host family — aka staff — meals. They cultivate camaraderie and make employees feel like they’re part of a team and they’re in it together, which helps improve retention. Needless to say, happier staff leads to happier customers, making well-tooled restaurant technologies a win-win all around.
How Can Restaurant Technologies Mitigate Some of the Challenges the Industry Faces?
There is no denying that staffing shortages are among the biggest challenges the restaurant industry faces today. As restaurants reopened after pandemic lockdowns, they found that staff had moved on or sought careers outside of hospitality. Many locations essentially had to rebuild their staff from scratch. And they’re still having a hard time doing so.
Meanwhile, customers’ expectations have changed. They’re demanding increased levels of immediacy, having grown accustomed to ordering and paying — even ordering ahead — with a few taps of a smartphone.
But here's some good news: Restaurant technologies can not only accomplish both tasks, but they can also do it well. As a matter of fact, they do it so well that fewer staff are required to delight customers. Simultaneously, they help restaurants free themselves of point-of-sale challenges by simplifying and synthesizing payment methods and front-of-house ordering, streamlining back-of-house operations, and updating menus and pricing with ease.
Four Ways Restaurants Can Streamline the Customer and Employee Experience with Tech
Technology automates a lot of time-consuming and cumbersome tasks, improves operational efficiency, gives you the tools to stay within budget, and helps you gain visibility into expenses and costs. But it doesn’t stop there. Tech can also help your restaurant:
1. Cover more ground with fewer employees
With the right restaurant technologies, servers can effortlessly take orders and payments — both online and face-to-face — with a quick, easy, and time-saving handheld card reader that’s synced to back-of-house operations. Meanwhile, diners can scan a QR code to easily view and order from your menu, as well as alter and route items to the correct kitchen location in real time.
What’s more, you can use restaurant technologies to empower diners by allowing them to design their own adventure, whether it’s opting for a contactless, self-serve experience or in-person ordering and payments that lend a human touch. The bottom line? Technology makes things fast, easy, seamless, and hospitable at a time when restaurants need it most. The icing on the cake? They’re less expensive than hiring additional labor.
2. Combat the “let’s stay in” mentality while creating a memorable experience either way
Let’s face it: Not everyone is yet comfortable with in-person dining. Others have made it a lifestyle to order in and have meals delivered to wherever they are. As for the diners who do eat at your establishment, they expect you to make it worth their while, and they aren’t afraid to tell you — and social media — if the experience sucks.
Three simple words to live by in successfully running a restaurant: Make people happy! That hospitality should infuse every experience they have, whether they dine in person or order online and whether they get food delivered or pick up their order on-site.
That means not just letting customers order and pay from their smartphones, be it on-site or online — but also letting them customize orders, request refills, and add items with a few taps in-house. It can enable them to track the status of their order or get notified when their order is ready at a counter-serve establishment. Tech lets them flag a server with immediate needs (like order issues or requesting napkins or spill clean-ups) or reduce wait times for pick-up orders.
Making everything an effortless experience paves the way for customer loyalty, repeat business, and increased revenue.
3. Manage and market your menu with ease
Restaurant technologies can assist in putting your best face forward, whether it’s tailoring and modifying your offerings in real time or adding photos of dishes to your online menu. That’s especially helpful when seasonality comes into play or when today’s supply chain challenges demand thinking on your feet and updating your menu at will.
Furthermore, technology can streamline and expedite otherwise time-consuming tasks with drag-and-drop capabilities, and it can designate and differentiate to-go and on-premise item availability with ease.
Circle back to that positive employee experience and knowledgeable, satisfied customers who know exactly what they’re ordering (and what’s in it). Restaurant technologies help inform decisions, given that dishes can be tagged with dietary restrictions and your menu can reflect the real-time availability of the dishes you serve.
4. Capitalize on direct-to-consumer opportunities
These days, restaurateurs are seeking ways to diversify their revenue streams. One of the easiest ways of doing so? Getting in on the direct-to-consumer game. That could mean hosting ticketed dining events, selling T-shirts emblazoned with your logo, or showcasing promos, complete with branded giveaways. The best part of it all is that the offerings can be incorporated into the diner’s overall experience with little effort on your end.
These strategies can make technology a friend of your restaurant and ease the pressure on your staff. In times of change, and with challenges to hospitality mounting, having technological resources at your disposal enables you to deliver an unparalleled experience for customers and staff alike.