As technology continues to become a bigger part of our daily lives, customer expectations in the service industry are evolving rapidly. Since restaurant owners operate in this sphere, it’s important they remain nimble and incorporate new technology that’s right for their business.
Thankfully, the National Restaurant Association’s “2019 State of the Restaurant Industry Report” provides helpful insight into what exactly customers are looking for in their dining experience. Based on these findings, as well as feedback from restaurant operators nationwide, here are three tips to ensure your customers are happy during their next visit.
1. Create Convenient Takeout and Delivery Experiences
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Association’s report is the growing popularity of off-premises and delivery options. According to the report, 50 percent of millennials and 38 percent of all adults said they were more likely to have restaurant food delivered today than they were two years ago.
To keep up with this customer demand, consider implementing online ordering capabilities on your website, along with a customized mobile app that loyal customers can use to easily order food while on the go. Using a mobile app is particularly effective with younger customers, as the Association report indicated that 56 percent of millennials placed takeout or delivery orders using a restaurant mobile app or online ordering from a restaurant website.
When implementing these capabilities, one crucial consideration is making sure that your online ordering and mobile ordering systems are synced with your point-of-sale (POS). Otherwise, you’re looking at a logistical and reporting nightmare.
The same goes if you’re using third-party delivery services such as UberEats, GrubHub, Seamless, and DoorDash. Each one requires its own tablet in addition to manual entry of orders in the POS. To put it plainly, it’s a huge drain on your staff’s time and resources. If you’re using one or more of these services, you’ll want to invest in a POS integration system so you can easily operate everything directly from your POS system.
2. Use Technology to Enhance the Dining Experience
Customers are not only looking for technology when they eat off-premises. They also want technology to be incorporated into their on-site dining experiences. According to the Association report:
- Millennials are the demographic most likely to use self-service kiosks at quick-serve restaurants and coffee shops.
- 51 percent of millennials want the ability to choose their own tables on a seating chart from a restaurant’s website.
- 60 percent of millennials want more convenient ordering and payment options, including when it comes to takeout and delivery.
- 42 percent of millennials would pay to participate in a loyalty program that offers guaranteed reservations and skip-the-line privileges on busy days.
These findings are more varied and require creative thinking when it comes to implementing the technology that makes sense for your restaurant. If you run a QSR, coffee shop, or cafe, then self-serve kiosks are certainly something you’ll want to explore. Pay-at-the-table tablets are also growing in popularity for a wide variety of restaurant types. If you’re in the fine-dining, family-dining, or casual-dining sectors, you should look into creative reservation management solutions that are integrated with your website and/or custom mobile app.
Then, of course, you’ll want to make sure you offer all the modern payment options, including mobile pay, as well as advanced POS reporting capabilities, allowing you to collect accurate data on your customers’ behaviors and make informed decisions about where to invest in future technology.
3. Go Green (and Talk About It)
The last key finding from the Association report is the demand for environmental sustainability. According to the report, 58 percent of people said they were more likely to choose one restaurant over another based on its ability to provide sustainably grown, raised, and manufactured foods. Furthermore, 60 percent of millennials said they want technology to provide more detailed information on food, such as nutrition, allergens, and sourcing.
If you’re not already sourcing local and sustainable food, it’s certainly something to consider. Whatever efforts you take, make sure your customers know about it. Once again, it will take some creative problem solving to find a solution that makes the most sense for your business.
Some options to explore include:
- If you implement self-service kiosks, a mobile app, or online ordering, make sure there are clickable “Nutrition Facts” for each menu item.
- If you need a low-tech option, write a weekly or daily food blog on your website that details your new menu items, sourcing, and sustainability efforts. In addition to giving your customers the information they desire, this can also improve your website SEO and help your restaurant rank higher in local search listings.
- If print menus are your mainstay, consider adding a QR code to your menu that will send curious customers to a page on your website with nutrition facts. The webpage will be easier to update on a regular basis and will ultimately reduce the costs of printing new menus.
At the end of the day, it’s all about giving your customers what they want, giving them something to talk about when they make recommendations to their friends, and simultaneously streamlining how you operate your restaurant.