Having a loyalty app is a great way to build a strong following — if you don’t look at it as a “set-it-and-forget-it” kind of tool. As Cake suggests, having a loyalty app can go far in helping you connect with your audience — especially Millennials and Gen Z, who are apt to spread the word about you on social media. But on the flip side, those guests also have high expectations of your transparency. If you’re targeting this population with your app, be willing to share details about how your food is made, where it comes from and how you manage your business (or at least be ready for questions about it). Having an app is a strong upselling tool, helping you to build check totals by suggesting menu items that may not have been front-of-mind for customers. Just be sure to focus on your guests’ preferences and frequency of visits, as visibly focusing on check tallies (and tying rewards to dollars spent) can be a turnoff. Finally, having a loyalty app can be a data goldmine — but you need to have the foundational technology in place to funnel that data into insights that feed your broader marketing strategy.
If your guests are game to load funds onto a digital wallet or prepaid gift card in exchange for a special offer, you can help cut back on the fees you have to pay to support credit card transactions. While retailers are charged a fee by credit card companies each time a customer pays with a credit card, Skift Table reports that many of those retailers are bypassing the fees by joining the lower-cost Automated Clearing House network, which was set up decades ago by U.S. banks to facilitate the exchange of money between banks. Other companies, like Starbucks, are encouraging customers to load funds onto a prepaid gift card — a setup that means Starbucks only pays a swipe fee when a customer loads funds onto the cards, not each time she buys a latte. Still others are joining networks (LevelUp is one) that help businesses band together and use their combined scale to negotiate more reasonable fees.
If you’re fine-tuning your technology in 2019, your point-of-sale-system — the nerve center of your business — is a natural place to start. Here are five areas you want to make sure it can manage, according to The Restaurant Technology Guys: It needs a customer relationship management and loyalty program so you can manage email campaigns, personalize offers and promotions, (which all have the potential to increase customer spending by up to 41 percent). Next, it needs to help you manage your staff rotations so you can track attendance and productivity, as well as keep staff informed. Third, your system should help you manage your inventory so you are alerted when you need to reorder an item. Finally, you need a system with reporting options that allow for customization and file exporting so you can monitor trends in relation to your goals — having the option for remote access can help you make business decisions more quickly too.
In an ideal world, your technology isn’t removing the human element from your restaurant but improving it. Consider your business at its busiest hour. Amid the rush, will your cashier remember to ask your guest if he wants to add avocado to his burger or a dessert to his order? Maybe or maybe not. Your digital ordering technology, however, won’t ever miss making that offer. As a result, you will be armed with data you can pour into your marketing strategy. Have several add-ons that are popular with guests ordering sandwiches? Your tech can tell you how profitable each item is so you know which one to promote first. The restaurant technology company Tillster says you can consider the data you collect from your online, mobile and kiosk ordering as a real-time guest survey, empowering you to make quick decisions about how to accommodate guest preferences profitably.
Your mobile presence has power: Mobile search behavior by people who search for food using their phones or tablets has a nearly 90 percent conversion rate, according to the study “Mobile Path-to-Purchase” by xAd and Telmetrics. You may be pouring a large portion of your ad spending on mobile as a result, but proceed with caution. Research from the online advertising firm WordStream found that unless a business has a thoughtful mobile strategy, it’s too easy to miss out on business opportunities. Since so many businesses want a piece of the mobile market, the mobile click-through rate decreases 45 percent faster in lower search positions than it does on desktop or tablet computers. The share of impressions on mobile is low as well, with mobile ads less likely to be shown (even in top positions) than they are on desktops. Search costs per click for mobile have also been increasing dramatically in the past year.
Consumers have come to expect free wifi when they visit a restaurant — and chances are good that you offer it. But are you making the most of this valuable connection to your guests? For example, how can you collect useful insights (and make offers to help turn visitors into loyal guests) whenever someone logs in? How long do these guests stay and how can you make the most of the lulls that happen during the day? GoZone Wifi is one supplier that offers businesses marketing tools, guest analytics and the opportunity to earn income through targeted ads shown on their wifi network. If you’re currently offering wifi without collecting insights that could benefit your business, consider the potential benefits you could be generating when you make decisions about your internet service.
What’s your digital game plan? Your digital strategy can help you elevate your brand far beyond the walls of your restaurant by enhancing your connections with existing guests and helping you attract new ones. What’s more, the restaurant brands that develop a digital strategy and support it with the infrastructure it needs are likely to open up a wide lead over competitors in the months ahead — while those that don’t are likely to see their guest engagement suffer. (For example, two brands with robust digital strategies, Domino’s and Panera, currently receive a large portion of their orders via digital — 60 percent and 25 percent, respectively.) That’s according to research shared at the recent Foodservice Technology Conference Trade Show in Orlando. To put the industry in perspective when it comes to digital, restaurants leading the pack in this area are spending 30 to 50 percent (and sometimes much more) of their marketing budgets on it. Of the digital tools restaurants are using to engage customers and generate data, the most important ones to focus on are the mobile app, loyalty program, online ordering capability and delivery strategy. It pays to play offense with digital as well, with restaurants actively using digital seeing 5 percent annual growth over the previous five-year period as opposed to 2 percent annual growth for brands using digital more defensively. That is making it important for restaurants to invest in technology platforms, hardware and software to support their digital strategy, though the proliferation of cloud-based services is helping to bring the overall costs of investment down. Just make sure your strategy considers the needs of your front-of-house and back-of-house operations, all while helping you keep your guests engaged.
The hospitality technology company SevenRooms is looking to bring the voice-enabled power of Amazon’s Alexa to restaurants. Skift reports that the company, which just invested in an Amazon fund earmarked for the development of Alexa in restaurants, is partnering with Amazon to develop technology that will allow operators to use voice commands during service, access guest profiles and preferences, and streamline table service with reminders. The company hopes to offer the service to its restaurant customers in 2019.
Consumers prefer customization, and your POS system can help you deliver it. For example, does your system make it easy for you to add and subtract extra items like avocado or shrimp on a salad or bacon or extra cheese on a burger? Cake suggests that clearly listing such potential upgrades on your menu — upgrades that some consumers may not have even realized they wanted — are an easy way to help you give your checks a boost.
Are monitoring food costs a significant challenge to your business? If so, you’re hardly alone: 60 percent of restaurant operators struggle to manage food costs, according to Upserve. It can be especially challenging if you have a long list of suppliers, as many operators do. When food costs comprise 28 to 35 percent of an average restaurant’s gross sales, taking control of your inventory can generate substantial savings. If you’re still using an Excel spreadsheet — and hours of your time — to keep tabs on your food costs, it’s time to integrate your inventory management and POS so you have real-time information at your fingertips when you are negotiating with suppliers and placing orders. Watch this space in the coming weeks for more information about a new program from Team Four that can help you manage food costs more efficiently and retain your competitive advantage.