Technology is making it increasingly possible for consumers to personalize their nutrition and gain insight into how their bodies process foods so they can design their meals accordingly. In the coming months and years, restaurants will be pushed to understand and be transparent about the dishes they’re serving because consumers will have the power to dissect them ingredient by ingredient. Tech Republic reports that a number of universities and tech firms are developing digital tools that help consumers study the quality and nutrition of what they ingest. These tools include swallowable sensors that monitor gut health and nutrients, tooth sensors that monitor glucose and alcohol levels, and eating utensils with the built-in capability of assessing the freshness of the oil used to cook a food as well as a food’s nutrient content.
There is actually a tech trend poised for more substantial growth in the restaurant industry than the powerful mobile app. Gartner forecasts that more than 50 percent of businesses will spend more money on bots and chatbot creation in the next two years. Big Hospitality predicts that this efficiency-boosting technology will soon be an expectation for tech-savvy restaurant guests. Automated kitchen display systems that integrate with a restaurant’s electronic point-of-sale system, one application of the technology, can streamline kitchen processes, reduce waste, and help operators spot business trends more quickly. To consumers, that integration translates to a better experience. When investing in tech this year, avoid one-trick ponies and opt for tech tools that seamlessly connect different parts of your operation.
Wouldn’t it be nice if when you accepted a shipment of produce from a supplier, you would know if it was about to go bad? Or, in the wake of a foodborne illness outbreak, you could be certain your newly arrived produce wasn’t contaminated? That capability is becoming routine for some food companies and has the potential to give foodservice operations greater confidence in their food supply and a better handle on their food waste. Venture Beat reports that ImpactVision, a firm backed by logistics companies including Maersk, is currently using machine learning and hyperspectral imaging to assess the quality of food in factories and elsewhere. The company’s cameras and software can determine the freshness of a food and its expected shelf life, as well as detect any contamination — all without damaging the food in the process.
Front-of-house technology isn’t limited to ordering, payment and feedback anymore. Big Hospitality reports that old-school devices like pagers are getting a modern makeover designed to enhance restaurant service. CST’s EasyCall system, for example, allows restaurants to secure micro call buttons to restaurant walls or tables. When paired with wireless pagers carried by servers, guests can summon those servers anywhere in a restaurant. There is also a back-of-house version that alerts servers when an order is ready. If three pages go unanswered, a manager receives an automatic alert to keep food moving.
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.