The past few years have delivered a combination of challenges that would have been difficult to predict. But imagine if you had had some information on hand in 2019 that allowed you to proactively make critical business decisions in 2020? By using technology to tap into the probabilities of an event, your business can better prepare for the different risks it may face. Predictive analytics is one tool that can help operators get a better handle on everyday food safety and quality risks, as well as how risks like climate change and extreme weather could impact the safety and supply of key ingredients down the line. As a recent report from Restaurant Technology News explains, predictive analytics uses advanced data analysis to predict the future based on probabilities, then refines those predictions using machine learning and artificial intelligence. It could help restaurants pinpoint potential threats, like pathogen-related outbreaks, before they occur, then take preemptive action to keep their business and guests safer.
Short on staff? Whether you are or not, tech tools may help you reorganize tasks so you do the most with the people you have on hand – and support them in ways that promote retention. Take the burden off of staff (and give guests some freedom to order and pay when they like) by enabling table payment via mobile phone or tabletop kiosk. Tie this to a guest’s loyalty program data so when they order, they are receiving targeted recommendations that complement their favorite dishes and may help you boost check totals. The targeted communication can help provide the quality experience a guest might otherwise appreciate in a server. QSRweb.com suggests that pizza restaurants (and even some other restaurant types) could also benefit from a grab-and-go setup that requires little staff intervention: They can simply place a customer’s pizzas in a warmer that can be unlocked by the person’s mobile app when they come to collect their pizza. Where is your restaurant especially labor-heavy right now? Could technology lighten the load?
Imagine paying for a sandwich by simply hovering your hand over a sensor – no credit card or device needed. Panera is bringing this functionality to a handful of its stores, with more to follow in the coming months. Through a new partnership with Amazon, in-store Panera guests can link their unique palm signature to their credit card. In the process, these guests can link to their rewards account as well, making it possible to access favorite orders with a wave of your hand. Further, Amazon claims that because the person must be physically present to use the feature, it’s more secure and safe than biometric data. The new payment process could indicate where the conversation is going when it comes to securing shared data.
In the heart of the pandemic, when consumers were feeling especially grateful their favorite businesses were open, they often reflected their gratitude through generous tips made via the low-contact payment platforms they were beginning to use. But as things have returned to business-as-usual, the preset tip requests that are generally made by these platforms have continued to take off. They often prompt consumers to leave a 15 percent, 20 percent, or 30 percent tip, for example, above often-smaller prompts that allow for a “custom tip amount” or “no tip.” Now, even businesses that haven’t traditionally requested tips are now opening the door to that expectation. (The writer of a recent New York Times report about coercive tipping practices mentioned the awkwardness of being prompted to tip generously by his grocery store cashier and his motorcycle mechanic.) Now that consumers have become more aware of this practice, they may be more apt to push back on it. Ensure that your payment system feels fair – guests shouldn’t feel coerced to tip, or like they need to strain their eyes to find the “no tip” button on your payment platform. If possible, allow the guest to make the decision about tipping while your employee is not standing expectantly in front of them – and monitor your online reviews for any mentions of how your tipping technology may be impacting guests’ decision to dine with you. It’s a final impression you want to get right.
If your guests have resisted using QR codes to facilitate their interactions with you, perhaps thinking they are just a relic of the pandemic, they may need you to demonstrate how much these tools can enhance their experience with you. After all, when a guest is waiting in a line out your door to be seated, what’s not to like about being able to scan your menu, see photos of every dish, get the latest updates about what is available, and even place their order (with great accuracy) at the very moment they arrive at their table? Or how about when a guest wants to place an impulse order of extra drinks or desserts? QR codes can help you capitalize on those moments (and even upsell guests on additional items) while taking pressure off your front-of-house staff and helping them turn tables more quickly. You can promote QR codes as a sustainable step too – fewer paper menus and receipts can send a positive message about your business. And these codes aren’t going away – according to research from Statista, approximately 89 million smartphone users in the U.S. scanned a QR code on their device in 2022, an increase of 26 percent over 2020, and QR codes are expected to reach 100 million users in the U.S. by 2025. Across restaurant categories, there are ways to use these codes to boost your efficiency – and the morale of both staff and guests. Have you tapped into their full potential?
In addition to helping you staff your business and prepare orders more efficiently, restaurant technology can help you ensure you’re not leaving any potential sales on the table. Digital menus, mobile apps, loyalty programs, and systems for tabletop ordering and payment all provide opportunities for you to suggest menu add-ons to complement a dish, or prompt an order of appetizers, drinks or desserts that might not have happened otherwise. (And when combined with your loyalty program, to do so with personalized recommendations that the guest is more likely to crave.) Are you seizing the right tech opportunities to maximize your sales?
Experience is everything in restaurants right now – and a key part of how you demonstrate your value to guests. If you have a technology-forward brand, consider using virtual or augmented reality to offer an experience that makes guests crave your food. Maybe it could be a tour of your restaurant, a virtual cooking class or a 3D preview of a dish on your menu. Restaurant operators can work with a tech provider on a plan tailored to their business, or even use tools like virtual reality headsets or augmented reality apps to help.